Monday, June 27, 2011

Silverdocs - More films

 So I just wrapped up a week of seeing TONS of awesome films at the Silverdocs Film Festival. Here are the rest of the films that I saw while I was there:

The Price of Sex is a documentary about sex trafficking, particularly in Eastern Europe. While I did learn some, and it certainly is a sad story that needs to be told, I found the film frankly just too depressing. Filmmaker Mimi Chakarova takes her documentary to the next level by going undercover in some dangerous situations, but the thing that she's missing is what many doc filmmakers miss when they make issue films and that is a solution to the problem. Obviously, this is a complex problem but the film left me feeling like there was just no hope for shutting down or even really reducing sex trafficking and offered me no way to try to get involved in being part of the solution (except a little "donate to this organization" card at the end).

The Loving Story was a very nicely told story about the aptly-named Mildred and Richard Loving, a white man and black woman who were exiled from the state of Virginia in 1967 just for, well, loving each other (sorry, I couldn't resist) and getting married. In an uplifting story told through a large collection of archival footage, the courageous but private couple goes on to win their Supreme Court case (Loving v. Virginia) and end anti-miscegenation across the country.

Better This World is a documentary about two boys, David McKay and Bradley Crowder, who were arrested at the 2008 Republican National Convention and charged with domestic terrorism for making Molotov cocktails. The twist of the story, though, is the FBI informant who recruited these boys and encouraged them to use violence. The film shows the true impact the war on terror has had on civil liberties and political activism in the US since 9/11. Everybody who is politically active should watch this film.

Where Soldiers Come From is the story of a group of friends from small-town Michigan who join the National Guard and end up getting sent to Afghanistan. It follows them as they make the decision to join, as they get their orders, while they're in Afghanistan and then back to the US to try to readjust to civilian life. Filmmaker Heather Courtney does a good job of portraying the boys as well-rounded characters and highlighting the struggles of both the boys and their families when the guys return. The film is very informative about the lifelong after effects of TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), which is a problem that many soldiers come home with and which has only really been discovered in recent years. She also did a nice job of highlighting the boys' families and their anxiety as their boys are in combat.

Our School is a documentary about Roma ("gypsy") children in Romania as Romania struggles to integrate them into their school system. I had no idea that Roma were so discriminated against in much of Europe and we learn that prior to trying to integrate the kids into the regular schools, the Roma children had been taught in separate "schools" that had very little resources and really couldn't be considered schools at all. The film follows school officials, teachers and the kids as each struggle to adjust to each other, sometimes successfully and sometimes not so successfully. My favorite part of the film is the children. The kids are adorable and often hilarious. They are what really make this film a joy to watch.

The Learning follows four Philippino women as they come to the US to teach. It's a classic fish-out-of-water story as these teachers fly half way across the world to teach at inner-city schools in Baltimore, Maryland. The film follows them as they wrestle with being away from their families and everything they've known, and as they deal with problem kids in one of the most under-funded school districts in the country. However, the overall tone of the film is uplifting, as the teachers find home away from home, make a difference in kids' lives and send money back to their financially-struggling families back in the Philippines. 

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