Here are three documentaries that, each in their different way, are well worth a look.
107 minutes, 2019
Smile for the children
Here is a film that makes me—once again, cross-reference below—ashamed to be a card-carrying member of the human race.
From the opening ugly bombing sequence by cowardly Syrian/Russian murder planes (war planes doesn’t enter into the equation) of eastern Ghouta (near Damascus), the brutality of so-called statesmen just to prove their point (unclear as it is), makes any caring human being lose all faith in what passes for civilization.
What to do when bombed from above? Retreat underground as Drs. Amani Ballour, Salim Namour and dozens of colleagues/volunteers did for more than five years.
Every day the bombs came closer and casualties increased. 30-year-old pediatrician Ballour largely tended to the children while her classical music loving colleague, Salim, did what he could for the adults. A spectacular, terrifying sequence began with the finale to Beethoven’s 9th symphony before merging seamlessly into Mozart’s Lacrimosa (weeping indeed).
Earlier this same day, I reviewed a magnificent historical performance of J.S. Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas (cross-reference below).
In both music and the film, tears filled my eyes but for very opposite reasons.
One has to wonder where true leadership is even as Donald Trump tries to wiggle out of impeachment, Boris Johnson continues his Brexit dance with EU, Justin Trudeau wonders how to be all things to most people and Andrew Scheer sorts out his expense chits.
Worse than that: the deciding moment in the final evacuation of the cave came courtesy of the Bashir regime opting to use chemical weapons where the bombs had failed.
We’ll leave it to Ballour to have the last, telling word: “Is God [fill in your blank from any belief] really watching?”
Obviously not. JWR
75 minutes, 2019
David Baker, Justin R. Smith
Lest we protect
Courtesy of National Geographic and Oregon State University, here is another timely reminder that the world faces annihilation, largely thanks to those who lead us.
Two statistics that resonate:
“50% of the coral reefs have gone in the last 50 years.”
“Indigenous people manage and care for 80% of the world’s biodiversity.”
The latter is especially telling. How the roles have reversed when “those people” (most recently bringing down CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada buffoon, Don Cherry) are more concerned with saving our beleaguered reefs than those whose actions and policies have led to their demise.
Ably narrated by Peter Coyote (and with a covey of music tracks that capture the local sounds), the film—as it travels through the world’s major tropical reefs: Australia, Colombia, Hawaii, Red Sea, et cetera—deftly lays out the problems (starting with, “What is a coral”), through present-day calamities (“Without the reefs, the hurricanes would be far worse”) to faint hope that science WILL find the way of rescuing this vital ecosystem.
One woman who is wiser than most of the rest us states, “The sea is in our blood.”
But even as the dredging of a channel near Varadero is STILL under consideration (potentially bringing untold misery to the island’s Colombian inhabitants), there is a deep-seated wish that “those people” would usurp the growth-at-any-cost leaders who threaten to send us all to an early grave.
And kudos to the army of cinematographers: Like Samsara (cross-reference below), this is a film that deserves to be seen once with the sound off! JWR
What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire
123 minutes, 2018
Born to Be Scared
This searing indictment of “Black Lives Not” in the Deep South (2017), is brutal in its honesty, but—not surprisingly—very short in the hope department.
Appropriately, importantly shot in black and white, the film features bar-owner/mother confessor Judy (alongside her stoic mother), the Black Panthers (“No Justice, No Peace”) and two young boys (Rinaldo and Titus) representing the next generation—should they not be shot dead like so many of their friends.
From present-day beheadings, to past tales of donkey killings (a pair of ropes tied to the legs of the unfortunate victim, the animals going in opposite directions until pulled part: mother and son forced to watch…), the plight of many US citizens is tellingly underscored.
As with other films (cross-reference below) the notion of providing drugs and guns to keep for-profit prisons in the , er, black is also stirred into the mix, as is the notion of promised but largely undelivered reparations (“40 acres and a mule”) left in the historical dustbin.
There are some moments of well-costumed paraders and lively singing (notably as the tailors stitch up the participants’ colourful garments), but the overwhelming feeling of getting nowhere with the American Dream for all, in the 21st century, is a bitter pill to swallow.
No worries: the perpetrators will never set eyes on this important documentary. JWR