Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Females, Fur, Fowl and Families

I will start with what could become one of my favorite documentaries, EVER, much less here at SF DocFest!!

"Muskrat Lovely" (dir. Amy Nicholson, USA, 2005, 57 mins.) profiles the 50th Miss Outdoors Pageant and Muskrat Skinning Competition at the National Outdoors Show in Dorchester County, Maryland. It. Is. Hysterical! Erroll Morris is kicking himself for missing this one! Nicholson films her subjects with a candor and sincerity that Morris would have mocked, though his technique is much more polished. John Young's film editing is outstanding! Nicholson and Young put a humorous and absurd spin on an event and its characters without ever demeaning them. The high school girls' naivete and unselfconsciousness about winning the crown of "Miss Outdoors" in the midst of a muskrat skinning competition is just riveting! I. LOVED. This! It shows again on Sunday afternoon and it is a MUST SEE! Oh, and the skinning contest isn't as gruesome as one might think. Particularly after seeing the two shorts that preceded this:

"Chicken Anonymous" [there is no available link](dir. Dave Burns, US, 2005, 9 mins.) is a slightly surreal depiction of what it means to kill a chicken on a home farm. The entire 9 minute video is in reverse: from picking it up, through the beheading, the plucking and cleaning it out, while the soundtrack features the couple discussing which of the birds is to be picked. The reversing makes it a bit more bearable than one might think. And a WHOLE lot more bearable than its companion short:

"Aluminum Fowl" (dir. James Clauer, US, 2005, 20 mins.) exposed us to four brothers in rural Louisiana and their hideous hobbies that they do to kill the boredom, i.e. cock fighting, dog fighting, etc. Unfortunately, we were privileged to see the 20 minute cut and not the 13 minute cut shown at Sundance and available on This was about as close as I have ever been to being completely offended by a short documentary. These guys should have been STOPPED, not filmed!

I actually started the night with a pair of documentaries about immigration: a short and a feature, both focusing on how it effects women.

"Red Roses" [link unavailable](dirs. Madhuri Mohindar & Vaishali Sinha, 2006, 17 mins.) profiled a beauty parlor in NYC that has a South Asian clientele. It was a compilation of interviews with the immigrant women and their varying attitudes and reactions to their lives here in the US. What makes this little documentary sort of outstanding is its objectivity. Equal numbers of women speak positively and negatively about their experiences and the comparisons to their native cultures. The women themselves are sort of ambiguous about their new lives here. A couple of them woman spoke fairly profoundly about the differences between the US and particularly India. It was a fascinating little 17 minutes.

"Letters From the Other Side" (dir. Heather Courtney, US, 2005, 75 mins.) was far from being objective about its subject matter: illegal immigration from Mexico to the US, from the perspective of the wives left behind. What started off as sad, became maudlin and then completely depressing, which was the prime objective of the documentary. Several women videotape messages to be delivered to their husbands and sons who have crossed the border. A couple of women had lost their husbands to fatal crossings, most notably the deaths of 18 immigrants who asphyxiated in a cargo van in Houston, Texas. The film also profiles the women as to how they survive without the men. It is a pretty sad state of affairs down there. And there is some, though terribly brief, discussion about how this situation came to pass to begin with (i.e. NAFTA), as well as tracing the explosion in Mexican unemployment and illegal immigration between 1990 and 2004. Overall, it is probably a necessary piece of information, though it is a difficult one to sit through.


Maxxxxx said...

re "Muskrat Lovely": "Bwahahahaha!"
re "Chicken Anonymous": "Breakfast?"
re "Aluminum Fowl": hisses
re "Red Roses": "Such a pretty bird!"
re "Letters From the Other Side": "I'll be back."

rick said...

even the pictures scared me... whats going on in SF.... yikes