The start of a new year

Another day 1 come and gone – this week is going to fly!  I started the evening at Documentary Shorts 1 which was a nice way to ease myself into the festival.  One of my favorites of the set was Paraiso, which followed skyscraper window washers in Chicago. To me, this was a nearly perfect film. The footage was lovely – there was one shot of ropes being secured, rhythmically knotted around and around a metal post, that really resonated with me. The subject was a nice balance between the corporeal and the philosophical.  We followed a group of men up and down the sides of buildings, peering into the buildings, the men’s lives and worries, and their reflections on death and the afterlife.  In the Q&A the director mentioned that the question he wanted to raise and explore was, “How do we deal with mortality in our jobs and lives?” and I thought that his product fulfilled this aim quite well. I left wanting more, which can sometimes be frustrating, but it worked for me here.

Next, Outlawed in Pakistan, about the gang-rape of Kainat Soomro in rural Pakistan and the subsequent social, emotional, and legal battles. This film piqued my interest because of my work for the Rape Recovery Center here in Salt Lake City and I must admit that despite the filmmakers’ journalistic efforts to show all sides of the story without judgement or prejudice, my own background prevented me from watching with such an unbiased view. I am having a hard time finding the words to explain why I liked this film. It was compelling, complex, emotional. I am in awe of Kainat’s strength and perseverance; even more than that, I am humbled by the support of her family. I am curious (and wish that I had asked during the Q&A) as to what inspired her father to fight for his daughter and believe in her right to life and justice.

Just a brief summary of the other shorts: Endless Day was very artsy; Skinningrove was a haunting portrayal of a town through photographs and memories; The Whistle (Gwizdek) was not as funny as I expected; and When the Zombies Come was much funnier than I expected (it often had the whole house in laughter), although the characters often seemed like they were hamming it up too much for the camera.

I finished this first short day at The Crash Reel, another winner from Sundance regular Lucy Walker. She has a knack for identifying wonderful subjects and weaving a compelling story. Definitely a crowd-pleaser. I’m not sure if this film was what I expected or not, but I certainly enjoyed it. I actually would have liked to have seen a little less of the pre-injury Kevin Pearce and a little more of the recovery process, including learning more about Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) (more science, that is, in addition to the emotional interviews with other TBI survivors and victims), but that’s just personal preference. It probably wouldn’t have fit in stylistically and it was already a busy film, with a number of subjects touched upon in addition to TBI (Down Syndrome in particular). Although this film was about Kevin and while he is certainly a character, it was brought to life by the entire Pearce family. Walker did a wonderful job capturing their dynamic and I felt honored to have a glimpse into their lives. I was inspired yet again this evening by a strong and supportive family.

With that, I should wrap up and get ready for day 2. It’s is going to be packed – possibly 5 films, although I may skip out on the last one to head to a birthday party (theme: Cowboys and Indians, so much fun!)

Also, I just want to get up on the podium for a moment with a brief post-script: Rape and sexual assault are crimes of power, not sexuality. Victims of rape and sexual assault are never at fault. If you or a loved one have been a victim of rape of sexual assault and need help – from answers to questions to emotional support and beyond –  please get in contact with the Rape Recovery Center (local, raperecoverycenter.org) or RAINN (national, www.rainn.org).

~Nan

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