Archive for November, 2008

“The Spirit of the Marathon”

Posted in Film Reviews, Uncategorized on November 24, 2008 by foggyfirstframes

 “The Spirit of the Marathon”


            When it comes to documentaries there are those that will put you to sleep with facts and numbers and old professors and then there are those that will motivate you to go out and do something good.  Well, “The Spirit of the Marathon”(2008) was the latter.  After leaving the Roxie Theatre Monday night I wanted to run a marathon, and I hate running!  I was ready to put on my Nikes and run.

            Out of all of the movies that we have seen this year I have to say that “The Spirit of the Marathon” was by far my favorite and most motivating.  Writer Gary Goldstein said in an article in the LA Times, “Even if you’ve never run for anything but a bus, you’ll likely get swept up in this movie’s inspiring journey of physical endurance and personal achievement”(Goldstein).  This is exactly how I felt sitting in the theatre, I was anxious to leave because I wanted to go run.  There is something about watching others triumph and succeed in their own way that makes others want to do the same.  And for a documentary like this one, I think that the goal is to make the audience feel and connect with the people, in this case the runners from all backgrounds.  I may not have anything in common with any of these people, yet I saw my own struggles with running through them. 

I personally hate to run, I actually despise the sport, but I do it to stay in shape.  However, after seeing this film I got on the treadmill Tuesday morning before my 9am class and ran for 20 minutes, and it felt good.  I thought of the different struggles that each of the six runners had in the film and I thought of my own with my shin splints which has prevented me from running as much as I should.  My shins did not hurt that day, I like to think that maybe the movie did that for me, it blocked out my pain and struggle so that I could get that “runner’s high” that they spoke of in the film.

Finally, on to the actual film, I am no expert on documentaries but “The Spirit of the Marathon” was a very well put together film to me.  The way that the events unfolded was very understandable and I was never once confused.  Robert Koehler said in Variety, “Director Jon Dunham fluidly folds a mini-history of the marathon inside his multi-character portrait of a widely diverse sextet”(Koehler).  This history that Dunham added into his film was very informative and really helped his viewers that have never paid attention to marathons in the past, like me.  He did a very good job of tying in the story about women and marathons and the fear that their uterus might fall out.  This was not only informative but very amusing.  He did this several times, highlighting runners from Kenya and their dominance in the sport.

The camera work was very good as well.  There were a lot of good shots that Dunham got from networks covering the marathon which helped, but by putting those shots in the film was very brilliant.  For example one of my favorite was the overhead shot of the thousands of runners behind the starting line.  It was very astonishing to me how many athletes were running in that marathon and like one of the people said in the movie, they are all “going through the same struggle at the same time, it is not like that in any other sport”.  It was inspiring to watch so many people fight against all sanity and keep going to finish the race.  I actually had a tears in my eyes when Deena Kastor won the women’s race and when first time marathon runner Leah Caille finished despite how badly her knees hurt. 

In conclusion, I like the move, a lot!  I have never really been a big fan of documentaries, mostly because I associate them with science and boring films that I had to watch in government, but now I think I will invest a lot more time in them.  I hope to go to DocFest next year, even though I won’t have to, so that I can see what other new and exciting documentaries have been made.  And maybe someday I’ll run in a marathon too, not so likely, but I’ll start small 2 miles on the treadmill one day 26.2 miles in Chicago the next.  The sky is the limit.


Goldstein, Gary. “Featured Press Articles.” Spirit of the Marathon. 24 Jan. 2008. 28 Oct. 2008 <;.

Koehler, Robert. “Featured Press Articles.” Spirit of the Marathon. 1 Sept. 2008. 28 Oct. 2008 <;.





Dimensional Bodies

Posted in Uncategorized on November 20, 2008 by foggyfirstframes

Dimensional Bodies

            This week’s film was more like a narrated 3D slide show than an actual movie.  But in a sense it can be called a film, because film was used to capture the interesting images that Johunna Grayson and Greta Snider presented.  This film was completely different from anything I have ever seen before, and I really enjoyed the photography.  With the 3D glasses I really felt like I was in there and the people were talking to me.

            Going into the presentation I did not know what to expect, especially when I was handed 3D glasses.  But once the film started rolling I realized that the pictures and the voices of those in the photos would be telling their life story, or at least a major part of it.  I thought the idea of using 3D was pretty creative, however I got a headache because it was not always in focus, and I had a really hard time seeing the images.  This of course is all a part of the experimental process, as Snider and Grayson would say after the film.  I thought the photography was very good, I just had a hard time seeing it, partly because the gentlemen in front of me was blocking the screen, and also the blurriness of them made me go cross-eyed which made the screening a lot less enjoyable.  However, the idea of going 3D was brilliant.  For example, one of the stories was a man who had a broken back.  The pictures of him were all in a forest-like backdrop and with the 3D I felt like I could reach out and touch the leaves.  It made the stories much more personal, as though they were right behind me talking to me.

            This screening was defined by the photography in a sense.  The angles and the technique made it very unique. Snider said, “The stereoscopic aspect of the projection puts additional emphasis on the physical experience of viewing, accentuating the physiology of image processing and creating a sense of physical self-consciousness in the viewer and thus the perfect environment for experiencing the portraits” (Dimensional Bodies).  As an audience member I think she portrayed that very well.  There was a nice flow of movement that I could see, even if it was hard at times to see it clearly. 

            Also, their experimentation was evident throughout the slides.  Some slides would have a different exposure, some darker and some would just be objects.  In the program that we got that night it said, “We are particularly interested in the ‘motion’ aspect of the hand-processed texture (which create slight textural differences between the two stereo images, and create a feeling of movement as a viewers eyes balance them).”  I could absolutely see that and as stated above there was a nice fluidity to the slides.  The blurriness came from this experimentation with the stereos and the overlapping of two different images.  I don’t really know much about making a 3D image, but I was really amazed when Snider said after the film that they had to focus the photos live to create the 3D affect, which explains why they were sometimes blurred in and out of focus.

            Overall this was a very unique experience.  Something I would have probably never seen otherwise, but I am glad I did.  I now know that a film doesn’t have to be a movie.  After this film I was really confused and did not really get it, but after reflecting for a few days, I began to see and understand the art behind it and was really glad I saw it.  Who knows, maybe I’ll go see another Snider and Grayso screening.


“Dimensional Bodies.” SFSataion. 6 Nov. 2008 <;.

Docfest: Chasing The Devil Review

Posted in Film Reviews with tags , , , , on November 20, 2008 by foggyfirstframes


The film Chasing The Devil (2008), chronicles the “ex-gay” movement, which claims that people can change their sexual orientation through counseling and faith. While the documentary attempts to claim that it is only attempting to present the facts, “We’ve done our best to honestly present the stories we found during the course of or filming” (Hussung), the facts generally tend to lean in the direction of the left. That is to say I went into the film with notion that the entire movement was ridiculous, and left with my views more or less reaffirmed.

            With the question of gay marriage forever lingering unanswered in the air, the issue of whether a person can truly change his or her sexual desires seems particularly relevant. While some ministers of the ex-gay movement claim that they have transformed their homosexual inclinations into heterosexual longings (one woman going as far as to claim that she was possessed by a demon) being “straight” still remains a life-long struggle. As producer Bill Hussung stated, “We didn’t interview people who claimed to be 100% cured of their homosexuality” (Throckmorton). These repressed desires and the self-loathing associated with being attracted to someone of the same sex, leads to further complications and issues in the lives of many who attempt to become ex-gays.

            The film also briefly addresses the issue of biology and homosexuality, or whether people are just born gay. Leaders of the ex-gay movement assert that it’s “impossible” for people to be born gay, and it is in reality just a result of environmental factors. This perception that homosexuality can be solely attributed to environmental factors is the entire basis for the ex-gay movement; biological “peculiarities” cannot be changed but environmental ones can be “fixed.”

            While I found the subject matter of the film highly relevant in today’s society, the cinematography came across as amateur at times (I’m referring to amateur in the shaky camera sense versus the ‘unspoiled’ sense we addressed in class). The cameraman also employed an odd use close ups in some of the interviews, such as zooming in on one man’s crotch when he was speaking… These attempts at artistic filmmaking techniques fell flat, and hindered the film.

            Chasing the Devil questions a disturbing movement in America, and the effects it has on the people involved. While some appear able to harness their desires and feelings, others take a different path to become “ex-gay survivors.” Ultimately compassion and acceptance emerge as the themes the filmmakers urge us to adopt, rather than hatefulness and intolerance.

– Emily Ballaine