On Episode 111 of Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor discuss their First Impressions of: The Witches of the Orient & IWOW: I Walk On Water and the Hot Docs 2021 Documentaries: Audible, Archipelago, and A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces.
Rockfield farm buried in the Welsh countryside slowly changed from a family farm into a family farm and historic studio. The likes of Iggy Pop, Queen, David Bowie, Black Sabbath, Robert Plant, and countless others came to this residential studio space to record albums. It slowly built up a reputation among musicians specifically as the place you record a Rock Album. Perhaps most notably serves as a landmark for where “Wonderwall” was recorded. To this day it remains in the family overseen by Kingsley and Charles Ward and their families.
Primarily presented as a recounting of Kingsley and his family’s recollection of the historic studio’s climb to fame. The artists chiming in from time to time recall Kingsley sometimes fondly, and others as an annoying fly on the wall that wouldn’t take a hint to leave when the artists were attempting to write alone. Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm deftly dances between verbal recountings that are animated in a sort of 2D paper cut out styling and snippets of various talking heads recalling experiences.
Chris Martin remarks that it’s something of a Musical Hogwarts near the end of the film, a claim that I find rings true. My favorite moments are the allusions and mentions of how the space evolved: which buildings were repurposed as studio and recording space on the farm, which ones used to be where the Pigs or tools were kept. Innovating on a shoestring budget and using empty bags of pig feed to dampen the walls of the first recording studio and the many other various DIY components of Rockfield that reek of imagination and innovation. Rockfield seems to be the fable-like monument of an otherwise quiet town a destination full of secrets, tall tales, and hard work. And I’d be remiss to leave you without mentioning just how clearly spoken Ozzy was in this film. Quite possibly the most eloquent I’ve heard him.
Dear Future Children is Franz Böhm’s first documentary feature. It narrates the story of three female activists in Chile, Hong Kong, and Uganda. While it offers an interesting premise it lacks the necessary nuance to tackle all the topics Böhm is trying to address.
In essence, the documentary follows three parallel story lines. In Chile, activists are protesting against inequality gaps and high costs of living. In Hong Kong, activists protested against an extradition bill, which they claim would undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy. In Uganda, climate change is the main focus. At no point in the documentary an effort is made to integrate these storylines. What we end up with is seeing flashes of activism that provide little insight into the context of the protests and what led these women to become activists in the first place.
It is almost as if the director tried to combine three documentary shorts into one documentary feature. The material presented by Böhm is very aspirational but without a strong connection to the activists he depicts the material falls flat. News buffs might enjoy watching this but I am not sure if it is worthwhile for anyone else.
The premise behind Bank Job is an interesting one. It tackles debt! Debt is universal and an integral part of economic systems around the world. In order to explore the debt crisis the documentary follows a community who decides to create their own currency and open a bank. The main goal here was to abolish local debt.
Directed by Daniel Edelstyn and Hilary Powell Bank Job is one of the most unconventional documentaries I have ever seen. Half protest art and half documentary it tackles the debt crisis in the United Kingdom. This might be by ignorance speaking but this just didn’t work for me.
While I am all for innovative styles of documentary film making the mixture of protest art and traditional documentary style filmmaking did not work for me. It all felt a little too rushed and unfocused. I could see how this documentary could work in specific contexts specifically in introductory-level economics courses. However, if you are looking for a documentary to watch just for fun this won’t be it.
The Big Scary “S” Word, is Yael Bridge’s first full length documentary feature. This documentary is incredibly timely given Bernie Sanders’ recent promising presidential campaigns, the rising stars in the progressive-wing of the democratic party including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and IIhan Omar, Amazon’s recent union busting campaign at warehouse workers in Alabama, the 2018 Oklahoma teachers strike, and the role of big money in politics. There is a laundry list of items and examples that the documentary provides. The premise here is that capitalism is not working just fine and, in fact, it is creating a less humane society.
On the other hand, you have conservatives, moderate democrats, journalists, and pundits that insist that capitalism is the only way forward for America. In a clip featured in the documentary, MSNBC contributor Donny Deutsch states “I find Trump reprehensible as a human being, but a socialist candidate is more dangerous to this country as far as the strength and well-being of our country than Donald Trump.” How is it possible that Americans are so scared of socialism? How is it possible that there is so much inequality in the richest country in the world? These questions inform the crux of this doc as Bridge explores what socialism means for ordinary people, scholars, and politicians.
There is nothing incredibly innovative to see here. Although, I have to admit that, a quarter of the way through, we are provided with beautiful visuals that trace the history of capitalism, the transition of capitalism into an economic system and a way to organize the production of goods and services, up to its modern form. In the end, it asks more questions than provides answers. This approach is completely okay but at times it “reads” a bit too academic.
What is an information terrorist? The Face of Anonymous (2020) directed by Gary Lang provided an inside look into the work of cyber-activism through the eyes of Anonymous hacktivist Christopher Mark Doyon also known as Commander X. Christopher appears to resent the information terrorist moniker and instead asks how can I terrorize the world with the truth? Visually there is nothing extraordinary to see in this documentary. What somewhat makes it work is the story told by a compelling and questionable set of Anonymous activists allies, and Doyon crisma in particular. The throughline in this story starts with 4chan in 2004 or as defined in the documentary the crucible for Anonymous.
What started off as a joke and protest against Scientology grew into something bigger as hacktivists set their sights on bigger targets. The first Anonymous operation that gained significant notoriety happened in 2010 and was a DDoS attack on Visa and Mastercard websites in response to donation denials for Wikileaks payment in response to leaked video footage that showed a US military strike against civilians in Iraq. One of the motivations for Anonymous’ anger was that Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal still authorized donations on websites like the KKK and Westboro Baptist Church but would not allow them to continue on Wikileaks. The documentary also detailed how Anonymous allegedly helped protesters in Tunisia and Egypt during the early stages of the Arab Spring.
This documentary is also the story of big egos and FBI raids that curtailed Anonymous progress and made US hacktivism move underground. Christopher Mark Doyon, however, is an Anonymous true believer to the bitter end. As of today, he has received political asylum and emergency refugee status in Mexico where Doyon claims he refound his freedom. I finished this documentary itching for more. Particularly I wanted more details about how online activism occurs and how it is then translated online. By itself this documentary does not add a lot to the discourse on hacktivism and cyber intelligence. Nevertheless, this documentary would make a good double feature with the HBO series Q: Into the Storm which offers a much more detailed account of the rise of another online movement who, coincidentally, also started on 4chan.
I would recommend this documentary with a small caveat: do some prior research or reading going in. I’d suggest starting with a piece by David Kushner featured in the New Yorker called The Masked Avengers.
Often staring into a screen or mirror as they billow out more vapor there is an unsatisfied anger intertwined with a yearning at the heart of primary subjects in this Danish Documentary. Dark Blossom begins with quick cuts of skulls, and people in black running between vibrant flowers up to a dead and decomposing fox covered by a common plastic bucket piled with bricks. Not more than a few minutes later we see Jay, one of our main subjects, request to listen to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” while getting a stick and poke tattoo, notably it’s his first tattoo. The music fades as he answers a phone call from his Mom and deceives her as to what he’s up to.
The assembled footage in Dark Blossom primarily shows the activities and social situations that our three subjects navigate through. Their predilections and aversions. With a constant focus toward the asymmetry of their outcast-like experience and temporary intimacy as a group. Elucidated by voice over, stark images, and their general behavior. The discomfort in their own skin is physically apparent in how often we see them applying makeup, modifying their bodies, and dying their hair. All while they continue to grow.
Repetition. Josephine, Jay, and Nightmare(Mareridt) repeat physical actions, sentences, and emotions. A smaller repetitive moment occurs midway through the film where after a long day lugging around outfits and caked in makeup they’re brought the wrong soda at a restaurant. Which ensues a debate about whether to complain, Jay is experiencing fatigue and eventually the argument peters out. This scene is later followed by a quieter scene in Jutlund where Coke is being surreptitiously drunk in the far corner of the table. It’s a small creative choice but in the context of the film it’s a moment that lingers and speaks volumes about the dispersion of these friends. Dark Blossom narrowly shows the broadness of a small group of young adults disaffected with life in their small town and the status quo.