documentary

The Path Home

The Path Home

"The search may begin with a restless feeling, as if one were being watched. One turns in all directions and sees nothing. Yet one senses that there is a source for this deep restlessness; and the path that leads there is not a path to a strange place, but the path home." ~ Peter Matthiessen

Both the Protagonist and the Antagonist

Doris Payne lived large. She traveled abroad. She stayed in luxury hotels. She hung out with interesting characters. But she funded all her adventures by fencing the diamonds she lifted from high-end jewelers around the world. She was a remarkably successful thief with an impressive criminal career that spanned decades. But time, age, and technology finally caught up with her in recent years.   

In-between-ness

"I have always been fascinated by the poetic condition of twilight. By its transformative quality. Its power of turning the ordinary into something magical and otherworldly. My wish is for the narrative in the pictures to work within that circumstance. It is that sense of in-between-ness that interests me."

~ Gregory Crewdson

See also:

Room to Breathe

Room to Breathe Official Trailer from Russell Long on Vimeo.

Excerpt from "Meditation Creates a Little Breathing Space for San Francisco Students," by Richard Schiffman, Huffington Post, October 19, 2012:

There are two jobs that have become a lot more difficult in recent years. One is being a teacher, which was never easy at the best of times. But in an age of virtually unlimited opportunities for distraction and rapidly shrinking attention spans getting kids to focus on their schoolwork can be (with apologies to dentists) like pulling teeth. 

I know: As a former school aide working with young children, it was often all that I could manage just to break up fights and keep the decibel level below that at an international airport. Any "education" that actually took place in such an environment was a small miracle.

The other job that has become a whole lot harder, of course, is being a student. Believe me, I sympathize with their plight too! Today's kids are weaned on electronic devices where they move between one website, text-message, or video game and the next at lightning speed. Where does a child learn how to direct their attention to just one math problem or reading assignment when there are so many distractions a click away?

Yet recently I watched a deeply moving and inspiring film that gave me hope. Room to Breath, by director Russell Long was filmed in a public school in San Francisco. The Marina Middle School with 900 students is one of the largest in the Bay Area, and it has the dubious distinction of having the highest suspension rate in the city.

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Eyes that See

“Most of us go through the world never seeing anything. Then you meet somebody like Herb and Dorothy, who have eyes that see. Something goes from the eye to the soul without going through the brain.” 

Richard Tuttle

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We Will Protect What We Fall In Love With

“I've been filming time-lapse flowers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for over 35 years. To watch them move is a dance I'm never going to get tired of. It fills me with wonder, and it opens my heart. Beauty and seduction, I believe, is nature's tool for survival, because we will protect what we fall in love with. Their relationship is a love story that feeds the Earth. It reminds us that we are a part of nature, and we're not separate from it.”

~ Louie Schwartzberg, from “The Hidden Beauty of Pollination,” TED, March 2011

Strangers No More

 

This 39-minute film about a school in south Tel Aviv gets my vote for best Oscar-nominated documentary short subject. The principal and teachers of Bialik-Rogozin School enthusiastically embrace the challenges of educating children from all over the world, many of whom have experienced extraordinary violence, loss, and displacement. It is a remarkable and inspiring study of resilience nurtured by providing a safe environment, finding common ground in the midst of dizzying diversity, and igniting passion for learning.

Can’t Read if We Don’t Teach Them

 

Lyrics from Shine
by John Legend, for the documentary Waiting for “Superman”

So dark, but I see sparks, if we don't snuff them out.
We gotta let them flame, let them speak their name.
Let them reach up to the clouds.
Can't eat if we don't feed them.
Can't read if we don't teach them.
There's no line if we just hide them.
Don't just let them die.

Let them shine.
Let them shine on.
Let them shine.
Let them shine on.

Stars flicker in the distance, lonely out in space.
They sing out when we're not listening, because we don't see their face.
We can let them die, we can make them high.
Hold the little miracles that live inside.
Let them shine.

Changing All the Time

“For a while, people had this notion that plasticity must be a good thing. It’s a good thing that the brain can change because we can learn new things—and that’s true. But if plasticity is an intrinsic property of the brain, it’s neither good nor bad. It’s just the way it is…I think we’re now learning that, in fact, the brain is changing all the time, that the brain is changing with everything we think and with everything we experience. And so the challenge is to learn enough about it so that you can guide those changes.”

~ Alvaro Pascual-Leone, professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School

The Brain That Changes Itself from Andrew Girgis on Vimeo.

Repairing Smiles, Changing Lives

Smile Pinki
Directed by Megan Mylan
In Hindi and Bhojpuri with English subtitles
39 minutes
© 2008 Principe Productions

“Pinki is a five-year old girl in rural India born desperately poor and with a cleft lip. The simple surgery that can cure her is a distant dream until she meets Pankaj, a social worker traveling village to village gathering patients for a hospital that provides free surgery to thousands each year. Told in a vibrant vérité style, this real-world fairy tale follows its wide-eyed protagonist on a journey from isolation to embrace.”

Smile Pinki from Andrew Girgis on Vimeo.

Learn more about Smile Train.

[Thanks, Alex!]

Steadily Better

“There’s no rule that says you get steadily better.”

~ Margaret Atwood, from Bad Writing

George Saunders, from the documentary: My sense is that it has a lot more to do with the ways that someone is naturally charming. You know, so if you fall in love with somebody and they’re leaving town and you have two days to somehow change their mind, in that kind of life or death situation you bring forth certain traits of your personality. In my case, I would be telling jokes and I would be talking fast and I would be trying real hard to anticipate her reason for leaving and undercut them in a real energetic way. Those are all things that I would do in prose as well. I would definitely try to anticipate the reader’s objection to the story and build in a defense. I would try to be funny; I would try to be fast. So for me, the big breakthrough moment for me, was when I said to myself, ‘The reader is a person who you need to charm. You better bring your good shit. Because they don’t have time to wait around for you to work through your Hemingway phase.’

Poetry Blows the Roof Off at CIFF

 

From “Louder Than a Film Festival,” by Clint O’Connor, The Plain Dealer (March 29, 2010):

Poetry, let alone high school poetry, is not supposed to outshine flashy films from around the globe. But "Louder Than a Bomb," a documentary about the inspiring teens of a huge poetry slam in Chicago, thrilled the audiences and judges at the 34th Cleveland International Film Festival.

The movie, which had its world premiere here, won both the Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award for best film, and the Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Film Competition, which honors movies about social justice and activism, and includes a $5,000 prize for co-directors Jon Siskel and Greg Jacobs.

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On Your Way to Wonderful

"It's okay to head out for wonderful, but on your way to wonderful, you're going to have to pass through all right, and when you get to all right, take a good look around and get used to it, because that may be as far as you're gonna go."

~ Bill Withers, from “Still Bill: Documenting a Soul Icon,” All Things Considered (March 4, 2010)