Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Up the Yangtze

Posted in Uncategorized on December 5, 2008 by foggyfirstframes

I have been waiting to see the film Up the Yangtze (2007) since January when I heard about it at the Sundance Film Festival. My family went to China in 2003 and on a brief tour of the Yangtze we had seen markers for where the water would rise to and everything it would be covering up in the spirit of progress and the Three Gorges Dam.  I was excited to see a movie which would discuss more behind the issue of the Yangtze River and the Dam. Unfortunately though, I missed my second opportunity to see the movie in May at the Seattle International Film Festival.  I simply refused to miss it yet again when it screened at the Red Vic this week, so come Tuesday night I found myself walking up Haight Street for an eye-opening and sobering movie.

Yung Chang, the director of Up the Yangtze, was inspired to make the movie after going to China with his father, who had a version of old-China in his mind, and who saw a very different China in the cities as well as along the already quickly transforming Yangtze.  Almost everyone in the film that Chang asks about the Dam and the flooding, especially those that have been or will be most affected by it, say that the project is for China and so also for them; “As one struggling merchant forced to move from his riverside home explains before breaking down in tears, the Chinese people are expected to ‘sacrifice the little family for the big family’” (Holden).  This particular scene, when the merchant started crying was especially affecting because the merchant was trying to keep his composure and giving the standard, propaganda answers to questions about the Three Gorges Dam until suddenly he simply broke and could barely speak he was sobbing so hard.  Chang shows the audience a very different story than diplomats and tour guides about “the incalculable human impact of the giant Three Gorges Dam project on the Yangtze, China’s longest river. When completed, the 600-foot-high dam will be the largest hydroelectric project in the world. As we watch the steadily rising water swallow more and more of the landscape, the film conveys an ominous sense of a society changing too fast in its stampede into an unknown future” (Holden).  Speaking of tour guides, in another scene, there is a guide who shows a bunch of American tourists, houses that will be given to some of the relocated people.  One woman mentions that there are some who are probably not being relocated to anything quite as nice, which the tour guide laughs awkwardly at and then, struggling to find appropriate words responds, “We are all happy.”

The most powerful aspect of the movie is the family that Chang followed, that still lived on the banks of the Yangtze, until the water finally flooded their home.  Both parents cannot read or write and although their sixteen-year-old daughter Yu Shui wants to go to a university, they clearly do not have the money and she leaves to work on a “farewell cruise” along the Yangtze.  These cruises are for American and European tourists to say good-bye to old China, but it is hard to find much presence of old China now.  The tourists also do not think about the impact the river they are traveling on may be having on the very people serving their food and washing their dishes.  Yu Shui’s family especially was a prime example of how families were being so negatively affected by the flooding; they lived off of vegetables that they farmed and fish from the river so where their food came from was not as much of a concern but after their house was swallowed, they were forced to find a new way to provide for four mouths. Chang obviously followed this specific family for a reason and they show very clearly how the affects of globalization are speeding up China’s “progress” at an alarming rate and “a family, a peasant family who are living in abject poverty, who didn’t receive compensation, who are not relocated… [is] very, very revealing…that the social damage, the ecological damage far outweighed the benefits of what one may say can be incurred through a megadam project” (Chang).  Although there is not much that can be done now about the alarming transformation of the Yangtze, being aware of this distressing example of the toll modernization is having on our world is very important.

 

Chang, Yung. Interview. Democracy Now! 24 Apr. 2008. <http://www.democracynow.org/2008/4/24/up_the_yangtze_documentary_takes_on&gt;.

Holden, Stephen. “A Visit to Old China Before It Drowns.” Rev. of Up the Yangtze, by Yung Chang. New York Times 25 Apr. 2008. <http://movies.nytimes.com/2008/04/25/movies/25yang.html>.

 

– Caroline 

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“The Spirit of the Marathon”

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

 “The Spirit of the Marathon”

daniel-njenga1

            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.

Bibliography

Goldstein, Gary. “Featured Press Articles.” Spirit of the Marathon. 24 Jan. 2008. 28 Oct. 2008 <http://www.marathonmovie.com/pr_latimes.html&gt;.

Koehler, Robert. “Featured Press Articles.” Spirit of the Marathon. 1 Sept. 2008. 28 Oct. 2008 <http://www.marathonmovie.com/pr_variety.html&gt;.

 

 

 

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.

Bibliography

“Dimensional Bodies.” SFSataion. 6 Nov. 2008 <http://www.sfstation.com/dimensional-bodies-e430221&gt;.