JWR Articles: Film/DVD - American Documentary Film Festival 2015 (Directors: Mattia Colombo, Piergiorgio Casotti) - April 1, 2015

American Documentary Film Festival 2015

4.5 4.5

Reviewed at the 2015 American Documentary Film Festival
A formidable study in contrasts

This pair of films from Italy are truly worlds apart. The secret life of wood is lovingly and informatively explored in Colombo’s homage to one of our most important resources. Bent on exorcising his own inner demons, Casotti travels to the suicide capital of the planet (per capita), East Greenland, in search of answers to his own problems and those plaguing a younger generation that is long on living for the moment but very short on self-worth.

Seen back-to-back, the power of first-rate cinema is succinctly demonstrated once again.

Trees that Walk (Alberi Che Camminano)
Mattia Colombo (2015)
59 min. Five stars

An ideal match of splendour and utility

From the opening frames, it is immediately clear that the eye and ear are in for a treat. As the camera pans through a magnificent Italian forest—trees dwarfing mere humans in their majesty—the first of many clarinet interventions (both solo and ensemble, paying off wonderfully with a trip to a master woodwind maker), there is a superb moment of dichotomy between the “raw” product and the exquisitely finished result. Well-placed cameras capture the teeter then fall to the forest floor of a mighty part of nature that can never run away from its killers. Tellingly, we are reminded that “Jesus didn’t flee his oppressors either.”

In the narration, much is made of blind man Bethsaida who, through divine intervention, gained sight only to refer to people as “trees that walk.” The imagery of roots, limbs and stature permeates the production even as the uses of this living miracle of natural environment are variously explored (from wooden motorbike, through security-protected violins, to boats built or refurbished, ready to sail the seas).

In short: filmmaking of the highest order. JWR

Production photo

Arctic Spleen
Piergiorgio Casotti (2015)
64 min. Four stars

Who will save the children?

For the second time in three days (cross-reference below), I had to wonder: “Why?” Why would these extremely isolated (cut off from both the rest of the world and the sun for months every year) communities continue to exist? What little hunting/fishing there is can’t sustain more than a few families out of hundreds. Perhaps a Newfoundland solution could be found for these marginal communities?

Sadly, the Norwegian Government—with largely good intentions—has provided the indigenous residents with the main tool of their collective despair: welfare.

Perhaps if Gustav Holm hadn’t found these communities in 1884 (miraculously, all dwellers were baptized within 10 years, but forced to accept God with a Dorian Gray deal with the devil: “starve or become Christians”), and those living off the land were allowed to continue doing so in their own way, then the current, near-hopeless dilemma of disengaged teens choosing death when the highs of booze and god knows what else have failed to excite their precious minds, might never have become this rampant in the first place.

Oh the unholy perils of forcing one’s views on another.

On a more technical note, the subtitles were frequently appalling. Too often those capturing what was said (in English) threw words onto the screen that were miles away from what was actually said. Worse, at key moments (notably describing the Qivitoq as “wondering” rather than wandering the regions once over on the other side) these errors at best confused and at worst insulted those who couldn’t abide trying to find themselves in a world they really didn’t belong in. That ugly metaphor should be redressed as soon as possible. JWR

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American Documentary Film Festival
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