I don’t watch many documentaries. The main reason is that art and culture are my getaways from this world, to forget about the shitty aspects of it. Documentaries are the opposite.
Is my attitude right? Hell no. I am ashamed of myself. But I also have a reason to do it. The flow of chemicals in my brain isn’t entirely correct so I see the world in a very pessimistic way despite ignoring the abundance of problems that make it even worse. I try to balance it though. I try to choose subjects that I care about but don’t make me depressed for the entire evening afterwards. I choose subjects that are close to me and that my influence matter to the least level.
I still remember how I felt after watching Les Miserables earlier this year. The film wasn’t based on actual events but it was picturing the real issue. And it was devastating (powerful film thought, much recommended).
2020 is especially hard in case of troubling events. And I don’t even mean the problems of pandemic or fires around the globe. It’s also because people at lockdown think stupid ideas and share them. It’s hard. Every day is hard.
When I go to the cinema I expect having a break. I want to enter the world that loves me and the world I can love back. It doesn’t have to be a perfect world but it’s one that accepts me as I am and where I believe I have a place.
This is why Millenium Docs Against Gravity was a very hard choice for me. I didn’t attend any problematic documentaries. I am aware of the problems but I’m already troubled enough. But I stood up to the challenge and picked a few subjects that wouldn’t affect me that much. Or ones that tell a story rather than call to action.
Most of my choices were based on culture and film. Things that are interesting and do cover bigger problems here and there but also ones I already considered. Not all of them were good. There’s one or two I’d rather omit. But some made a strong impression.
Due to my complete lack of experience with documentaries, I have no idea how to review them. But let me do my best.
I Want My MTV
A truly fascinating journey in the first years of Music Television. This gave me a very different perspective and helped me connect the dots in my favourite music era. It was thorough and detailed, a lot of speakers both from the board as much as the rock stars themselves. We’ve got Sting as much as Doctor Dre and the creators of the idea to tell how MTV needed to change to appeal to their audience. The best thing was – how self-aware it is. “I Want My MTV” isn’t only the praise of the idea but the learning process and understanding of its slow yet irrepressible demise.
QT8: The First Eight
Quentin Tarantino is a classic director even without trying. He’s been a filmmaker by birth and I admire his passion. It was a journey from the very beginning of his life, his career and how each of his films differs from one another.
The baby steps including the infamous VHS renting service and powerful scripts he wrote yet couldn’t direct. And of course, the hard journey to become the director, winning the respect and a few awards on his way to the top.
We can slowly discover his ideas, how he sees the world in the eyes of continuous co-workers and friends. The names included both stars as Samuel L. Jackson and a little less popular yet crucial to filmmaking as Zoe Bell, a stuntwoman. I loved some set trivia and Easter Eggs in Tarantino Universe. After all, there’s more than feet fetish when you talk Quentin Tarantino.
I enjoyed the transparency of statements and that the director (Tara Wood) didn’t omit to mention Harvey Weinstein’s current situation and how it affected his and Quentin’s professional (and somewhat personal) relationship.
Andrey Tarkovsky. A Cinema Prayer
I feel like I didn’t understand it. I confess I haven’t yet got to the point of watching this classic director’s art and I’m still on a verge of doing so. But it felt too spiritual for me. Yes, I am aware it was the case, yet it made my agnostic self feel obligated to start believing. According to Tarkovsky, that’s the only way in art and you can’t be an artist without faith. There’s something to it, but it got repeatable too fast.
Don’t take my word for it, but I can easily say it’s not a film for a newbie cinephile. Maybe I’ll understand it better after diving into his art.
We Believe in Dinosaurs
If you think we live in the era of enlightenment and easy access to knowledge, let me tell you this: 40% of Americans believe in creationism. That means that they think the world was created exactly like according to the Bible and the Earth is around… 6000 years old. Yes.
With flat-Earthers already going viral, there can’t be just one type of weirdos in the world. But believing completely illogical theories is just a tip of the iceberg. The main idea behind the film is that the creationists decided to build an ark in the middle of Kentucky and turn it into a museum. Of their own world history, obviously. And it’s not even the bad part. The bad part is – it was sponsored by taxes, you know, the one that everyone pays, not just them.
What you basically will get out of this is possibly a huge mark on your forehead from countless facepalms. Also, you’ll find out some truly incredible facts. For instance that humankind was living at the time dinosaurs did. And such.
It is enjoyable, even though it’s a very dark vision for our future. It’s the subject level of “Behind the curve” about the mentioned flat-Earthers. The only thing that strikes the wrong cord is a limited number of experts. It tells a story of the ark rather than teach what’s wrong in their ideas. And however it tries to show both sides in a more or less similar light, the science behind “… Dinosaurs” isn’t convincing enough. If you want to go into a new “conspiracy”, the film doesn’t give you almost any reason why not.
Disclaimer: I have nothing against the faith of any sort, I’d just prefer that there’s some reason behind beliefs.
I’d expected it to either strike me or leave me hating it. There was no in-between. I was right. And sadly, it was the latter.
I don’t even know what to say about it. Writer and director Elizabeth Sankey watched countless romcoms in her life and started to wonder why she was so much into them. But the problem was that her big revelation was so dull, I realized the same things by avoiding watching romantic comedies at all. So either I am a genius or there’s some serious pointlessness in this film.
An Impossible Project
I believe this is my winner of this year MDAG.
It tells how an analogue enthusiast saved Polaroid from extinction and why analogue is still important in our lives today.
Most of us forgot how to use a pen a long time ago, but some people still admire the idea of actually doing and touching items instead of keeping their whole life in a digital cloud.
I belong to these people even though I am a programmer. I can’t imagine my life without a journal and my backpack without a pencil case. I’ve been eager to buy a Polaroid for a long while now but I still hesitate because of my lack of photography skills.
An Impossible Project is for people who long to the last century. Who love to use things and feel them. Whose brains still want a different kind of stimulus.
Doc, the main character in the film, is such a powerful dreamer, I now have a new goal to visit his coffee shop in Vienna. He doesn’t want to stop the world from going further. He wants people to have a choice and be aware of all the options. And this is amazing.
What was important for me was that it kind of allowed me to love both sides. That I don’t need to be analogue in every possible way. I can enjoy the digital world just as much. The goal is to be able to go there and back and not to miss a thing.
Polish title was “An Influencer” and it somehow gave me the wrong idea what the film was about. Sure, it was about influencers but only about one type of them. The type that I don’t exactly understand.
It was a documentary about cute boys who post things on the Internet and for some reason have insane numbers of fans (mostly 13YO girls). My problem is that I don’t know what’s the appeal is. These boys aren’t talented, they don’t play music or dance or have great ideas to share. The only thing they do is showing themselves online. And they’re consistent in that.
Jawline shows the ups and downs of that “profession”. It focuses on a boy who tries to reach the fame and money to help people. His journey isn’t all sun and rainbows and it gives a lot to reflect on. On the other hand, we see these successful ones that even though live a somewhat fabulous life in LA, they still have a lot to learn.
I suppose I’m already too old for the trend even though I’ve only finished my education two years ago. I tried hard to understand why it works but I’m slowly accepting that it’s impossible. I guess we can all agree – being a teen is damn hard. You have a completely different set of mind. And having a person online who talks to you and “likes” you may just be the answer to help yourself even just a little bit.
Very problematic subject. But then, not really. It is a simple ecological call to action that tries to inspire you to save our environment. The reason is simply that we will live in the pollution that gets worse and worse every day.
It’s a story of a handful of activists that try to change the world. Each of them in a very different way. They fight for a better living for themselves. The degradation is prominent already and it’s not our children that will be affected. It’s us.
It made me think about how to change my life even more but then I already try to be as eco as I possibly can. The picture doesn’t seem inspiring enough for a less devoted person to apply a change to their life.
And there is another conflicting subject: Greta Thunberg. We all saw her speech. The Internet wasn’t exactly merciful with it. She had a major point there, though. We have to act now. There’s no time to waste.
PS. I loved that Patti Smith was there. I admire this woman, I love her music, poetry and books and her point of view.
Once Upon a Time in Poland
A short review from my Letterboxd:
Christianity 101: How to be a true Pole
The numerous truths about the Polish nation continue to amaze me. And I still don’t understand why I’m still here.
The longer story is:
A Czech director comes to Poland to find God. But faith in Poland is another state of mind. And sadly, it shows most of the Polish vices. It amazes me how many of them are connected to Catholicism. It covers every controversial subject in the religion: from political radio that states to be religious, paedophilia among priests or exorcism… This seriously needs a separate post (or I’ll add a longer description in a later date).
Yet another “mistaken by Polish title” situation. I thought I would have seen beautiful bookstores from New York. Instead, I saw a film about people that sell very rare volumes. I love books and it is very similar to “An Impossible Project” in the subject but it lacks magic. I left the cinema kind of disappointed both in subject and realization. I hoped for something more.
MDAG is still online till the end of the week so I hope you pick something for yourselves (sadly only available to Poland).