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Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2012 Samsara, Reportero, Detropia, & More

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Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2012: Diaries: 1971-1976, Samsara, Reportero, Detropia, & More
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2012: Diaries: 1971-1976, Samsara, Reportero, Detropia, & More

Ed Pincus was one of the founders of the MIT Film Section, a training ground for future documentary filmmakers like Ross McElwee. Pincus produced a body of work that straddles the line between the purported objectivity of Direct Cinema, a movement he helped pioneer with early works like the Black Natchez, and the more self-reflecting style known as personal documentary. As its name suggests, Diaries: 1971-1976 belongs in the latter category, an intimate epic that examines the inextricable Gordian knot of personal and political commitment by turning the camera eye on friends and family. Bookended by intimations of mortality, the deaths of a relative and close friend, Diaries spends most of its three-hour-plus run time charting the shifting sexual climate of the 1970s, delving into experiments in lifestyle choices ranging from nudism to open marriage. Frequent exchanges between Pincus and wife Jane, a member of the feminist collective responsible for the manifesto Our Bodies, Ourselves, consider the consequences of their decisions not only on their own relationship, but also on their two young children. Diaries also records, albeit in a distanced, Brechtian fashion, the last gasps of anti-war protest and the disintegration of the counterculture, at least the Cambridge variety. For a stretch late in the film, Diaries achieves a gritty kind of New Hollywood vibe as Pincus and a fellow filmmaker range around the desert Southwest, the documentary equivalent of Easy Rider. As a time capsule, Diaries is invaluable, but Pincus’s decision to work against narrative cohesion by cutting away from conversations at key moments, and otherwise hashing up individual segments, renders the film chaotic and disjointed, sapping it of the cumulative impact found in documentaries like Allan King’s A Married Couple, let alone the massive slab of social experimentation then going on over at PBS called An American Family.

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2011: Gun Fight, Better This World, & If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front

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Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2011: <em>Gun Fight</em>, <em>Better This World</em>, & <em>If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front</em>
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2011: <em>Gun Fight</em>, <em>Better This World</em>, & <em>If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front</em>

Barbara Kopple’s Gun Fight opens with tragically familiar footage of April 16, 2007, the day Seung-Hui Cho opened fire on his classmates at Virginia Tech. It was the deadliest school shooting in American history. Amid the roll of cellphone footage that captured the massacre in real time and subsequent news reports of the tragedy, we hear a voice being interviewed. What he’s saying doesn’t line up with the standard community-in-mourning soundbites we’re accustomed to hearing in the aftermath of tragedy. No, this person seems to be saying that if Virginia didn’t have such stringent gun laws that maybe someone could have done something to take down the shooter that day. While such a horrific event would seem to indicate the need for redoubled gun-control efforts, pro-gun groups like the Virginia Citizen Defense League, who sponsored a handgun giveaway less than a month after the shooting, saw it as an opportunity to further lobby their cause. Welcome to the world of Gun Fight.

Caprica Recap Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”

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Caprica Recap: Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”

Syfy

Caprica Recap: Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”

While some felt that Battlestar Galactica’s finale repudiated much that came before it, both thematically and in its execution, others (like myself) felt the story had come to an emotionally satisfying conclusion. Either way, disgruntled or devoted fans of the show—and even those who’ve never seen it—will find its new soapy spinoff, Caprica, of interest. Like its predecessor, which was couched in Bush-era “War on Terror” parallels, the show alludes to present day tensions stemming from Obama’s promise of change, something I discussed at length in a piece I wrote back in April after watching an early DVD release of the pilot.

“Caprica: 58 Years Before the Fall” reads the opening title card to the two-hour debut. The Fall refers to humanity’s near extinction at the hands of their robotic Cylon creations in BSG’s premiere. This prequel explores the fateful forces which led to their creation and rise to prominence. It begins with two young girls perishing in a terrorist attack orchestrated by a monotheistic cult known as the Soldiers of the One (the seed for the Cylon belief in one God; contrarian in the polytheistic society of Caprica). The girls’ respective fathers—Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz), a Bill Gates/Steve Jobs-like billionaire genius looking for the missing link in his robotics research, and Joseph Adams (Esai Morales), a Michael Corleone-type attorney reluctant to join the family (as in Family) business—are our portals into this show’s world.

Graystone and Adams also serve as doubles tied together by their very different reactions to the possibility that their daughters can be resurrected. Graystone sees it as a matter of science and intellect. If he can bring his daughter Zoe (Alessandra Torresani) back to life by imprinting her personality into a machine prototype he’s created, then why not? Ironically, it is his overwhelming emotional regret that blinds this intellectual to the unpredictable repercussions that shall ultimately play out. The earthier and more instinctual Adams comes to grasp the moral implications of trying to revive his own dead daughter. Paradoxically, it is his pragmatism that allows him to step back and view the situation dispassionately.