Highlights from DOC NYC – Pt. 2
Published on November 3rd, 2011 | by Daniel J. Scott0
DOC NYC, now entering its second year, began its run November 2, and ends on November 10. The festival, which hit the ground running last year, scoring films by no less than Herzog and Morris (to name some documentary rock stars), promises to be just as impressive if not more so this year. To help you in your perusal we have contributors Melissa Silvestri and Daniel James Scott reviewing some choice films from this year’s DOC NYC selection, plus an interview with the filmmakers of ‘Fightville,’ Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein, which you can find under our ‘Interviews’ section. From the rock stars to more under-the-radar choices we hope you’ll be inspired to go out and discover at this year’s DOC NYC.
The second out of two parts of our coverage, with featured reviews by Daniel James Scott, includes reviews of: “Perdida,” “Flat Daddy,” “Calvet” and “Eames: The Architect and the Painter.” For tickets and more information go to: docnyc.net.
“Flat Daddy” – (Nara Garber & Betsy Nagler; U.S.A.)
Directors Nara Garber and Besty Nagler drift in and out of the families’ lives with compassion. Accompanying them throughout periods of separation and reunion, they capture the lesser-told stories of everyday Americans undergoing the trials and tribulations that come with defending their country.
“Calvet” – (Dominic Allan; U.K.)
Directed by Dominic Allan, “Calvet” traces the artist’s rocky path from chaos to redemption. Jumping from locations in France to Miami to Nicaragua, the film sets us firmly in Calvet’s past. However, it creates a remarkable present-ness through visceral recreations and a feverish editing pace. Jean Marc Calvet opens himself entirely before the camera, giving us insight into the explosive works that he creates. The end result is an exploration of the cathartic value of art and the possibility of reconciliation.
“Eames: The Architect and the Painter” – (Jason Cohn & Bill Jersey; U.S.A.)
Charles and Ray Eames rose to prominence in postwar America, applying the plywood-moulding technology they developed for wartime splints to household furniture. The innovation that triggered their success was the Eames Lounge Chair, a form-fitting chair that inspired numerous imitations ubiquitous today. Aesthetically striking, cost-efficient, and physically comfortable, the chair provided the basis for their working philosophy: “The best for the most for the least.” Charles and Ray Eames defied notions of what art could be, leaving behind unmistakable expressions of themselves wherever they went. Their house in the Pacific Palisades (Case Study House No. 8) is a hallmark of 20th century modernist architecture. The films they made for the techno-giant IBM first enamored the public to the idea of the computer. Their traveling exhibition “The World of Franklin and Jefferson” foreshadowed the interconnected nature of the internet. To the extent that they progressed attitudes about architecture and industrial design, they progressed attitudes about the modern American family. The Eames took care to craft their public image, Charles saying at one point, “Anything I can do she can do better.”
“Eames: The Architect and Painter” weaves together the couple’s private and public life with lightness and sensitivity. James Franco narrates the story to archival material, footage from their films, and interviews from a melange of subjects including art historians, film critics, family members and former collaborators.
“Perdida” – (Viviana García Besné; Mexico)
In the history of Mexican cinema, Calderón is a family name that evokes a mixed response. On the one hand, it was responsible for Mexico’s first grand movie palaces that played its first commercial hits. On the other, it evokes the scandalous, cabaret-set films (known as ficheras) that arguably tarnished the Mexican film industry. In “Perdida” (“Lost in Time”), director Viviana García Besné explores her distant relation to the family of entrepreneurs without whom she—and possibly other Mexican filmmakers—wouldn’t be making movies. Besné’s great-uncle was José Luis Calderón, a passionate moviegoer whose love of cinema catapulted him to the forefront of the Mexican film industry. At a time when the film centers of the United States, France and Britain were proliferating war films to promote the effort against the Germans, Calderón seized the opportunity to fill the void with dazzling movie spectacles aiming to suggest a distinctly Mexican cinema. Under the banner of Azteca Films, he produced upwards of 30 films that reached levels of success hitherto unknown among independent producers. Incidentally, they all relied on the ingredients present-day Hollywood spectacles are guilty of to turn a profit—female nudity, violence, pop music, etc. But turn a profit they did. And so was born the world of Aztec mummies, naked actresses and masked wrestlers that comprise the backdrop of “Perdida.”
Director Viviana García Besné takes us through a melange of lost film reels, peeling photographs and dusty letters that make up the missing parts of her family history. As she comes to understand the Calderón Family, we get to experience a period in Mexican film history too good to ignore.