Cinebanter

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

SIFF Capsule Reviews

A LIFE AMONG WHALES (documentary)

This film tells the story of biologist Dr. Roger Payne, who decades ago moved his family to Patagonia to study (and live among) whales. What he discovered was peaceful, productive beings that contribute to our ecosystem and pose no threat to humans. Interviews with Dr. Payne make up the bulk of the movie, but they are in no way boring. His enthusiasm and love for these creatures make his recollections not only watchable, but enjoyable. In a very accessible manner, he makes a case for why people should not harm or eliminate these essential mammals from the ocean. They are not only beautiful—they're capable of protecting, loving...and even songwriting. Even if you're not a whale enthusiast, you're sure to be moved by this tender tribute.


A LIFE AMONG WHALES screened last week at the 33rd Annual Seattle International Film Festival, and is now playing nationally on PBS.

PROTAGONIST (documentary)

Oscar®-award winning director Jessica Yu brings modern-day stories to life by telling them through an ancient Euripidean narrative in this new compelling documentary. Her subjects are a German terrorist, a gay minister, a martial arts expert and a bank robber, and they all act as the story's protagonists. Without seeing it, it's impossible to imagine what all of these men have in common, but once you do, it all makes perfect sense. My co-host once called Ms. Yu a "Goddess" and after seeing this, I can't help but agree with him. Her gift for translating the human experience into a coherent, engaging narrative is nothing short of impressive. Go see this.


PROTAGONIST screened at the 33rd Annual Seattle International Film Festival on Sunday, June 3.

RED WITHOUT BLUE (documentary)

This film follows the lives of identical twins Mark and Alex, who enjoy a somewhat normal childhood then evolve into adults who struggle with depression, drug abuse and gender identity issues. Ultimately Mark comes out of the closet and Alex becomes Clair. Both of their lives (and those of their loved ones) are shaken as a result. And although our subjects are willing participants in the film, as a viewer you do sometimes feel as if you are merely a tourist visiting their internal pain. Nonetheless, the film is an honest and non-exploitative journey into non-traditional American lives.

RED WITHOUT BLUE screened at the 33rd Annual Seattle International Film Festival on Tuesday, June 5. It will also premiere on The Sundance Channel June 25.

SOLDIERS OF CONSCIENCE (documentary)

In the US Constitution, there is an allowance for members of the military who do not want to kill on behalf of their country to become 'Conscientious Objectors.' This film examines how difficult our present-day soldiers have it when they make the decision to apply for this status. The subjects interviewed all seem as if they love their country. They all seem as if they are willing to serve their country. And they all had a very tough time (and in some cases suffered severe punishment) for holding true to their beliefs. It's amazing to me that an institution that fights for freedom and tolerance doesn't promote the same ideals within its own organization. Sad, really.

SOLDIERS OF CONSCIENCE screened at the 33rd Annual Seattle International Film Festival on Thursday, June 7.

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