GASLAND: Part banjo-anthem, part agit-prop, part road-trip and oh yes, part burning faucets. This well-researched and extremely creative exposé on America’s natural gas extraction industry is most famous for an early clip released on the web by the film’s director, Josh Fox, of water coming out of an American couple’s home so contaminated it bursts into flames when a lighter is ignited near the water. There are scores of disturbing scenes like this in GASLAND, but perhaps the film’s biggest strength is Fox’s willingness to explore creatively. It is clear he is not a seasoned filmmaker (much of the camerawork attests to this observation) yet he has constructed a compelling, entertaining, funny and disturbing feature documentary that neither preaches nor shies away from the alarming problems it reveals.
MARWENCOL: This festival favourite (pictured at top of post) is a fabulous portrait of a man beaten so severely by rednecks (for daring to discuss his habit of cross-dressing in an upstate New York bar) that he suffers brain damage and retreats to the space of his backyard, away from society and into his own creative universe. Jeff Malberg’s sensitive portrait of Mark Hogencamp and the WWII world he builds—and photographs—is compelling, moving and revealing. Hogencamp’s strategy of coping with trauma through creativity is actually a source of optimism in an otherwise dark and depressing tale of intolerance and ignorance. The WWII era town and multiple narratives created by Hogencamp in his backyard are fascinating in their detail and melancholic in the way they reveal his suffering. More on the film and Hogencamp’s photography here.
DISFIGURED: This overlooked American indy fiction is a well-written and excellently acted feature film from Cinema Libre Studio. The director, Glenn Gers, made this film about women and weight because: “I’m not a woman and I don’t have an eating disorder, but the issues of appearance, control, isolation, and our complicated relationships to our own bodies seem universal to me. They are also sadly under-explored or horribly twisted in almost every form of media.” He goes on to say that he especially knows about these issues because his wife, who he finds to be “beautiful, graceful and stylish” is also “according to popular culture – fat.”
Some may scoff that a man made a film about eating disorders, women and weight, but I think they will change their minds after seeing Disfigured. Gers and his talented cast have made a great film on a shoestring budget (a process hilariously described in Gers’s testimonial on the film’s site) about the complicated terrain of body image, self esteem, societal norms, acceptance, community, relationships and beauty. The plot follows Lydia (Deidra Edwards) who is “fat,” and Darcy (Staci Lawrence), a recovering anorexic, as they form a shaky alliance after Darcy is rejected from a “Fat Acceptance Group” and Lydia quits out of solidarity/protest. Their struggle with weight and navigating a society whose popular culture dictates that neither of them are anywhere close to the norm, is an emotional, funny, and warm narrative that everyone, man or woman, fat or thin, tall or short and everything in between, should watch.
METROPIA: This brilliantly animated fiction from Tarik Saleh follows Roger (Vincent Gallo), the classic anti-hero, as he slouches through a dystopic 2024 setting where one company controls transportation, media and personal hair products. In this dark and distant future all of Europe is connected by one massive matrix of an underground subway system and dotted by a population of toiling emotionless workers. Roger, who’s impotent relationship with his girlfriend sets him off in a daydream meandering to track down the girl on the shampoo bottle, begins hearing voices in his head and eventually discovers the underground train system isn’t the only vast matrix of control beyond his control – and it all connects back to the shampoo…
A skillfully rendered Swedish sci-fi whose makers wisely chose a kind of animation that looks part photographic, part real, and part painting. The canvass is so incredibly rich, you may have to watch it twice to get all of the Orwellian tale that plays out on the ground.