March 27, 2010

Tui's Play-Doc Festival

Last week we were fortunate enough to do what we do in Galecia's Tui. We flew over as part of the town's amazing Play-Doc Festival.

Besides the amazing people, delicious food, and delightful friendships we found around every corner, we also managed to see some great films. Play-Doc is a festival built around documentary films. Filmmakers from all over the world flood the small Spanish town with the sorts of films that tell the best stories... true ones.

As I had not heard of these films before the festival, I figure a lot of you may not have heard of them either. So, here are the fraction of the films I was able to enjoy during the festival:

Perhaps the greatest pleasure of the week were the creations of a New Yorker living in San Francisco. Jay Rosenblatt was a featured artist at the festival and I was able to catch 5 of his short films. Jay uses found footage and manipulates it to tell stories from his own life. Bullying, suicide, impending doom and the personal lives of dictators were 4 themes he took on. The fifth was a bit different. It was called 9 Lives. 9 Lives is simply footage of Jay's cat dreaming of its past lives.
Being able to see a collection of films by Jay Rosenblatt made each individual film stand out. Using found footage from old propaganda films, student instructional films and nature programs in all his work had a much lerger impact than I thought it would. He reimagines the footage to make it his own. Scenes in which Hitler is standing above the German masses would be soundtracked by a German voice actor, playing the role of Hitler, discussing what foods gave him gas. It was great. I wish I could have seen more of his work.

Sweetgrass won the best feature length documentary at the festival. It documents a year in the life of a sheep farmer. The main chunk of the movie shows the crazy trip the farmer takes his sheep on so they can spend the summer grazing upon greener pastures atop a Montana mountain range. The film had long stretches in which little to no dialogue or music existed except for the sound of hundreds of sheep clopping up a mountain in a wave of wool. During a Q and A after the film, the director, Ilisa Barbash, mentioned that each shot was edited to be a bit longer than anyone could stand as it helps reflect the lifestyle of the cowboys featured. I got a kick out of that. There was also a great joke in the film that you will have to hear for yourself.


The first film I was able to see spoke on the chaos of urbanized China. It was an effective film in that it made me fear life in an overpopulated city. It was basically the opposite of Sweetgrass. This picture was a collection of a few different documentarians showing the ridiculous difficulty of cramming millions of people atop millions of people in urbanized China. Pollution, insanity, and corruption within the police force are all shown. The most powerful scene is when a filmmaker captures an abandoned baby in a park. Many people gather and discuss what to do, but when the baby won't drink the milk they are offering, the crowd slowly dissipates until no one is left to help the baby. I had a friend living in China who had told me similar stories, so this film, unfortunately, left me being truly afraid of China.

The Marina Experiment

I wanted to briefly mention that one of Tom and Sam's favorites was the Marina Experiment. We ate a meal and had some drinks with the star and director, Marina Lutz, who was fascinating and friendly. She mentioned that the film will be up in its entirety on her website (linked above) for a few more days, so take a deep breath and see it for yourself.

Goodbye, How are you?

I just wanted to briefly touch on this film as I don't really know what it is about. I caught the final 20 minutes of it, but it was not in English. That being said, the audience laughter and the vivid cinematography make me want to track down an English version. Check out the clip on the Play-Doc site, it is beautiful.

Finally, we need to give a shout out to Chryde and La Blogotheque. He was another featured artist at Play-Doc for the body of work that is known as Takeaway Shows. If you are unfamiliar with Chryde and his takeaway shows, you most definitely have to watch at least a dozen of them. The Spinto Band were the first band to be featured on the site, thus our invitation to Play-Doc, and ever since Chryde and V-Moon have been filming some true gems. Plus, Chryde is a great dancer and is starting work on something he calls Takeaway Chef.

There are clips of all the films up on the Play-Doc website. Upon leaving Tui, I had a new appreciation for documentary film and the love and devotion that is put into it. It exists happily in the center of art and storytelling and history.

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