JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Who Will Write Our History | Buddy | Apollo 11 (Directors: Roberta Grossman, Heddy Honigmann, Todd Douglas Miller) - February 8, 2020

Who Will Write Our History | Buddy | Apollo 11

4.5 4.5

An engaging and enlightening trio of docs

Who Will Write Our History
95 minutes, 2019
Roberta Grossman
Four and one half stars

Ashamed again

There are a select few historical documentaries where thinking, present-day viewers can only wish were as fake as the content of a Trump “fact”.

Sadly, maddeningly, horrifically, Grossman’s account of the persecution, ghettoization and deportation of Warsaw’s Jewish population by the Nazis in World War II is vividly (especially the gruesome archive footage largely shot by the Germans), and unequivocally believable.

At the centre of it all is the Oyneg Shabes Archive, the brainchild of Emanuel Ringelblum—essentially a detailed documentation of the systemic atrocities inflicted on innocent people just because they weren’t Aryan.

Like a finely oiled undercover operation, Ringelblum and his associates painstakingly made sure that there would be a testament to the thousands of victims and plain evidence for the world to see and judge—even if just a few of them lived to reveal the hiding place of the evidence.

As it turned out, only one of their number who survived could provide the coordinates: divine intervention indeed.

The courage of the oppressed—especially in the not-a-chance-of-winning the month-long Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (1943), is a testament to the human spirit against all odds.

But one can only imagine a world without religion or race: what would be left to fight about?

Now that would be a documentary most certainly stranger than fiction. JWR

95 minutes, 2019
Heddy Honigmann
Four stars

“The dog can do things I can’t”

I have never liked dogs, I never will (some childhood traumas don’t disappear easily).

Nonetheless, Honigmann’s deeply personal portrait of six Geleidhorn (guide dogs) and their “masters” (it’s really the other way around), as they go about, living, laughing, loving, shopping and playing in a world that most often doesn’t have a lot of time for the different amongst us is not to be missed.

As with Forever (cross-refence below), the savvy filmmaker largely lets her subjects speak for themselves, with just a few probing questions or stage directions to ensure that her observations are realized by the willing, courageous participants rather than blared out (so different from Michael Moore’s bombastic approach) with no subtlety whatever.

The spectrum is wide: from a young boy with autism and vison problems to a blind octogenarian who, after a bomb blast (at the age of 13), has maintained her two-legged freedom due to the incredible skills of wonderfully reared, four-pawed canines.

Roughly 50% of these disabilities (including the near epidemic of PTSD) might never have occurred if mankind could just get along, instead of behaving like the “animals” that the heroic, humanely trained dogs give their unbridled love day after day after day.

I still won’t ever own a dog, but my admiration for them has grown in spades. JWR

Apollo 11
93 minutes, 2019
Todd Douglas Miller
Four and one half stars

How do they do that?

On July 20, 1969, I watched the “eagle” land on the moon via a television set deliberately left on for that purpose in a storefront in Lahr, Germany. It did, literally, seem like an out-of-this world experience, but the incredible science behind it all was beyond a 17-year-old clarinetist touring Europe with his high school band.

Fifty years later, it is a spectacular treat to feel the danger, excitement and joy from pre-liftoff prep to splashdown in the Pacific.

At just 93 minutes, Miller (also serving as his own editor), has magically combined reams of archival footage, along with some animated re-enactments that keep the pace moving as quickly as Apollo 11, while it speeds on to its gleaming target. The frequently pulsating original score from Matt Morton also fires on all cylinders.

The only question left once Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins have safely cleared quarantine (so apt in our present-day Coronavirus Contagion), is: Has the Moon lost its lustre after the first flag pierced its soil? JWR

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