Here’s an idea I’ve mentioned before, but never really got around to trying out. I’m starting to realize that I haven’t been able to get as many reviews up on the site as I’d like, so I’ve decided to try a regular post of docs I’ve watched recently, with some simple blurbs about my thoughts on the film. Hopefully this will help those people who visit the site looking for non-fiction recommendations, and it will help me be a little more consistent in my reviewing. I’ll probably still catagories these shorter reviews alongside the longer ones, making them individually available in the side bar. For those who like their reviews a little longer and more in-depth, I still plan to write some lengtheir ones when I feel particularily inspired or have the time. Anyways, I’ll kick things off with a few titles I checked out this weekend:
Fans of vbs.tv’s ‘Vice Guide to Travel’ and its guerrilla-style journalism won’t be disappointed by ‘Heavy Metal in Baghdad’. Directors Suroosh Alvi and Eddy Moretti follow up on a story previously published in Vice Magazine (read the original article ‘No War For Heavy Metal’ here.) about Iraq’s only heavy metal band, Acrassicauda, resulting in a film that’s a visceral, eye opening look at civilian life in an American invaded, post-Sadam Iraq. As is the case with the Vice travel guides, Heavey Metal in Baghdad is as much about the journey of the filmmaker as it is the subject itself. Danger is ever-present throughout the filming of the doc, giving all the more reason to empathize with those folks who have to live through such conditions on a daily basis. It’s interesting to note that the crew doesn’t hold back in getting involved in the story themselves, originally having set up Acrassicauda’s last Iraq gig and helping them secure studio time to record a few of their songs. Overall, I guess the approach isn’t so much a hands-off, birds-eye-view editorial, but rather a documentation of the overall experience for everyone involved. A great film for, even for non-metal fans. This would’ve been a perfect candidate for one of my five recommended heavy metal documentaries from a while back.
I’ve just recently discovered that Frederick Wiseman’s Zipporah Films has been quickly rolling out his filmography on DVD since winter of 2007, so I’ve finally had the chance to sit down and watch one of his films! Law and Order is a gritty look at law enforcement in the late 1960’s that’s right up my alley. As a fan of the television show Cops, I immediately gravitated to this film and what I imagine is one of the first verite looks at the every-day situations that police offers find themselves in. (I know Police Tapes was an early inspiration for Cops. This film outdates that one by 8 years.) The most interesting thing is seeing the somewhat outdated and aggressive tactics used by the officers. One of them even smokes a pipe on the job! An altercation with a prostitute was particularily uncomfortable to watch as some hefty dectectives raided her hotel room and ended up putting her into a pretty intense choke hold. The fact that she’s struggling to breathe doesn’t stop them from asking her some questions in the process. I can’t wait to start digging in to the rest of Wiseman’s back catalogue.
Jessica Yu’s ‘Protagonist’ incorporates just as much whimsical fancy and artistry as her feature length debut, ‘In the Realms of the Unreal’, a film that looked at the literary work of an outsider genious and how he incorporated elements of his life into his stories. Protagonist takes the opposite approach, applying the literary conventions of the anti-hero, as inspired by Greek drama, to four real life subjects; a German terrorist, a bank robber, a kung fu enthusiast and a gay evangelical minister. Reminscent of Errol Morris’ ‘Fast, Cheap and Out of Control’, these seemingly unrelated stories aren’t so different after all. The four men, shaped by childhood experiences, ultimately face self-reflective, eye opening epiphanies that Yu’s puppet show interludes are an interesting way to connect these stories together, referencing the Greek drama that’s thematically present throughout the film. An interesting watch that manages to entertain and enlighten.