Saturday, April 26, 2008

Hot Docs: Day 3

posted under , , , , by Bloody Bonnie |

Gore and gamers. That was the theme of the movies I saw today. I started the day off with Dance with a Serial Killer by Nigel Williams, which tells the story of Francis Heaulmes an infamous serial killer in France in the 1980's. The movie is told largely through Jean-Francois Abgrall, the relentless cop who followed and ultimately cracked the case, leading to Heaulmes's conviction for 9 murders. While the story was very interesting, I felt that we never really got a sense for Abgrall's personality – although one does get the feeling that he is quite an intense person. It seemed that the characters in the film were sacrificed to some degree in order to get the complicated narrative of Heaulmes's history and crimes across.

Next up was Second Skin, a movie which I've been looking forward to seeing since I heard about it's premiere this year at SXSW. The movie takes a humorous yet intelligent look into the world of MMORPGs (or Massively Multilayer Online Role Playing Games for the non l33t). The movie was made by two self-professed gamers, Juan Carlos Pineiro and Peter Brauer, and the subject matter is approached in a very loving and playful sort of way (no pun intended). The main themes of the film are the social implications of these online games – how they alter human interactions, change how we think of relationships, and impact our social lives outside of the virtual world. Many different kinds of gamers were represented in the film, from your typical 30 something gamer guy roommates, couples who met in game, handicapped gamers who use gaming to experience the world in ways they otherwise can't, to gaming addicts who spend 14+ hours a day online and lose everything because of it. These character driven stories are nicely complimented by interviews with leaders from the gaming industry and facts and statistics about gaming culture. (For example, did you know that for every 1 female gamer, there are 10 male gamers? Yeh, I'm not surprised either). I was a bit disappointed that they chose to focus almost completely on World of Warcraft (and to a lesser extent EverQuest) while entirely ignoring more social platforms such as Second Life. Aside from that, Second Skin does a great job of entertaining while at the same time providing a thought provoking look at the brave new world of virtual reality.

After that, I made my way to Passage by John Walker, a film which was was hailed as a provocative combination of fiction and documentary. The film investigates the story of John Rae, a Scottish explorer who the many assert discovered the Northern Passage but was systematically erased from history. Using actors, period costumes, and scripted dialog, a tale of exploration, cannibalism, and deceit unfold. However, I found that the most interesting parts of this film were not the fictionalized events (which often felt painfully like formulaic reenactments), but the verite scenes in which the actor playing Rae attempts to better understand his character. For example, (ACTOR) spends a large amount of time in the Arctic with an Inuit guide, who shows him how to hunt, skin an elk, build an igloo and live off the land. Another fascinating part of the film comes when the great-grandson of Charles Dickens, apologizes to Inuit statesman Tagak Curley for his ancestor's slander of the native people. Overall, the film has a fascinating subject matter, but the blending of fact and fiction in this case works better in theory than in action.

I wrapped up the day with yet another film about tragedy and cannibalism. Stranded: I come from a Plane that Crashed in the Mountains tells the horrific tale of a team of young men from Uruguay whose plane crashed in the Andes on their way to a football game in Chile in the 70's. Their story of desperation, starvation, and ultimately cannibalism is known internationally. But what makes this film stand out from the scores of other movies and shows covering the story is that Gonzalo Arijon, the director, was actually friends with several of the men before the event occurred. He actually made the film at the request of the survivors – who felt they had been misrepresented in the media. The result are painfully candid re-tellings of the tragedy. The story is told entirely from the 14 survivors, who are now in their 50's. In the film, several of the men return to the sight of the crash with their children, who are now the age they were when the tragedy struck. In his introduction to the film, the director described it as not simply a movie, but an experience – and indeed he was right. Although the film is close to 2 hours long, I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. The viewer is constantly reminded that this is not fiction – these are real men, recounting their real experiences of surviving a plane crash, holding loved ones as they died in their arms, freezing, starving, and being left to die in a baron hellish landscape for 72 days. The pain and visceral reaction to these memories is etched on the mens' faces as they relive a situation that no one should ever have to experience. Extremely powerful and emotionally draining, this film is not to be missed.

Up Next: Carts of Darkness, Be Like Others, Mechanical Love, and Killer Poet

Share this article!
Digg Technorati Stumbleupon Reddit Facebook


Make A Comment