“Kedi”: documentary from Turkey gives more than equal time for cats

Kedi”, directed by Ceyda Torun, gives us a look at Istanbul through the eyes of the city’s alley cats.  Well, these are cats that invite themselves into people’s homes and especially restaurants.  It’s very clear that the cat looks at human civilization as here to meet the cat’s needs.  The cats in the film seem to see themselves as superior to people’s dogs.

In the opening sequence, a female goes out an hunts, and returns home (with very detailed memory) to her kittens, regarding the human “owner” as part of her pride.  A large part of a later part of the film deals with a particular unaltered male stands in front of a restaurant front and paws until the owner sees him and lets him in for a “free fish” supper.

The cats often climb trees or onto balconies and roofs in order to return to their owner’s apartments, or find new people to adopt.  The film pretty much shows the biological concept of mutualism as explaining cat interaction with humans, as essentially wild animals who benefit from behaving well with humans.

There is one scene filmed in infrared black and white to show what a cat sees when hunting mice in alleys.

It’s remarkable how apolitical the film is, regarding Islam and the flow of refugees in Turkey, as well as the controversies over Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

I was adopted by a cat, Timmy, an unaltered male, when living in a garden apartment in Dallas in early 1979.  He would recognize the sound of my car and run to the apartment door and try to open it as I returned home.  He would head for the refrigerator.  He would sit in my lap during dinner, or on newspapers.  If he wanted something at night he would knead the pillow near me, or sometimes keand directly.

Istanbul skyline picture on Wikipedia.

Name:  “Kedi”
Director, writer:  Ceyda Torun
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Landmark E Street, 2017/2/27, fairly good crowd for a weekday
Length:  80
Rating:  G
Companies:  Oscilloscope
Link:  official

(Posted: Monday, February 27, 2017 at 8 PM EST)

“Get Out”: really vicious satire on race in a horror movie context where slaves are zombies

“Get Out” is a phrase I once heard used brutally as someone was thrown out of a gay talk group for his willful insularity in New York City back in 1975.

And in the movie by Jordan Peele by this name, the phrase occurs as an African-American slave zombie orders (black) Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), by autonomous bark, to leave a social gathering on the Alabama estate, hidden deep in southern pine forest, of his white and rich girl friend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams).

Get Out” is another road horror film, and this one is even more vicious in its satire than “A Cure for Wellness” (February 19), and not just because it exploits the interracial dating angle, as well as modern day slavery.  The film is cleverly shot and written, with lots of metaphoric speech, and creepy twelve-tone music by Michael Abels (himself African-American, but obviously well-schooled in Schoenberg’s style of composition, with a touch of Shostakovich sometimes, with a four-note motive).

Chris has a best friend at the TSA (Rod Williams) who scours Bing to find out who the docile “servants” really were before they disappeared.  The film has an opening shot of the kidnapping of one of the servants, not to be explained for a while, as Peele uses a story setup technique familiar to me in somewhat similar (stylistically) “horror” films by Jorge Ameer, like “The House of Adam” (2006).  (Ameer is a black filmmaker who likes to make erotic mystery films with white gay men as subjects.)

Adding to the chill is, of course, the patriarch of the estate, Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford), who makes the white supremacy of today’s alt-right seem tame indeed.  Rose’s brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) turns out to be a rather silly sidekick.

And wife Missy (Catherine Keener)adds a sci-fi element when she hypnotizes Chris, supposedly to get him to give up smoking, fitting in to the fear that he will be converted into a zombie slave.  Betty Gabriel and Marcus Henderson are appropriately sincere and robotic in their “The Stepford Wives” (permissively speaking) roles.

Like “Wellness”, the film has an early scene involving a deer accident. And the climax also has an ideal from “Hannibal” (2000), with skull removal, that doesn’t quite fit the rest of the plot.

Name: Get Out
Director, writer:  Jordan Peele
Released:  2017/2/24
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Ballston Quarter, Regal, large auditorium, nearly sold out, 2017.2.25, late afternoon; audience clapped at end
Length:  103
Rating:  R
Companies:  Blumhouse, QC, Universal Studios
Link:  official

Picture: Near Columbus, GA and Fort Benning, mine, 2014.

(Posted: Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017 at 9:30 PM EST)

“Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight”: thorough history of gay psychological culture (2nd edition)

I received by mail a review copy, an “Advance Uncorrected Gallery”, of the second edition of the book “Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight”, by psychiatrist Loren A. Olson, MD, with a Foreword by Jack Drescher, MD The first edition had been published in 2011, with Karen Levy, by the InGroup Press. The new edition is due from Oak Lane Press on April 1, 2017.  The review copy was supplied by FSB Associates.

The book is monumental in its coverage of the cultural, moral, and particularly psychological history of “the gay community” and particularly of the value of gay men born in earlier generations. The author was born in 1943, the same year as me, even before the “Baby Boomers”. So, like me, he is a “Traditionalist”.

The book at first focuses particularly on gay men who have married and had children, and then “come out” in mid-life or later (and move out from “living straight”, often leading to divorce and custody issues). Olson introduces the acronym MSM, “men who have sex with men”, as not always synonymous with “homosexual” or “gay”.

Olson covers he vitriolic anti-gay societal attitudes immediately after WWII, that loosened in the late 1960s, leading to Stonewall. He notes that earlier generations had accepted homosexual men without naming them as such. But in the early 20th Century, the idea of eugenics became somewhat popular, along with the idea that sexuality (even to the point of considering masturbation and fantasy) should be completely dedicated to create and raising “better” future generations. We can certainly connect that with fascism. Olson presents McCarthyism (in line with the hypocritical FBI director J. Edgar Hoover) as a “conflation of cowardice, homosexuality, and treason” in an era of pinko-phobia (my own take). He also relates this to his own upbringing in Nebraska (he practices in Iowa), where his mother implied that a boy who couldn’t manually start a lawn mower was a sissy. He traces the gradual change in attitudes up through the 1990s (living through the AIDS epidemic) and mentions the 1982 movie “Making Love”, as dramatizing the issue of a married man’s coming out.

Olson covers the issue of intergenerational gay relationships. He shows surprising candor in discussing the body image problem for gay men (sometimes it becomes “body fascism”), but maintains that a certain subset of young adult gay men are attracted to older men, even when overweight, bald, and hairy. The term “chubby chasers” gets mentioned. He describes the physiology of male sexual arousal, and relates it to age: young men have the greatest testosterone levels from about age 15 to about 30, with some variations; after about 35 or 40, most men drop off slowly. He does discuss the opportunism of pharma on this. He notes that men who come out later in life, after marriage, would not have experienced being “in the market” when their bodies were likely to be perceived by some people as the most “desirable”. He notes that agism has more effect on women and gay men than on straight men (even after divorce); men tend to care more about the visual satisfaction that their partners provide than women do, but then again, not always.

He also discusses the moral and legal issues concerning illegal relations between some men and underage teens. He distinguished between pedophilia and pederasty, but he might well have introduced “ephebophilia”. Since this book is in final revision, he might have the opportunity to discuss the “fall” of provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos over the latter’s reported videos on this matter (my further comments).

The last two chapters do discuss briefly recent advances in gay history: the end of “don’t ask don’t tell”, and the Supreme Court victories in gay marriage. He also discusses hate crimes from enemies who remain, especially the horror of the attack on the Pulse disco in Orlando. He also mentions the arson at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans in 1973 (film review Feb. 16).

He also discusses the needs of gay seniors, often living alone, with widely varying degrees of independence and health. Many were prudent enough three decades ago never to become infected with HIV. He notes that never married gay men and women, especially, as they get older, are more likely to wind up taking care of other relatives, out of filial piety. He does provide some discussion of genetics, epigenetics, and gender expression and sexuality. A gene that makes a male brain predisposed to more sexual interest in other men would reduce births fathered by homosexual men, but might increase childbirth from women with the gene, and therefore result in a net gain in population.

He also has an interesting mathematical definition of self-esteem,, as a reciprocal of the difference between the ideal self and actual self.

My own take needs to be mentioned. As I have written before, I “came out” a second time, in 1973, after a listless but interesting period of heterosexual dating without sex. In my novel, “Angel’s Borther”. I introduce a 40-year old man, still at the end of his biological summer, married with children, with a day job as a history teacher but also as a covert intelligence agent, who is suddenly sent to the site of Auschwitz where he meets a mysterious, precocious male college student with whom he falls in love. Previously, he has avoided homosexual activity (partly out of “public health”) except for some “rite of passage” sessions when in college, which he feels need some sort of culmination.

Mentioned In the book:

Met Life’s Study “Out and Aging: The MetLife Study of Lesbian and Gay Baby Boomers” (link)   (2006) And sequel “Still Out, Still Aging” (link) (2010).

Author: Loren A. Olson, MD
Title, Subtitle: Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight
publication date 2017/4/1, second edition (first ed. 2011)
ISBN 978-0-9979614-3
Publication: Oak Lane Press, Des Moines, IA; 286 pages, paper, 9 roman; Foreword, Preface, Introduction, 12 Chapters, Endnotes, indexed
Link: Publisher, author

(Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 5:30 PM EST)

“Sour Grapes”: Have you ever heard of wine counterfeiting?

I can remember a quiz question in ninth grade “Health and PE” about the difference between “sour grapes” and “sweet lemons” as rationalizations.

So, as a documentary movie title, “Sour Grapes”  (directed by Reuben Atlas and Jerry Rothwel) is indeed a metaphor.  (It’s not Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”).

The film starts by showing the mechanics of the wine tasting world – the events (and spittoons), the auctions, the “plantations” in Burgundy in France, and then northern California.  Then it talks about how rich people like wine collections, sort of the way I valued my classical music record collection as a teenager or young adult.  It’s a set of possessions that you become attached to, and bad for your spiritual growth (eg, against “Be Here Now”).

The main thrust of story is the massive fraud, on collectors and auction houses, perpetrated by businessman Rudy Kurniawan, from an established Indonesian family.

It got to the point that his Los Angeles home was filled with wine labeling and mixing gear to an extent that looked like hoarding.  All of this turns up with a sudden FBI raid.  And the prosecution, and ten-year prison sentence follow.

How Rudy got into this, rather reminds me of Bernie Madoff.  But Rudy had made up stories about living off of trusts and caring for an elderly mom.   It sounds too familiar.

I was intrigued by the subject matter by recalling “The Dark Place” (2014, see index), a mystery about a young gay man inheriting a wine estate in California.

(There are two other films on Amazon with this name.)

Name:  “Sour Grapes
Director, writer:  Reuben Atlas, Jerry Rothwell
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant play, 2017/2/21
Length: 85
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Dogwolf, Met Film
Link:  official 

(Posted: Tuesday, February 21, 2017 at 11 PM EST)





“A Cure for Wellness”: a bloated road horror satire about health nuts

A Cure for Wellness” (directed and written by Gore Verbinski with Justin Haythe) is another road horror film, but also a rather bloated (146 minutes) black comedy-type satire, with just average looks.

The film opens in a brokerage room filled with screens at night, and a stock trader has a heart attack and keels over. He’ll be replaced, but he’s apparently the only really sick one in the movie.

The movie shifts a boardroom (Trump style) after young trader Lockhart (Dane DeHann) is called upstairs. He is threatened with an SEC investigation (with a joke I know comes from Milo Yiannopoulos), and I thought about a moment in R, Foster Winans’s book “Trading Secrets”. But then the Trump-like chairman offers him an out: to find his old boss, Pembroke (Harry Groener) vacationing at a mysterious spa in Switzerland.

Lockhart goes, and I have to say that for Gothic horror the sets in this movie are just average. The film is shot in normal aspect 1.85:1, allowing simpler setups of the indoor scenes. The geography of this mile-high resort is rather hard to figure out – even if you’re supposed to compare it to the hotel in Stephen King’s “The Shining”. Lockhart at first finds the staff protective, and odd; but when his driver hits a deer on an errand to town, Lockhart breaks a leg and winds up a patient in the spa.

It’s not clear why they are here, but in time the bowels of the place are gradually revealed, with people inside floatation pods like in the movie “Altered States”. The doctors also have raised a school of eels to torment the patients.

There’s a homoerotic scene about an hour in, where Lockhart gets the first flotation treatment. His body looks immature and smooth, the kind that David Skinner wrote about in 1999 in the essay “Notes on the Hairless Man” in National Review.  But Lockhart is charismatic, and hardly fodder for a rich person’s cult.

The music score has a lot of Mozart and Beethoven in the background (like the second movement of Beethoven’s Symphony 2).

Structurally, the story resembles “The Ocelot the Way He Is“, the last “chapter” of my DADT-III book, in which the protagonist is invited by a charismatic young friend to visit a mysterious ashram while a terror attack happens at home.

20th Century Fox did not use ifs Alfred Newman fanfare to open the movie, unusual to this studio usually very jealous of its trademark. Fox did a “fake news” campaign to advertise the movie (ABC story).

Name:  “A Cure for Wellness”
Director, writer:  Gore Verbinski
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Quarter, 2017/2/19, afternoon, small audience
Length:  146
Rating:  R
Companies:  20th Century Fox, Regency, Baselberg (German production)
Link:  official

(Posted: Sunday, February 19, 2017 at 10:45 PM EST)

“Theo Who Lived”: conflict journalist gives bare bones account of his captivity in Syria, covers ransom issue during Obama administration

Theo Who Lived” is a self-narrated autobiographical documentary, directed by David Schisgall, of released hostage Theo Padnos, who took on the name Peter Theo Curtis.

Padnos had been living in Turkey and trying to get articles published in 2012, having become a conflict journalist after earning a Ph.D. in English.  He slipped over into Syria, over open borders, and actually seemed to stumble into an offer of an interview (about another kidnapped journalist Austin Tice) in a small house near Aleppo, when the incident turned into a kidnapping.

He would be held by Al-Nusra for two years,, with various periods of confinement, starvation, simulated lynchings, and other tortures.  But he would be given paper and pen and allowed to write.  Somehow the handwritten parchments survived, and he even acts out one of his stories in the film, about a church arson.  He would be moved around various times and once almost escaped, when he got stuck in a jailhouse windoew while Jewish photographer Matt Schrier did get out and did not sacrifice himself to help him.

His narrative would intersect with that of James Foley, who would be beheaded by ISIS. There would e a series of ransom demands, and his family now back in Vermont had to contemplate meeting it. The film covers the US policy of not paying ransom to overseas terrorists and not allowing families to pay (which has been changed recently under Obama – but it is obviously a double-edged question;  if one family pays privately, other families could be pressured).

The film moves back and forth between scenes in Turkey and Syria (often very graphic urban shots before the destruction by civil war), to pastoral winter scenes in Vermont. Theo actually was born in Georgia.

Theo also visits the urban neighborhood in Turkey where he encounters his former captors, who lived iin a nice apartment.  He also shows his release in Tel Aviv.

Theo also reports the idea of civilian targeting. That is to say, he is personally blamed by his captors by previous US “atrocities”, like using the atomic bomb during WWII, so captivity of a non-participating “forward observer” or potential distant critic sounds like justifiable payback.

Theo has authored at least two books .  He had declared allegiance to Allah, which meant his second book was viewed as apostasy by some.  But his personal views of religion seems to be that he believes parts of all Abrahamic religions and integrates them in his own way.  Anyone can be a Muslim, Jew amd Christian at the same time.

The filmmaking style is indeed one of everyday simplicity. He often walks around in Syria, Turkey, or Vermont and talks as he photographs.  I do that (in other places)!  He does create the scenes in prison on what looks like a stage set.  He seems attached to the idea of being the ultimate spectator, but prison was very real.

New York Times Magazine article by Theo;  Vanity Fair article about Theo by Emily Jane Fox; Article on ransom issue during Obama administration.

Name: “Theo Who Lived”
Director, writer:  David Schisgall, Theo Padnos
Released: 2016
Format: 1.85:1
When and how viewed: Netflix Instant Play
Length:  85
Rating: PG-13?
Companies:  Zeitgeist
Link:  official

Wikipedia picture of Phoenician ruins in Syria, typical of outdoor scenery in the film.

(Posted: Saturday, February 18, 2017 at 5:30 PM EST)

“Upstairs Inferno”: documentary account of a tragic gay bar fire in New Orleans in 1973

Upstairs Inferno” is a moving documentary, directed by Robert L. Camina, giving the history of the arson attack on the Up Stairs Lounge in New Orleans LA on June 24, 1973.  It resulted in 32 deaths, and until the Pulse attack in Orlando in June 2016, had been the largest mass murder of gay people in US history. There is the book “The Up Stairs Lounge Arson: Thirty-Two Deaths in a New Orleans Gay Bar”, by Clayton Delery-Edwards, as well as another book “Let the Faggots Burn: The Upstairs Lounge Fire” by Johnny Townsend; the filmmaker says he redid the resarch.

I wanted to give my reaction from the perspective of my own “second coming” at age 29.  On Sunday, January 28 1973, while living in northern New Jersey and working for Univac, I made a trip in to NYC to go to a service at Metropolitan Community Church.  I was not that impressed (I would officially “come out” three weeks later at another event in NYC), but I do remember mention of an arson attack against an MCC church.  Apparently, given the narrative of the film, this had happened in Los Angeles earlier that month.  There would be another attack in Nashville (no injuries or damage either attack) before the New Orleans attack.  I think I remember mention of the New Orleans incident at a GAANJ (Gay Activists Alliance of New Jersey) Friday night meeting that July, but did not pay that much attention to it at the time.

Metropolitan Community Church had been conducting services in the theater portion of the Lounge, although it had been moving to a small liberal Episcopal church.  The early part of the film gives valuable history of Metropolitan Community Church and Reverend Troy Perry (who used to say it was easier to come out as gay than come out as Christian).  I have neem active at MCC churches in Dallas, Minneapolis, and Washington DC (Rev. Larry Unger, who passed away from AIDS in 1993, once wrote a controversial essay, “There is no better half,” urging gay men to learn emotional self-sufficiency).

The film also says that New Orleans had experienced two other major hotel incidents, including the Mark Essex sniper attack in December 1972.  But after the Up Stairs lounge, the city police, government, and local community were deliberately indifferent to the loss of gay people.

Investigation would show that this had not been a terrorist attack, but that probably a disgruntled bar patron (Roger Dale Nunez) had tried to set a small fire in the stairwell after an argument with a patron and being tossed out.  If so, Nunez probably had no idea that the construction of the building would make it a fire trap.  He would die at his own hand a year later and was never prosecuted

So the incident, like the infamous Station Disco fire in West Warwick RI in 2003, was more the result of poor safety practices than actual malice.

The film interviews some surviving victims, and is tastefully restrained in conveying the horror of burn injuries.  As with war wounds, I would have a problem if this happened to an intimate partner because of disfigurement.  (The film relates how one many died trying to go back and rescue his lover.)  Three of the victims were never identified, and were among victims who did not get respectful memorial services.  (People used derogatory metaphors like “fruitfry”).  I say this bearing in mind my own personal uneasiness with promoting “victimization” but that’s another discussion.

The film is narrated by Christopher Rice and the closing credits, naming the victims, has impressive unaccompanied cello music, I think by Mark Kueffner.

Patheos 2013 Account of the fire is here.

This video was given by a producer at the Library of Congress showing today.

The official trailer may need Google sign on for viewing (adult).

Amazon book link.


Name:  “Upstairs Inferno”
Director, writer:  Robert L. Camina
Released:  2015
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Library of Congress Mary Pickford Hall free showing, LGBT library employees
Length:  96
Rating:  R
Companies: Camina
Link: FB 

(Posted: Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 7:30 PM EST)

“Asperger’s Are Us”, from Duplass Brothers: four young men outgrowing Asperger’s present a comedy show in Boston

The Duplass Brothers (Jay and Mark Duplass, “The Puffy Chair”) have a produced a new documentary, “Asperger’s Are Us” for Netflix (late 2016), directed by Alex Lehmann.

The documentary traces the lives of four older teens in the Boston area who have somewhat “outgrown” their Asperger’s syndrome (and possibly brushes as children with more severe autism) and who put on a comedy show  (the Asperger’s Comedy Troupe) in early 2015 before going their separate ways, to work or college (one goes to Oxford).

The leader of the pack is Noah Britton, the oldest (around 20), tall and lean and frankly charismatic.  The others are Jack Hanke, New Michael Ingemi (who had outgrown extreme anger and self-control problems as a boy, according to his own narrative), and Ethan Finlan, who likes trains.

The speech and manner of the young men does not seem exceptional by today’s customs.  Perhaps the talk is sometimes slightly nerdy and deliberate, but not all that much.

Yet, the boys provide some narrative of their earlier years, including special education in some cases, showing binders one of them created (I remember grading special ed. Binders as an assignment back in 2006 when I was working as a substitute teacher).  On of the boys describes earlier aversion to unwanted physical contact, a “cut off of sensitivity” and “dulling of the senses”.  I recall this from my own experience in 1962 at age 19 at NIH, when I once said in family therapy “I want to be dulled”.  These were difficult days, brought on in some part by the expectations of others.

The final show has some skits, like “Small Claims Court”, and even “Presidential Press Conference”.  The boys must have predicted that Donald Trump would run and win, as Ethan plays a caricature of today’s president Trump (and this is two years ago) and fires back, “Are you a pervert?” Or maybe he resembles Sean Spicer even more.  This could almost get on to SNL.

Name:  “Asperger’s Are Us
Director, writer:  Alex Lehmann
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant play
Length:  78
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Netflix Red Envelope, Duplass
Link:  Troupe official site, film site FB

Related films on my legacy blogs for autism, Asperger’s.

I also reviewed “Tower”, by Keith Meitland, about the University of Texas Tower shooter rampage In 1966, on a legacy blog yesterday (after it played on PBS;  see Index).

(Aspergers is often spelled without the apostrophe.)

Picture: demonstration om Cambridge, MA in August 2015, my visit.

(Posted Wednesday, February 15, 2017 at 6:30 PM EST)

“Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race and America”: a rap musician interviews both Ku Klux Klan and Black Lives Matter people

Accidental Courtesy:  Daryl Davis, Race and America”, directed by Matt Ornstein, is a conversational (and controversial) documentary in which rap African-American musician Daryl Davis traverses the nation and talks to both Ku Klux Klan members (former and modern) and later to actors in the Black Lives Matter movement.

He feints friendship with the former “wizards”.  But the white supremacists never come up with credible rationalizations for their attitudes.   One of them says the white men built a modern civilization upon which blacks and natives depend.  But Davis logically responds with asking about out bad karma:  didn’t we build our world of plenty on their backs (taking land from Indians, and then with slavery).  There are philosophical questions about whether one share moral responsibility with one’s ancestors.

Later he visits both Ferguson MO and then Baltimore Sandtown.  The film shows clips of the unrest after Michael Brown’s death, as well as Freddie Gray’s death.  (As for Brown, I have thought it a particular tragedy that a promising future college and perhaps pro athlete behaved the way he did, though.)  He shows footage of the attacks on Dallas police in July 2016 and also of Treyvon Martin’s case.  He gets into an angry confrontation in a rowhouse business in Baltimore with a BLM activist, who refuses his handshake.

But Daryl asks, “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?”

In the last scene, Daryl (who looks quite obese) plays piano with his rock band at a club in Bethesda, MD.  The film often provides visual backdrops with the Washington DC monuments.

The film opens with an interesting shot inside Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington DC (next to the Lincoln Theater, site of Reel Affirmations film festivals in the past, and not too far from Nellie’s, Town DVC, and 930 Club).

Name: Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America
Director, writer:  Matthew Ornstein
Released:  2017
Format: 1.85:1
When and how viewed: PBS Independent Lens broadcast, 2017/2/13
Length:  88
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  PBS, First Run Features
Link:  official

I describe my recent visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture, with many short films and videos (including a interview set) here.

There is a related series on CNN, “The United Shades of America” with Kamau Bell, April 2016 (legacy review).

(Posted: Tuesday, February 14, 2017 at 11:30 AM EST)

Oscar nominated documentary shorts for 2017: 3 of the films deal with refugees

The Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts is playing right now at Landmark West End Cinema in Washington D.C. I attended the 1:30 PM showing and it’s a good thing I bought the ticket online because it sold out. The theater has installed rocking chairs, so seating capacity is lower.

The presentation started with “Joe’s Violin” (directed Kahane Cooperman, 24 minutes). The film is a biography of 91-year-old Holocaust survivor Joseph Feingold. When he is 8, his family is moved to western Poland as the Nazis invade. He managed to “escape” with the Russians but some other family members went to Nazi camps and did not survive. But, at 17, after World War II, he was taken to one of Stalin’s labor camps after leaving his violin behind. Somehow he was able to buy the violin back for cigarettes. Years later he donated it to a school for girls in the Bronx, NY. A student named Brianna Perez would be able to play it. The film shows her playing Solveig’s song from Grieg’s Pier Gynt. But somehow the film title and subject matter remind me of John Madden’s “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” (2001).

“Extremis” was reviewed here Sept. 17, 2016.

4.1 Miles” (directed by Daphne Matziaraki, 24 minutes, New York Times Op-Doc) follows Greek Coast Guard captain Kyriakos Papadopoulos as he rescues refugees fleeing Turkey for the island of Lesbos (for which lesbianism is named) in a vessel that shipwrecks. He says he has no training in CPR. Once the refugees land, the townspeople have no practical choice but to take care of and house them.

There was an intermission before the remaining two films, dealing with Aleppo.

Watani: My Homeland” (directed by Marcel Mettelsiefen, 39 minutes) seems to be almost the same film as “Children of Syria” shown on PBS in April 2016 and reviewed here on a legacy blog. I’ll note that the children mention that their new town Goslar is losing population due to not enough kids and too many old people.

“White Helmets” was reviewed here Oct. 6, 2016

(Posted: Sunday, February 12, 2017 at 9 PM EST)