Category Archives: Documentary

Blackfish (Documentary-Thriller-Drama)

Bfish“Want to swim in a pool with Killer Whales? My boss said their trade name is just for show”

Bringing an audience to a constant level of suspense with a film involving one of children’s most magical shows was unexpected.  Those who hear about this film would assume to see a liberal “save the whales” campaign on how we shouldn’t be removing these beautiful animals out of their habitat and forcing them to put on a show for money. Undoubtedly they allude to the root of the problem being the psychological torment these Orcas go through by the conditions they are in, but this element was only a precursor to the overall message of the film.

Interestingly enough this was a occupational health and safety expose’, the focus being around how SeaWorld’s negligence, even after recognizing the dangerous behavior shown by specific whales, lead to harmful accidents. These documented “misfortunes” began piling up, and the owners still continued using these valuable whales for both breeding and shows until the short fuse in one was ignited.

Through former whale trainers and other professionals with experience with these sea mammals, an inside look is given to the sequence of events that led to a veteran trainers death by a dominant Orca named Tilikum. This documentary reveals the information SeaWorld and its affiliates have been submerging for decades case by case, until this fatal accident brought it all up to the surface.

12 O’Clock Boys (Documentary-Crime-Drama)

12clock“Reckless motor biking is horseplay in comparison to the cities alternative pastimes”

Pug, an inner city boy living in Baltimore, is just shy of becoming a teenager and is obsessed with urban motorsports. In particular he idolizes a group of vigilantes that take over the main streets in his neighborhood called the 12 O’clock boys. They get their name-to-fame from the ability to wheelie their vehicle to the point of complete inversion giving the impression of the hands of a clock at 12. Pug’s goal in life is to perfect this trick and gain the respect from this brotherhood with hopes to ride along side them.

The majority of the footage gave a dirty aesthetic as if the camera was picked up at a pawn shop.  The transition between scenes on the other hand used a high quality camera with slow motion, capturing these street riders frozen in that moment, which was in essence the only mesmerizing aspect of the film.

The prominent theme was the underground perspective through the eyes of the under privileged youth living in the ghetto.  Complimentary to this was the home environment of the main character and a typical single mother living in the projects, lacking a filtered vocabulary even around her young children.

The problem lies within the storyline,  showcasing three years of this young boys ambitious training and maturing process while squeezing it into a cool hour and 12 minutes.  One would assume this to be a rushed process, if there was some material to go off of.  What ended up happening was the film had no substance, falling short in delivering any progression or redemption.

The message the audience will take from this film is the jaded mentally instilled within this culture, which is openly portrayed on screen.  The anarchical driven mischief, stemming from a false sense of liberties, only confirms the stereotypes the outside world gives this demographic leaving the viewer perplexed as well as unsympathetic.

The Square (Documentary-War-Drama)

square“Winning a battle brings morale, but uncertainty grows when you realize your next battle is against a presumed ally”

This documentary depicts the modern historical tale of the 2011 non-violent protests that took over the Tahrir Square in Egypt for almost 3 weeks.  This occupation of the landmark was used to passively persuade Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to resign and give control to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.  With the presidents resignation, hopes of liberty and reform was on the brink of reality, but a few months later the square began to fill up once again.

The story was technically told through the eyes of six revolutionaries, but only two men stood out as the main protagonists of the film.  One of the men is Khalid Abdalla, who is a Hollywood actor best known for his role in The Kite Runner.  Khalid was the man who could reach the world media through his notoriety, and share footage and updates.  The other man was Ahmed Hassan, the native revolutionary seen at the front lines passionately recruiting and fighting alongside his fellow patriots.  Having these two perspectives provided the audience with two very different objectives yet paralleled their ideas towards a common goal.

One critique is that the actual demands of the people was glazed over, and for people not as knowledgeable on this topic, this may have discredited their cause.  The reason for the first protest is well explained, but when new powers came to be and no “change occurred” there were protests again 3 months later without any tangible requests at the forefront.

In essence this film brought you in the middle of the revolution, shooting footage at the square with millions as well as on the dangerous battlefront during the protests.  The violence, death, and mayhem was very real and may have been unsettling to some viewers.  Nevertheless this portrayal of the circumstances was necessary to provide unfiltered coverage, and inevitably generating a strong emotional impact.  You ate, sang, and fought in the company of these revolutionaries which made everything feel much more personal.  By the end you really wanted a resolution, even though at the back of your mind you know this issue is still going on to this day.

 

The Imposter (Documentary-Thriller)

imp“An unfiltered examination of a man proclaiming to be a kidnapped child and how his ballooning deception unforgivably popped”

In this thought provoking documentary, a 13 year old boy by the name of Nicholas Barclay vanishes one evening in the suburbs of San Antonio Texas.  After multiple years he miraculously resurfaces on the other side of the world in Spain.  Within the first few minutes you are bewildered, which is soon replaced with shock once the man posing as this boy is interviewed.

In the beginning you actually feel sorry for Frédéric Bourdin, the man posing as a lost boy.  You think about the struggles, abuse, and abandonment he went through to have this innocence of wanting to still be loved like a child.  This empathy gradually dissolves through each decision and outlandish lie Bourdin creates, and a disturbed sociopath begins to surface.

Aside from interviews, the filmmaker also brings you into the story through reenactments of the accounts that took place narrated by the individual involved.  Through careful editing this flows seamlessly, which was crucial because with one misstep this would feel like an unsolved mysteries episode on late night TV.

Family footage of Nicholas was also showcased at pivotal points of the picture to draw emotion from the audience.  Another very fresh idea was during the interviews the audio would be cut out and historic audio recordings from the time being referenced would cut in.  This technique was mainly used when interviewing Bourdin to convey how manipulative and scripted he can be.

By the end of the film you may still be wondering if Bourdin was really that believable, even with puberty years lost and farfetched stories the resemblance issue is quite a stretch.  Could he just have been a curtain being used to disguise something much larger?