In the past two weeks, Film Festival Today published 5 reviews of mine:
The Annapolis Film Festival took place at the end of March, 2019, and here is my coverage, so far, at both Film Festival Today and Hammer to Nail, with 1 overview piece, 7 reviews and 1 interview.
In what is now a tradition for bonus episodes, we look at an online collective of short documentaries, this time with Field of Vision. Founded by Laura Poitras, AJ Schnak and Charlotte Cook, the site showcases insightful films from insider perspectives on various areas of the world, with a focus on political and social inequalities.
Field of Vision Films Covered:
Penguins (Alastair Fothergill/Jeff Wilson, 2019)
Disneynature, a production arm within the larger Disney Studios, produces nature documentaries with an eye – according to its mission statement – to bringing the “world’s top nature filmmakers together to share a wide variety of wildlife stories on the big screen in order to engage, inspire, and educate theatrical audiences everywhere.” With each release, the company makes a donation to global conservation efforts, the size of that charitable contribution based on an individual movie’s first-week box-office sales. This is a worthy action, for sure, so I hesitate to write my review of the latest and not-so-greatest, but the fact remains that Penguins is a mostly soulless concoction that purports to glorify the lives of its subjects even as it relentlessly trivializes them.
The story is similar to that already chronicled in the far superior 2005 Oscar-winning March of the Penguins, though this time our focus is on the smaller Adélie penguins of Antarctica, rather than their larger cousins, the Emperor. We follow the mating and breeding cycle of the herd, and subsequent annual departure from the continent’s shores, all the while watching as our protagonists struggle to survive the harsh conditions of that distant southern land. Courtesy of a (mostly insufferable) voiceover spoken by actor Ed Helms (Cedar Rapids), the film presents “Steve,” a male of the species, as its central character, adding comic sound effects and dramatically manipulative pop music to ostensibly endear him to audiences. I prefer my wildlife au naturel, thank you very much.
The cinematography is beautiful, as one would hope, but given the superficiality of the commentary, that magnificence is constantly undercut by the film’s overall aesthetic. It’s effectively a live-action cartoon, begging the question: why bother? Better to not disturb these creatures at all than to do so for such lightweight fare. If this is Disney’s approach to saving the world, I would feel better about the effort if all profits went towards research and preservation, rather than what will surely be but a small percentage of receipts. Bring on the merchandising, since we’re all just pawns and products in the larger corporate scheme.
The 2019 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival took place at the start of April, and here is the first part of my coverage, including an overview piece at Film Festival Today and 3 reviews at Hammer to Nail:
My Hammer to Nail coverage of the 2019 SXSW Film Festival continues with 2 reviews and 4 interviews: