LAFF Documentary Reviews: 1428, WAITING FOR SUPERMAN, THE PEOPLE Vs George LUCAS, FREAKONOMICS
The 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival is now officially over, but I still have plenty to talk about. I saw quite a few more interesting documentaries. Here are some quick thoughts on some of them: 1428, Waiting For Superman, The People Vs George Lucas, Freakonomics
Synopsis: The Great Sichuan Earthquake rocked China on May 12, 2008 at 14:28 in the afternoon, claiming the lives of more than 68,000 people. Ten days later, filmmaker Du Haibin came to Beichuan, the hardest hit town, and began filming this remarkable documentary, capturing the reactions of the villagers, the response of the media, the damage to homes and livelihoods, and the torments and the vandalism that the official TV broadcasts overlooked. He returned seven months later to assess the government response throughout the harsh winter and uncover the fate of the survivors, whom he allows to speak for themselves as they cope with unimaginable devastation.
Thoughts: I didn’t actually get to watch 1428, so I’ll let Eric share his thoughts on this one.
[Eric] 1428 is a documentary that is supposed to tug on your heartstrings and make you feel for the victims of the earthquake in China.
While the beginning of the doc does achieve that to a certain degree, the slow pace of the documentary and the lack of narration just exposes us to a somewhat boring depiction of day to day life for people after a crisis. I really wanted to be interested in the aftermath of this horrific event but I felt that the style of the documentary really diluted the substance.
If you are into a slow paced, little to no narration documentary style, then this is for you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for me.
Waiting For Superman
Synopsis: In Waiting for “Superman” Davis Guggenheim, the director of An Inconvenient Truth, turns his sharp and probing eye on the tragic failure of our public education system. Why, he asks, does one of the richest nations in the world do such a poor job educating its children? Why should kids’ futures depend on a lottery and a one-in-a-thousand chance to win a spot in a charter school? Why is it nearly impossible for a bad teacher to be fired?
Thoughts: Eric saw this back at Sundance and had been raving about it ever since, so he convinced me to go see it at the LA Film Fest, and I’m really happy I went. This is a movie that everyone should see, it’s really eye opening as to the educational system in the US. All I can say is that after seeing it I don’t want my children to go to public school in the US. I cannot recommend Waiting for Superman enough, go see it! It comes out to theaters this Fall. You can also read Eric’s review from Sundance here.
The People Vs George Lucas
Synopsis: For countless fans around the world, Star Wars was more than a worldwide cultural phenomena; it was a personally defining moment. The passion the original trilogy inspires in its fans—who have immortalized it in song, needlepoint, Legos, claymation, paper maché, and a star fleet of fan videos—is unparalleled, but when it comes to George Lucas himself, many have found their ardor has cooled into a complicated love-hate relationship.
Thoughts: I enjoyed the documentary, but one thing’s for sure it was not targeted towards me at all. You see I’m not really a Star Wars fan, in fact the first Star Wars movie I saw was Episode 1 (which I actually enjoyed… I know, I know, I’m one of those people, but to redeem myself I did think episode 2 and 3 were terrible). So I approached the documentary as an outsider and found it really fascinating, so I can only imagine what it means to fans of Star Wars. I really feel like I was allowed to see the inside of this club for an hour and a half and it was a lot of fun hearing how much passion people have about those films. And while I didn’t agree with everything that was said, I did make me want to watch Star Wars all over again (episode 4-6 of course). Definitely worth seeing.
Synopsis: In their bestseller Freakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner applied statistical and economic theories to human behavior and came up with startling and often controversial explanations of the way the world really works. It was a publishing sensation. Now, some of our best documentary filmmakers translate their ideas into film with equally eye-opening results.
Thoughts: I hadn’t heard of the book the documentary is based on before seeing it, but I found all the subject matters really interesting. That’s just the type of thing that I really love learning about. The documentary is cut into four segments all directed by different people including Heidi Ewing, Alex Gibney, Seth Gordon, Rachel Grady, Eugene Jarecki, Morgan Spurlock. One segment focuses on how your name affects your life, another one on the corruption in sumo wrestling, a third one on the reason for the decrease in crime in the 90s, and the final one is about incentives. While I enjoyed the documentary style of some directors better than others, overall Freakonomics is a documentary worth checking out.