Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Weekend of Reel Stories

Written for my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner, published under the title "Reel Stories event promises to be real great"

Ever watch 6 films in one weekend? With the lineup for this year’s Reel Stories festival, I’m hoping to find out what that’s like.

Held during Barrie’s Winterfest, Reel Stories is a project of the Barrie Film Festival featuring documentaries or films based on real events. Film programmer Julinda Morrow has created a stellar line-up this year; there isn’t one film I want to miss.

The lead-off is a bio-pic I really want to see, Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie. Although I’ve met and spoken with Dr. Suzuki before, there’s something I still don’t understand: how did he forgive us? When he was a child, our country took his family’s home, business, and savings just because their ancestors were Japanese. Then we worked his family at menial jobs to pay rent for their own confinement. Even after the war, we didn’t return what we stole. How, then, is he so giving toward us? When my own grandfather was treated similarly, he abandoned his ancestral home for the uncertainty of a new life in a new continent. He never forgave the Nazis for the 11 years of his life they took, and I don’t think I could, either. So what’s Suzuki’s secret? Perhaps this Friday I’ll learn.

Saturday’s theme seems to be crime & confinement. Inside Job combines research and interviews to explain the roots of 2008’s global financial meltdown which still affects us today. Most amazing are the unrepentant financiers who feathered their own nests while risking the livelihoods of millions of regular folk. Prepare to be appalled!

It’s Kind of a Funny Story stars Zach Galifianakis as a psych ward mentor to a troubled teen. Based on true experiences of author Ned Vissini, the trailer indicates this film is a funny yet profound exploration of friendship, adolescence, and self-discovery.

Wrapping up Saturday, Canadian blues goddess Rita Chiarelli will personally present Music from the Big House, a documentary about her pilgrimage to meet the violent criminals who live new lives through the soulful power of the blues at Louisiana’s infamous Angola prison.

Sunday’s films explore art and creativity from two very different angles. Waste Land looks at the indigents who live off the world’s largest garbage dump, outside Rio de Janeiro. Celebrated artist Vik Muniz collaborates with them to create valuable and critically-acclaimed works of art, transforming their creators and bringing back much-needed money.

The fest concludes by exploring the ownership of art in The People vs. George Lucas. Through samples of myriad forms of fan-art (amateur filmed remakes, drawings, claymation, even Lego) true fans explore their love of the original Star Wars trilogy. Yet uncensored interviews also capture their anger at Lucas’ prequels and revisions. Who owns the cultural touchstones that define our lives, and who has a right to control, change, or withhold them? It promises to be both funny and impassioned, and no fan should miss it.

See you at the movies!

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is an educator, father, volunteer, and politician.

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