Monday, January 31, 2011

Last Day of Volunteer Work

Once again I had the opportunity to see three documentaries on the day I volunteered.

A popular pre-movie gathering place at Temple
The first was Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey which I had already seen. After the film I ran into the editor and told him I’d seen it twice now and I laughed and cried the second time just as I had the first. He asked if I’d seen it the first time at the volunteer screening and added that that was a highlight for them. Everyone involved with the film was so nice and very willing to talk to everyone who had questions after the screening. Did you know there is a “muppet geek” community? There were some bloggers at the screening who’d been at multiple screenings of the film because of the Jim Henson content. Oh, and when we were setting up for the screening we reserved five seats and the theatre manager said those were set aside in case “Bob wanted to come see Elmo”. Bob = Robert Redford. I started to have a mini heart attack because where I was positioned for the screening, I would have been watching Bob watch Elmo. Setting aside seats for him as well as for the jury happens at a lot of screenings but due to schedules often get rearranged and they don’t use them. Alas, he didn’t come to the screening, and that’s probably a good thing. I don’t know if I could have taken that.

The second screening was a documentary called Rebirth. It followed five individuals who lost family on 9/11 filming them each year since the tragedy. Once again, I absolutely sobbed. As a mother, one of our fears is the thought of dying and leaving our children motherless. Because of this very real fear, the teenager who lost his mother really moved me. I seriously wouldn’t have been able to deal with the rest of the day if the film hadn’t ended on a positive note for him. This film wasn’t exploitive at all but beautiful. One of the gentleman profiled in the film, a rescue worker who lost his best friend, was there and people were just walking up and hugging him afterwards because they were so moved.

The last documentary of my shift I knew nothing about. I knew it was the third in a trilogy and it was called Position among the Stars set in Indonesia. At the Q&A I learned that Indonesia used to be a Dutch colony and the filmmakers, brother and sister, were of this mixed heritage. This film was an unexpected treasure. First, it was the most beautiful film I saw at the festival. Several of the shots could have been stopped and framed. It was also a fascinating look into a multi-generational family dealing with the changing times, from the grandmother straddling village and city life to the teenager living in a slum but still wanting a cell phone and to go to the mall like teenagers in America. She becomes the family’s only hope to escape poverty. A. would never sit and watch this film but boy I wish I could get her. It would make her very appreciative of what she has.

Funny, one of the elements of the film is an uncle who raises fighting fish which he bets on in hopes of making a fortune. Something significant happens to the fish in the documentary and so one of the audience members asked about the fish at the Q&A. The director said that the government has made changes to no longer allow the importing of these fish for betting. So now he says that two men meet and place their cell phones standing up next to each other on vibrate and then people call the phones. The first one to fall loses. It just goes to show that there is a very strong belief in lower classes that gambling is a way out no matter what.

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