Rather than even attempt to post throughout the last four days, I told myself each time a film or a person or a place or a thing hit me square in the heart-I'd just list it all, as simply stated as possible, come Sunday. Here's that effort.
1. Documentary films tell stories in a way that is authentic, and they tell them in a world that is often inauthentic. They remind us of the real.
2. The Vietnam war was poorly taught to me in school. Either that, or I just didn't pay proper attention. "Last Days in Vietnam" rectified that. It also reminded me that history is perception amplified by a need to record the past. A measure of security, perhaps.
3. Too much effort is much worse, for me, than no effort at all. Trying too hard at a film-or at anything, or anyone, speaks only from a place of desire with an inability for fulfillment. While there's no shame in that, and while that's a thing I definitely have lived myself via other avenues, the only film I saw I did not enjoy was desperate for acceptance. Had it of told its own story-its true premise was really quite lovely. There's a lesson there.
4. "Olga-To My Friends" reminded me of what color is-its power, its place. I teach symbolism to children every year & somehow, in that process, had seem to of lost the ability to be captured by color. There's a scene in this one where Olga, who is alone in the vast Russian landscape-fully entrenched by snow, & all is white. When the men come in to herd her reindeer, that white is wrecked & becomes tinged quickly with crimson as they slaughter her herd. Two colors, red. White. The image sticks almost palpably.
5. "Private Violence," a film by Durham's own Cynthia Hill on the evil that is domestic violence, told a story with more bravery than I knew could be captured in film. Her power came in heavy doses of truth via the lives of folks that live exactly one county away from me. I heard her speak to a passerby on the stairwell after the screening. The patron remarked on the heavy-handed graphics, which were admittedly tough to stomach. Her response was simple: "It had to be that. It is that."
6. The capacity of the human spirit to exert positivity-to smile- to believe- to thrive when others cannot or will not-is never a thing I will understand. Abby Evans in "Butterfly Girl," and honestly, several of the subjects I saw in films these last four days, reminded me of our power to choose how we handle and experience and learn and grow. It is a choice.
7. Sitting around a picnic table, or in a row of theater seats, or at a bar, & talking about good films will inevitably lead to sitting around a picnic table, or in a row of theater seats, or at a bar, & talking about a good life. I am grateful for anyone willing to allow such a trend to transpire.
8. I will always be struck by contrast. Juxtaposition was a commonality in so many of these films--"E-Team," for example, where a Human Rights Watch Activist is undercover in Syria, standing beneath an airstrike, 8 months pregnant while she speaks to a mother that lost her family the night before. Life & death. A start & an end.
9. You may walk into a film with the intent on it serving your students. You may walk into a film with the intent of being a film critic of a sort-there to analyze, to pick apart, to evaluate every second. And then that film changes you, and you forget your purpose entirely. Best to embrace it.
10. After spending four days in this place-a place driven by passion, with so many stories shared-on screen & off-all about this life & our ability to simply experience-to try again, to try differently, to stop trying...You couldn't possibly be the same you were when it started. That's the measure of the festival--it's ability not just to tell stories of change--but to change the spectator.
And as this season turns to spring, I'd say a change was long overdue. At least for this spectator.