Thursday, November 30, 2017

AIFF 2017: Animation in Competition - A Very International Group

I've never been able to do overviews of the films in competition in all the categories before.  This one and the previous one - Made in Alaska - are a little short changed, but time's running out.

As I put this together I had a couple of thoughts:
1.  This is the most international category of the festival - Taiwan, Korea, Canada, Ecuador, Iran, Czech Republic, Turkey, Japan, Venezuela, and USA
2.  These will be the hardest to see - most are only shown once in slots that will be competing with longer films.

I'd note that the animated films are often the most original and beautiful.

So if you want to see these, you need to mark these dates and times and schedule them.

The animated films in competition are spread over three different programs - Animation 1, Animation 2, and Family Films - and that's how I've organized and color coded them for you.

Two of these films will also be shown at the Martini Matinee - I've marked them in green.

There's a mystery category called Animation at Night.  It's Friday Dec. 8 at E Street Theater, 7:45pm
The films in this program have not been posted yet.

Animation 1
Sat. Dec 2, E Street Theater 2pm

Shao-Chun Chung
9 min 30 secs
Animation 1
Sat. Dec 2, E Street Theater 2pm

he Realm of Deepest Knowing
Seeing Her Kim
3 min 30 sec
Animation 1

Animation 2
Sat Dec 9 E Street Theater, 7pm

Twice Upon a Time
Vojin Vasovic
15 min
Animation 2

Luis Uson
7 min
Animation 2
Sat Dec 9 E Street Theater, 7pm

Tom Tassel
6 min
Animation 2
Martini Matinee

Abtin Mozafari
10 min
Animation 2

Happy End 
Jan Saska
Czech Republic
6 min
Animation 2
Martini Matinee Fri Dec 8 Bear Tooth

Aycan Basar
5 min
Animation 2

South Forest
Wenru Huang
7 min
Animation 2

Family Films
Sat Dec 9 Loussac 12pm

Miguel New
15 min
Family Films
Sat Dec 9 Loussac 12pm

Light Sight
Seyed Tabatabaei
7 min 30 sec
Family Films

Navajo Tales
Dallin Penmen
4 min 2 sec
Family Films

Sara Litzenberger
2 min 30 sec
Family Films

I've done this post fairly quickly, with the help of a 40 minute delay (so far) of our flight back to Anchorage.  If you catch any errors, let me know.

AIFF 2017: Made In Alaska Films in Competition

I'm rushing this post up not quite complete, because I'm rushing to the airport to get home to see it and because  Keep Talking plays tonight (Thursday, Nov 30) at the museum at 6pm. From Kartamquin:

"Keep Talking follows four Alaska Native women fighting to save Kodiak Alutiiq, an endangered language now spoken by less than 40 remaining fluent Native Elders. Their small community travels to remote Afognak Island to start teaching kids Alutiiq. Sadie, 13, is inspired to begin learning the language and dances of her ancestors. Instead of getting swept up in the wake of historical trauma, these women overcome personal demons and build toward a brighter future. Keep Talking reveals the ultimate impact of language and culture revitalization; joy and hope."

Conspiracy PIE
Levi Taylor
SHOWING:  Sun Dec 3  AK EXP Large 4pm

Conspiracy P.I.E. - Trailer from Tri-Seven Pictures on Vimeo.

Dead Run
Shane Taylor
8 min

As you can see below, this trailer is restricted for embedding. But you can watch it here.

Dead Run Trailer from Shane Taylor on Vimeo.

Keep Talking
Karen Weinberg
1 Hour 20 min

Keep Talking - Film Teaser from Ten Trees Productions on Vimeo.

Proper Binge
Thursday, Nov 30, Museum, 6pm Proper Binge
Dean Mitchell / Michael Burns
1 Hour 46 Min

Proper Binge teaser trailer (UNOFFICIAL) from 1964 Motion Pictures on Vimeo.

Shaawatke’e’s Birth
Ronald Spatz
4 min

I couldn't find a trailer - it's only a 4 minute film.  The only information I could find was at the AIFF site.  It says:
"A poem by Emily Wall and X'unei Lance Twitchell. Told from the perspective of both father and mother, this origin story chronicles the birth of Shaawatkee through Tlingit and English--representing the power and the importance of language and identity."
I'd note that Ron Spatz is someone I've known for many years and he's the editor of the nationally acclaimed literary magazine Alaska Quarterly Review. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

AIFF 2017: A Film About Dying Traditions In Italy - Vanina Lappa's Over The River (Sopra il Fiume)

The festival starts soon.  Here's a post looking ahead to a movie showing
SUNDAY (Dec 3) AT 4PM.
Over the River 
Vanina Lappa
Showing: Sunday, Dec 3, Alaska Exp Small, 4pm
Sunday, Dec. 9 Alaska Exp Small 5pm

I've only seen the trailer (it's on my overview post of docs in competition), but I did get to speak with the film maker, Vanini Lappa,  last week via Skype.

This will be the North American premiere of this film.

As I learned more about the film and then talked to Ms. Lappa, it became clear that this film's theme is very relevant to Alaska, and to all places where the young are leaving small towns to find work, and the wisdom of their elders they leave behind is dying out.

Ms. Lappa was attracted to this particular town - Caselle in Pittari, near Naples - because of a legend .
"People who are pure can find a secret in this mountain where there is a grotto.  The secret is not money or material things, but is knowledge."
From the trailer and what I read, the film seemed almost a feature rather than a documentary, so I asked her about that.
"I began to shoot as a documentary, then it took the form of a feature for me." 
It's interesting how we learn about ourselves.  Listen to her talk about this.
"I realized one year later that this film is a lot about me and my relationships with my city [Milan] and country.  Even if I'm not in the film . . . because now I don't live in Italy any more.  I've come to another country, so I made the same choice as the main character."
She also talks about the making of the film.  She did almost everything but the sound herself.  (Sorry, I've edited some sound problems out, but didn't have time to edit more.)

If you're the kind of person who likes to figure out a movie on your own, you may want to wait until after you watch the movie to see what she says about it.  Meanwhile, here is some information about the town it was filmed in.

From Summer in Italy:
"Caselle in Pittari is a cozy hill town in the heart of the Cilento National Park. It is dominated by its medieval tower. The town is a delightful cluster of stone buildings that occupy the crest and spill down the hillside. Its aerie position offers great views of the surrounding hills and the soaring peak of Mt. Cervati, the highest mountain in Campania at 1898 meters above sea level. Down below bubbles the Bussento River, which slices through the valleys of the Cilento."
It goes on to talk more about the festival that is the center of the film as I understood it in my Skype conversation with the film maker.
"Caselle in Pittari hosts an unusual event called the Palio del Grano, a homage to a by-gone era to remember and recreate the traditions of rural life. It starts at sunrise in the piazza with contenders of various contradas (districts) dressed in old-time rural garb, and they parade out to the fields below, just like their ancestors did as a daily way of life to work the fields. The competition involves harvesting a swath of field that measures 5 meters by 100 meters in teams of 20 people armed with sickles. They have to reap according certain specifications, and the first time to complete the task wins the Palio. 
The Palio is followed by a peasant lunch for all - participants and spectators alike - of bread, cheese, salami, sausage, fresh tomatoes, salad and wine, all served right there in the freshly harvested field. Accompanying the Palio is a bread baking workshop and a tarantella competition (a traditional southern Italian dance)."

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Graham v MOA #2: Discrimination And Race Issues

See the Graham v. MOA tab at the top, under the orange blog logo for an introduction to these posts and an index of all the posts.

I've decided to stop trying to find some perfect order to tell this story and just pretend we're having a long conversation.  I'll try to pick a general theme for each post and then just talk about, why it's important to the case, my general thoughts on the topic, and evidence that showed up.  This one is about race.

This case started as a discrimination case.  Jeff Graham is Korean-American and over 40.  Did graders give him failing scores on the more subjective exams because of his national heritage or age?  How do you get inside of people’s heads to prove that?
There were no overt anti-Korean remarks made.  The only thing that could be linked to his Korean
Turnout Image from here
heritage was an incident over a ‘turnout.’

A turnout is the heavy suit that protects fire fighters.  Jeff’s had reached its expiration date. (Yes, they have them, I learned in the courtroom.)  It needed replacement.  He was sent a new one that didn’t fit.  The second one they sent him was old and beat up and had on the back the name Chon, another Korean fire fighter.  It was his old, used turnout.
Jeff’s chief at Station 10 was irate.  They just sent him the old coat of another Korean.  (Note that for later when I say people claimed no one knew he was Korean.)  Captain Albrecht saw this as a racial joke and sent the turnout back and tried to find out who had sent it.    There were no records of who sent it, though turnouts are expensive and normally such information is kept.

Jeff’s station captain is a white fire fighter, but he’s sensitive to racial issues because his wife is black.  This fact came out in testimony in court.  Captain Albrecht was asked if he had heard racial jokes.  The Muni (Municipality of Anchorage) attorney objected to the direction of attorney Jeff Jarvi's question.  The judge wanted to hear what Albrecht would testify without the jury present.  The jury was given a break.

Jeff Graham’s attorney, Jeff Jarvi, asked if Captain Albrecht had ever heard racist jokes.  Yes he had.  Then he told one such joke and the situation.

It was Thanksgiving. Fire fighters work on holidays and  he was carving the turkey in the station.  Jim Stewart, a fire fighter who raised a damaging, unproven rumor about Jeff Graham during the oral peer review, said, as the turkey was being carved, “He likes dark meat.  He really, really likes dark meat.”  It was at that point that Albrecht revealed that his wife was black and that Stewart’s tone of voice made it clear that his comment had strong racial overtones.

You'll probably see that both of these are very subtle forms of racism.  They're deniable.  Just a coincidence that he got Chon's turnout.  Dark meat?  I was talking about the leg and thigh, he really likes that.

Monica Elkinton, the Muni attorney, objected on the grounds that just because someone was prejudiced against blacks, didn’t mean they were prejudiced against Koreans.  The judge ruled that telling this story before the jury would be prejudicial at this point.

The resolution was that when Stewart testified (he was a Muni witness because he was a grader in Graham's peer review process),  Jarvi could ask him if he ever told racist jokes.  If he said no, then Captain Albrecht could be brought back to court to tell this story.  In the end, the Muni never called Jim Stewart as a witness, so this never got before the jury.

During the voir dire - the selection, or some might say the weeding out of jurors - Monica Elkinton, the Muni attorney, asked the jury if anyone had ever heard stereotypes about Koreans.  One juror raised his hand and preceded to talk about how people say Koreans are shrewd businessmen always trying to get the best deal.  Elkinton removed him from the jury.  It's significant because the rumor about Jeff Graham that was introduced at his peer review was precisely about that sort of behavior.  We'll get to that later.  But the jury got to hear all this.

A Fire fighter is the lowest rank in the AFD.  Next comes engineer.  You have to promote to engineer to get to any higher positions.
At another point, Chad Richardson, who was in charge of the training and testing for the promotion process from fire fighter to engineer, testified.  He was subpoenaed by the plaintiff’s attorney Jeff Jarvi.  He was asked about an incident at the opening day of the 2010 Academy.

Fire fighters were being welcomed to the Academy.  At one point, a female fire fighter objected to Chad Richardson’s constant use of the term “fireman.’  She asked him to use the gender neutral term ‘fire fighter.’  Richardson explained his reaction.  He testified that he’d been telling a story about firemen, not firewomen. There are firemen and fire woman. There were only men in the story.  He said he told the woman something like,  “You’re a fire woman.  I was referring to fire men.  So I should say firemen.”  Jennifer Henzler later testified that he was actually addressing the whole group and used the term repeatedly.  This was, the welcoming part of the training, the part that was supposed to make everyone comfortable.  He was making her more and more uncomfortable. (Note these 'little' incidents that create a hostile work environment for women.)  In this case too, the Muni attorney, Monica Elkinton argued that discrimination against women didn’t mean he would also be prejudiced against Koreans.

The jury, however, was 13 women and one man. (Two were alternates in case someone had to leave.  The final 12 jurors weren’t determined until after the trial was over.)  The jury heard the hostility toward women in Richardson’s voice and his disingenuous explanation about why he didn’t need to stop saying fireman instead of fire fighter. Or his "I don't remember" when asked if he had apologized later.

Another incident came up near the end of the trial.  Early on, when Jeff Graham was still working as a mechanic for the fire department, he wanted to be "on the line," that is, to become a fire fighter, even though this would mean an initial significant drop in pay.  But he figured he'd be able to promote to engineer.  He’d heard that another department employee, Mark Montfore, who also wanted to become a fire fighter, had been able to apply to be a fire fighter.  So Graham asked Monfore how he had gotten into the next fire fighter academy.  Here’s Monfore’s testimony from my court notes, which are rough, but capture the key points.

Elkinton:  When did you learn he was Korean?
Monfore:  Not sure.  We had a conversation about me transferring and he was doing that too.  He asked some questions.  In that conversation,  in that conversation he said if they don’t transfer me I’m going to play the Native card.
Elkinton:  Sounds like from that statement, sounds like you thought he was Alaska native.  What did you take that to mean?
Monfore: Don’t know if he was insinuating some sort of minority route to get in.

Jeff Graham was brought back to testify at the very end of the trial, specially to address this.

Jarvi:  Mr. Graham do you recall a conversation when you were both trying to switch to AFD fire fighter in 2006?  Was there snow on ground?
Graham:  No snow.  Summer maybe.
Jarvi:  Where was it?
Graham:  Outside AFD maintenance shop. [Where Graham worked at the time.]
Jarvi:  Who initiated the conversation?
Graham:  I did.  I saw him outside, heard he was transferring, I was trying to transfer forever.  He said to take a couple of courses.  “You can take classes or play the Native card.”

The Muni attorney had a follow up question then:

Monica Elkinton: Did you say I’m not Alaska Native.
Graham:  No

So, here he is, the white fire fighter stating that Jeff Graham, a Korean-Amerian, said the way he was going to get into the academy was to play the “Native card.”

Jeff Graham’s memory of the event had Monfore as the one who used the term “Native card.”

We all remember things differently.  This incident happened 11 years before the trial.  But to me, the idea that a Korean-American would tell a white man he didn’t know well that he was going to use the Native card is not believable.  Race card is a term whites invented to dismiss claims of racial discrimination. They use it to dismiss charges that they personally or the system in general are discriminatory.   "He wasn't discriminated against, he's just playing the race card."  It's not something a person of color would normally say to a white person.

To make it even more questionable, Jeff Graham is Korean-American, not Native.  If he had responded that way, he more likely would have said, “race card’ not ‘native card.’

[UPDATE June 4, 2018 - I just came across this quote from a Media Diversified review of Race Baiting For Dummies that supports my contention here:
"A close examination of the usage of the phrase reveals that it is applied almost exclusively to people with non-white skin pigmentation in general and against black people in particular. If one conducts a simple experiment by typing “race card” into a Google browser and then clicks on the image tab, the result will reveal the faces of black people inscribed on various forms of cards with comments such as, “Race Card: For the morally & intellectually bankrupt” or “God gave you your skin colour, so why not use it to your advantage.” Anytime black people open their mouth to speak about racial injustice, they are silenced with five words that have stood the test of time: 'Stop Playing The Race Card.'”]

And why wouldn’t Jeff Graham correct Monfore and tell him he was Korean?  People of color are tired of explaining themselves to whites, and even to other people of color.  This is especially true of people of mixed race who often don’t quite fit in with either group.  I started to really appreciate this point after watching the short film called "What Are You Anyway?" created by a film maker at 2008 Anchorage International Film Festival. It's about how one Japanese-Canadian got sick of people asking him, “So what are you anyway?”

Fortunately, the jury was very diverse racially and I’m sure they understood all this.

Monica Elkinton, the Muni Attorney, only had a few key arguments in her opening statement to the jury.  One was that Jeff Graham failed the exam because he hadn’t studied enough.  (Note:  he passed the written and practical parts of the test  that were more engineer related well.  He failed the much more subjective oral peer review by one point.)  Her other point was that he couldn’t have been discriminated against because people didn’t know he was Korean.  I don’t know if she actually believed this or whether this was simply a legal strategy. I would assume the latter, but I'm not sure. She pushed throughout the trial to reject any evidence of discrimination that wasn’t directed at Koreans.

At Jeff Graham’s deposition, she started out essentially asking him “How Korean are you?”  She asked about his parents (his mother is a Korean who married an American solider serving in Korea.)  Do you understand Korean?  Do you speak Korean?  Do you eat Korean food?  Do you cook Korean food?  Do you have Korean friends?  Do you go to Korean church?

I was dumbfounded by this line of questioning.  Where was she going?  Was she going to try to prove he wasn’t really Korean?  Or Korean enough?  It was kind of how women who have been assaulted are asked their sexual history in order to prove they couldn't have been raped because they'd had sex before.

Missing was any acknowledgment that being different racially from the norm,  plays a big role in being discriminated against.  It doesn’t matter if they know he’s Korean, or even Asian.  Most discrimination in Alaska is against Natives anyway, so if people thought he was Native that would be grounds enough.

Jeff Graham’s attorney, Jeff Jarvi asked fire fighters, who said they didn’t know he was Korean, whether they thought he was white.  They hemmed and hawed.  He’d follow up, did you think he was the same race as you and me?  One answered that he thought he was Italian because he had good hair.

Why does this matter?  Because Anchorage has been identified as having some of the most diverse neighborhoods in the US.  But the Anchorage Fire Department is VERY white.  The numbers that the Deputy Fire Chief calculated in her head at the deposition come to 88% white.  Though that did not include Hispanics.  So lets say it's about 85% white.  When a Korean failed the promotion exam because of his score on a highly subjective oral exam (after passing the more objective and engineer related sections) someone should have asked, why is this happening.  If the fire department wanted its workforce to look more like the city's population, they should have called Jeff in and asked him 'how do we get more people of color into the fire department?'  Did I mention that the three lowest scores on this test were Koreans?  No, I guess not, but we'll get into that when I talk about the exams in a later post.

I would note here that there is a way to avoid discrimination in exams and scoring exams.  The merit system has been around for over 100 years and it's designed to find the most qualified candidates for the job.  It eliminates as much as possible, subjective exams that allow the bias (conscious or unconscious) of graders from slipping in.  It helps minimize any kind of bias so that you don't have to prove that someone was thinking "I will score him lower because he's Korean."  People can find lots of ways to get around it, but when they do, they leave a trail.

I'll get to the merit system in my next post.  Thanks for getting this far.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Graham v Municipality of Anchorage #1: Overview - Firefighter Sues Municipality of Anchorage


Jeff Graham is a Korean-American fire fighter with the Anchorage Fire Department (AFD).   He originally took the exam to promote to engineer (the next step up in the Anchorage Fire Department (AFD)) in 2004, and passed.  A day or so later he was told he hadn't been eligible to take the exam and so he wasn't being promoted.  He had taken the test early (there's a five-year-as-a-fire-fighter requirement), but he had been given 'equivalency' from the Employee Relations Department as well as the Fire Department, based on the almost eight years he'd served as a mechanic for the fire department before becoming a fire fighter. Others had gotten equivalency and took the test early too. As a mechanic he had driven, repaired, and rebuilt all the AFD trucks, engines, and vehicles.  That experience overlaps a lot with what AFD engineers do in their role to maintain and drive the engines.  

He took the exam again in 2008 when he messed up one part of the practical.  He tested again in 2010, but, as he describes it, he didn't pass the practical exam because they deducted 'style' points even though he accomplished the required tasks.  The practical test involves driving the vehicles and performing specific tasks with the trucks, hoses, etc.

In the 2012 exam, AFD added an hour long oral exam section - ten technical questions and a 'peer review' that covered five questions about character.  That's about four minutes per question.   In 2012 Jeff passed the written exam with a strong score.  He also did well on the practical exam.  But he only got 69 on the oral exam.  70 was the lowest passing score and you had to pass all three exams to be eligible for promotion.  Across the three different exams, his average was comfortably above 70.  There were lots of issues about the subjectivity of the test and scoring that I'll get into in later posts.

After writing a complaint about the oral exam and getting a curt rejection, Jeff filed a complaint with the Alaska Human Rights Commission.  Jeff is trained as a mechanic.   He filed the complaint on his own, without the help of an attorney.  The commission investigated, but did not find discrimination.

Then Jeff hired an attorney, Jeff Jarvi, and after a long pretrial process, the trial finally began in July 2017.  (Yes, Jeff Graham and Jeff Jarvi.  Two Jeffs makes this a little confusing, but I'm pointing it out now so you'll be less confused.)

My Comments About Blogging This

I've had a couple of months to prepare these posts.  There's a great deal of technical detail that I want to cover as I write about this trial, but in this post I'm just trying to give an introduction.  This trial lasted three and a half weeks because of details.  (I'd note that each of the three Alaska political corruption trials - Anderson's, Kott's, and Kohring's - took two weeks or  less.)   I'm going to write about the issues the jury had to consider.  I'll write about issues in the Fire Department that came up during pre-trial (like the subjectivity of the oral exam, or the low percentage of women (about 2%) and people of color (about 15%) in the AFD) as well as things that turned up (for me) in the trial.  While there were some problem fire fighters,  I would note most of the fire fighters who testified impressed me.

I'm hoping that with the breaking of the Harvey Weinstein case and the growing number of powerful men being accused of sexual harassment and/or assault, that it might be a little easier for people to understand what was going on in the AFD. This is not about sexual harassment, but the dynamics are similar.

As I see it, there were a few bad apples who were taking advantage of positions of power.  They were in charge of training and promotion from fire fighter to engineer.  Some people had heard rumors.  Others had seen or been told first hand.  But people were afraid to say anything lest they jeopardize their own careers.  And people higher up, who should have been on top of things, didn't see it.  They apparently believed the perpetrators who reported directly to them and thus dismissed the complaints.

And when I say perpetrators, I'm not even sure how many there were.  There was at least one, but other people contributed to the situation.  It's not clear to what extent they knowingly and/or intentionally did this.

I know I called the first part above an overview, but there's really no middle or end.  I did put up one post on this case already.  It was a very factual, objective post, with little context.  Just the facts.  I posted this with permission of both Jeffs, mainly because I think the story is significant and no other media covered this case, to my knowledge, except for one brief pre-trial report by Casey Grove on APRN.   You can see my original post here.  I should add a spoiler alert, but this isn't fiction and the real story is not the outcome, but what was going on,  regardless of the outcome.

I don't know how many posts this will encompass.  A lot, I'm guessing.  I am also setting up a tab on top for a page that will have an annotated index of the posts.  I'd love every post to be interesting to everyone, but some will get technical and they're particularly there for people who are involved in human resources, the AFD, MOA, and other jurisdictions that might have similar issues.  I'd like to think that everyone who is an employee, and thus involved with the human resources departments in their own organizations, will be interested.  I hope everyone will find the posts readable so they can understand the ways that people abuse the fairness of selection and promotion systems.  A friend probably got it right when she said, "Steve, you really nerded out on this, didn't you?"

My goal in all this is to make this dysfunctional power situation as public and clear as possible so that it will get addressed.

And there will be a post or two on my own ethical challenges as I acted - for the first time - as an expert witness in a trial.  The challenges came because I was also viewing everything as a blogger.  I told attorney Jeff Jarvi, right away about my blogging and we had to determine guidelines.  We agreed I wouldn't blog until after the appeal date had passed.  And that I would not reveal things covered under attorney/client privilege - only things that were public in court or I found from other sources.

Not being able to post until everything was over was really frustrating.  But the deadline for appeal has passed, so I'm free to write.  Actually it passed several weeks ago, but I've held off just to be sure.

This would likely be more dramatic were it live daily coverage of the courtroom and the story as it unfolded.  But that couldn't be.  And despite all the time I've had before the deadline, and all the pages I've written, I'm not sure how I will proceed. There's so much to cover, lots of detail that needs to makes sense.  I've got an outline.  Let's see how it goes.

[Part 2:  Discrimination and Race Issues]

Sunday, November 26, 2017

AIFF 2017: Short Docs In Competition - Old Harbor, The Collection, Ten Meter Tower, Ghosts of the Arctic,He Who Dances On Wood, Family Rewritten, Perception, and Wildland

'Short Docs' are non-fiction films under 55 minutes. At least that was the rule in the past.  I mention that because one film in this category is 57 minutes.
'In Competition' means the programmers picked it to be in the running for an award.

The shorts (narrative and docs), because they're short, are grouped into programs.  To see all the short docs in competition you have to see three different programs, plus one more showing where the 15 minute short in competition plays with the 57 minute short doc.

To make it easier to find the times and locations of the films you want to see, I've grouped them and color coded them by program.

Short Docs 1: Stories of Redemption
Mon, Dec 4, Ak Exp Theater Large, 3pm
Fri Dec 8, Ak Exp Theater Small,  5pm
Short Docs 2:  Against The Grain
Sat Dec 2, E Street Theater, 12:00pm
Mon, Dec. 4, Ak Exp Theater Small  3pm
Sat Dec 10, Ak Exp Theater Small, 12:30pm
Short Docs 3 Compelling Characters
Tuesday Dec 5,  Ak Exp Theater Large 3:00pm
Thursday Dec 7 Ak Exp Theater Small, 8:15pm
Unnamed Program (Old Harbor, New Hope)
 Sat, Dec 9,  E Street Theater,  3pm

Short Docs in Competition              Director Country      Length
Wildland Daniel Steiner USA 25 min
From Prison to Purpose
Garret Guinn USA 40 min
Family Rewritten    Yasmin Mistry USA 13 min
He Who Dances on Wood   Jessica Beshir USA 6 min
Ghosts of The Arctic  Abraham Joffe Australia 7 min
Ten Meter Tower Maximilien V
an Aertryck
Sweden 16 min
The Collection Adam Roffman  USA 11 min
Old Harbor, New Hope Joshua Branstetter USA 15 min


Short Docs 1: Stories of Redemption
Mon, Dec 4, Ak Exp TheaterLarge, 3pm
Fri Dec 8, Ak Exp Theater Small,  5pm
Perceptions:  From Prison to Purpose
Garret Guinn
40 min
Perception was selected as the Best Oregon Film at the Oregon Documentary Film Festival in November 2017.  Here's what their website says about the film:
"On April 14th, 2009, Noah Schultz was arrested for attempted murder in Portland, Oregon. This is the story of his transformation. During his seven years of incarceration, Noah took advantage of every program, workshop and educational service provided. He pushed himself not only to be better, but to challenge our perceptions of what it means to be an inmate."

Perception: From Prison To Purpose | Trailer from Perception Doc on Vimeo.

Daniel Steiner
25 min

This is the kind of film Americans need to see regularly to better understand who the people behind bars are.  This film shows inmates at a juvenile work camp program that give them fire fighting skills and experience to make it outside the prison.

Here's a brief bio from Daniel Steiner's website:
"Dan Steiner has worked on impactful documentary programming around the globe for VICE, the National Geographic Channel, and Current TV (RIP). In addition, he has held numerous post-production positions at ad agencies like Wieden + Kennedy, JWT, and Venables Bell & Partners.
He received a Master’s degree in Journalism from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism in 2016."
I couldn't find a trailer for this film, so here's the whole film, from his website:

WIldland from Daniel Steiner on Vimeo.


Short Docs 2:  Against The Grain
Sat Dec 2,  E Street Theater, , 12:00pm
Mon, Dec. 4, Ak Exp Theater  Small  3pm
Sat Dec 10, Ak Exp Theater Small  12:30pm
Family Rewritten
Yasmin Mistry
13 min

A film about one person's experience with foster care.

“Family Rewritten” Trailer from Foster Care Film on Vimeo.


He Who Dances On Wood
Jessica Beshir
6 min,

This is an exquisite film.  The camera writes poetry in light and patterns.  Fred Nelson modestly but confidently voices wisdom.
"When the right thing comes along, something happens inside of us. . . There's a need to speak to God, but I think that everybody has their way of doing it. . .  I know I found my joy in, not Jesus, not Allah, it's a piece of wood."

He Who Dances on Wood (TRAILER) from BRIC TV on Vimeo.

The whole six minute film is here.

Short Docs 3 Compelling Characters
Tuesday Dec 5,  Ak Exp Theater. Large 3:00pm

Thursday Dec 7 Ak Exp Theater Small, 8:15pm
Ghosts of the Arctic
Abraham Joffe
7 min,

The photography, the landscapes, the caribou and polar bear shots are all incredibly beautiful.  But this film is more about how brave the film makers were under harsh conditions than it is about polar bears - the presumed title characters of this film.  I checked the amount of time that the filmmaker is in the image.  I got 3 minutes and 21 seconds out of a six minute movie.  There's also landscape.  And a small amount of time with caribou and bears.  Just read their own description of the movie at Untitled Film Works:
"Ghosts of the Arctic is the result of a passion project gone wild. Our goal was to venture out into the beautiful frozen expanse of Svalbard, in winter, to search and document polar bears. During the shoot we experienced temperatures that were never warmer than -20ºC and frequently plummeted down as low as -30ºC + wind chill factor.
Most days involved two hundred kilometres on snow mobile in very difficult terrain and conditions. We experienced three cases of first and second degree frostbite during the filming as well as several equipment failures as a result of the extreme cold. Each day involved 14-16 hours in the field.
The film was released with great reviews and write-ups on notable film blogs. The piece also received a converted [did yet mean coveted?] Video Staff pick of the Month."
In a movie about polar bears, the word 'bear' appears once in the description.  It's mostly about how they braved the elements under terrible  conditions.  As an Alaskan, I'd say that -30˚C (-22˚F) is cold, but not terrible, if you're dressed right.

It would be fine to make a film about how hard it is to film polar bears in the wild, but that's not what they say their goal is and it's not what the title suggests.

But the footage is spectacular.  You can judge for yourself.  I could only find the whole video online, not a trailer.

Ten Meter Tower
Maximilien Van Aertryck
16 min,
**Also Plays In Martini Matinee, Fri. Dec 8, Bear Tooth, 2pm

From the film makers in a NYTimes piece:
"Our objective in making this film was something of a psychology experiment: We sought to capture people facing a difficult situation, to make a portrait of humans in doubt. We’ve all seen actors playing doubt in fiction films, but we have few true images of the feeling in documentaries. To make them, we decided to put people in a situation powerful enough not to need any classic narrative framework. A high dive seemed like the perfect scenario."
After my comments about the previous film, I appreciated this comment very much:
"In our films, which we often call studies, we want to portray human behavior, rather than tell our own stories about it." (emphasis added)

Here's the trailer:

Trailer: TEN METER TOWER by Axel Danielson & Maximilien Van Aertryck from Plattform Produktion on Vimeo.

Here's a link to the whole film.

The Collection
Adam Roffman
11 min

From Adam Roffman's The Collection website:
"The Collection is a short documentary about two friends, DJ Ginsberg and Marilyn Wagner, and their discovery of an astonishing and unique collection of movie memorabilia, comprised of over 40,000 printer blocks and 20,000 printer plates used to create the original newspaper advertisements for virtually every movie released in the United States from the silent period through 1984, when newspapers stopped using the letterpress format." 
This film should be shown before the full length documentary, Saving Brinton (it's the last movie in this post on the docs in competition.)

Here's the trailer:

THE COLLECTION - Official Trailer from Adam Roffman on Vimeo.

Sat, Dec 9,  E Street Theater, *, 3pm 
(Note: There's a 57 minute film (Journeys to Adaka) before it)

Old Harbor, New Hope
Joshua Branstetter
15 Min

The pre-opeining night showing is about preserving a language that is only spoken fluently by about thirty people.  This film is about resurrecting native dances among the Alutiiq people in the village of Old Harbor.  I'd note the Old Harbor Village Corporation was contracted by Shell  Shell to assist with its rescue operations in nearby Kiliuda Baywhen the oil drill  Kulluk broke loose from the tug in 2013.

If you can't wait, you can see the whole film here.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Seattle Day With Family and Friends, A little Wyeth Time, A Movie, and More Food

We took the 8:45 am ferry from Bainbridge Island into Seattle Wednesday.  The sun was sneaking past the clouds, it felt much warmer than it's been.  (A sign at one point said 66˚F.)

The day held promise.  My son and family were headed into Seattle to see an old friend and our other granddaughter was with us all too.  We were headed to see other friends.

The sky was mostly cloudy, but another ferry headed back to Bainbridge was sunlit.

We walked from the terminal.  Caught a bus.  Then took the monorail.  M is a big vehicle fan at 3 years old and hadn't been on a monorail.

Then another bus and a walk through the park to the Elliot Bay bookstore where we were meeting.  A lot of political stuff on the new books counter.

Our friends got us at the bookstore, the kids were at a story hour and we said good bye.

First to the Seattle Art Museum to see the Andrew Wyeth exhibit.

At first I was conflicted - I wanted to just talk to our friends, but I also wanted to absorb the Wyeth exhibit.  I must admit, I haven't been that big a fan of Wyeth.  The stuff was nice, but didn't really talk to me.  But I saw a lot of different styles and was much more impressed.  For instance, this early water color lobster is NOT something I would have identified as a Wyeth.

This picture of Siri is more familiar.  I couldn't help thinking about the current debates on sexual assault and also on child porn when I saw the nudes of Siri.  From a 1981 Time magazine article on Wyeth:
". . . teenage Siri Erickson, another Cushing resident, from 1967 to 1972. The paintings of her were also withheld, until she turned 21, and their release in 1975 caused a little of the same stir that the Helgas have. Siri, now 32 and the mother of two girls, recalls no embarrassment or awe about posing nude for Wyeth when she was 13. 'He would get totally involved in his work. It was as if you were a tree,' she says. 'He's a normal, everyday person. He does paint good, but he's just Andy.'"
By some standards, a picture of a nude 13 year old would be considered child porn.  By other standards it's great art.  I think we need to be much more discerning than we are at the moment about what we are seeing and how we classify it.  This CBC article talks about the fine line between sexting and child porn.  And this discussion of Wyeth's nudes is on the Catholic online forum Suscipe Domine.

Here are two folks regarding another Wyeth painting.

The exhibit was well laid out - with introductory posters discussing different groups of pictures.  My initial feelings of being overwhelmed lessened and I could wanter and view.  Sometimes looking at the descriptions of individual paintings, other times not.  While we ought to be able to appreciate a painting just by looking at, in theory, the background information helps me get a deeper sense of the each piece

But after two hours or so we were hungry.  And while I wished I could wonder around and look at other parts - like this modern section with this Andy Warhol "Double Elvis" . . . I too was interested in eating.

Someone wants to go to Boka to eat.  When we got there, we found out it is now All Water, in the lobby of Hotel 1000.  I was curious about the name All Water, when P pointed out this explanation on the menu.

Since the picture isn't that clear (but it is if you click on it), I'll help you out.

"In the 1880s the all water route would take prospectors from Seattle across the northern Pacific to the Alaskan coast.  In  the gold rush era this route created the trade in salmon and halibut industries. . . " 

It was a little after 2pm and we were told lunch was until 2pm and Happy Hour began at 3.  When I said, "So this is the unhappy hour?" we were told, "I'm sure we can get the kitchen to still do lunch."
It's only been open a few weeks.  We were all happy with our choices.

Then the group agreed to go see The Florida Project.  By this time, we'd had clouds, sunshine, drizzle, rain, more clouds, and more sunshine.  As we walked to the SIFF theater the sun was out and it was raining.  And a vibrant rainbow cleaned up the drab buildings.

 There was a lot I liked about The Florida Project, particularly the visual richness and the way the young kids had adventures.  I wandered my neighborhood like that with friends and wee also got into all sorts of mischief.  But the brashness of the mom, which got her out of some jams, made other ones worse, was painful to watch. Willem Dafoe's character Bobby was wonderful.  Justin Chang at the LA Times liked it a lot more than I did.

And finally we wandered down to "a Czech German beerhall."

Through these doors we walked into another world - a big warehouse like space with rows of communal wooden tables, a live band that was playing jazz (not polkas) when we walked in, and lots of beer.

Down the table from us the guys had 2 litre boots of beer.  (The two refers to the number of liters not the number of boots.)   Queen Ann Beer Hall is the official name, but doesn't really capture the mood for me.

Later J and I got in a good walk back to the ferry after rescuing our grandson's jacket from a restaurant where he'd left it.

A fun and busy day with family and good friends.

Friday, November 24, 2017

AIFF 2017: Shorts In Competition - The Robbery, Temporary, Must Kill Karl, Iron, Whoever Was Using This Bed, Game, Cold Storage, Temporary, Couples Night, Brain Storm, 8 A.M.

Shorts are fiction 10 - 55 minutes.  In competition means they were selected to be eligible for a festival award. Super Shorts are under 10 minutes.

Shorts are generally shown in groups, called programs.  The shorts in competition this year fall neatly into two programs.  The first is "Shorts on the Edge"  but it's also called "Opening Night Soirée."
The second program is called "Love and Pain."  I've color coded them to make it even easier.

BUT,  I've combined the shorts and super shorts on the chart below, since they are showing together in the programs.  The super shorts have an * after them.

To make it easy for you to figure out when and where to see these films, I've divided the list of shorts in competition into two groups so you can see what program they're in, and when and where each program is shown.

[NOTE: I try to be completely accurate here, but there's a lot of details and I can make a mistake.  To be safe, double check the times and locations before you go. If you see an error please let me know in the comments or via email - in right column above blog archive.]

The first program is:

Opening Night Soiree
Fri Dec 1  Bear Tooth  7 pm

Shorts on the Edge
Sat Dec 9  AK Exp Sm  9 pm

Shorts In Competition   Director Country Length   
Cold Storage* Thomas Freundlich Finland 9 min
Game Jeannie Donohoe USA 15 min
Whoever Was Using This Bed Andrew Kotatko Australia     20 min
Iron Gabriel Gonda USA 17 min
Must Kill Karl Joe Kick Canada 12 min
The Robbery Jim Cummings USA 15 min
8:AM* Emily Pando USA 5 min
Brain Storm* Christophe Clin  Belgium 6 min
Couples Night* Russell & Robert
USA 4 min
Temporary Milena Govich USA 12 min

Remember, the blue ones are in the program called:
Love and Pain
Which shows: 
Sat Dec 2 AK Exp Large  12 pm
Fri Dec 8 AK Exp Small  7pm

* means it's a Super Short.


This first group of shorts in competition all are part of the Opening Night Soirée which repeats as the program "Shorts on the Edge."  I've done it this way to help you identify which films are shown together so you can easily find when and where to see them.  

If they are in red, they are together in this program.  

Also, both Shorts and Super Shorts* are together in the same programs, but they are eligible for separate awards.  The * marks the Super Shorts.  These are films under 10 minutes long.

Opening Night Soirée
  Fri  Dec 1 Bear Tooth  7pm

Shorts on the Edge
Sat Dec 9 Ak Exp Small 9pm


Cold Storage* (*Super Short)
Thomas Freundlich
9 min

This one should appeal to all Alaskans, especially ice fishers, glacial archeologists, and dancers.

From the film's webpage:
"Thomas Freundlich is one of the leading practitioners in Finland’s vibrantly growing independent dance film scene. Mr. Freundlich’s work ranges from dance shorts, documentary work, performance videography and 3D projects to music videos and projection design for the stage. His work has been seen at dozens of film festivals worldwide as well as broadcast TV both in Finland and internationally. From 2012 to 2014, Mr. Freundlich was the co-artistic director of Finland’s Loikka dance film festival."
Cold Storage :: Trailer from Thomas Freundlich on Vimeo.

Jeannie Donohoe
15 min

This story takes place during tryouts for the high school basketball team.  It's a very well made film.  To add a little moral crunch to all this, the Weinstein Company was involved with this film.  Just yesterday (Nov 20), I read an article from the Paris Review, "What Do We Do With The Art Of Monstrous Men?"  I suspect that the Weinstein Company, particularly Harvey Weinstein had little to do with the making of this film.  But it's something to think about as you watch this gem of a film.  I know this film is good because you can watch it online, and I did.   Below is a trailer.  I'd note, watching it online probably won't take anything from the experience of seeing it on the big screen opening night of the festival.  There's lots I'm sure I missed the first time.

Whoever Was Using This Bed
Andrew Kotatko
20 min

Go to the the film's website.  Scroll through the credits and connections of the cast and the director and others.  This is NOT a film by new faces showing what they can do in hopes of making it.  But the fact that these aren't newcomers to the film industry tells us something about the competitiveness of the world of film-making.


Gabriel Gonda
17 min
"Iron is a short period drama set in the Pacific NorthWest inspired by the true stories of women railroad workers during the early 1900’s.  
Lily Cohen escapes the the crowded tenements of New York to take on a demanding railway job. Determined to work on a steam engine, a position not traditionally held by women, Lilly faces the hostility of her fellow railroad workers while finding her own inner strength. 
While America is very familiar with the iconic image of Rosie the Riveter, the women laborers of the First World War are mostly forgotten by history. The American railroad represented freedom and adventure in a time when most women had very little opportunity for either. These opportunities disappeared when the soldiers returned home."
Must Kill Karl
Joe Kick
12 min

I haven't seen the whole movie, but the trailer . . .   judge for yourself.  I had it up here for a day or two as I worked on the rest of the films.  I decided to take it down because I thought the thumbnail was gross and I didn't see any redeeming features that would make it worth keeping up.  I'm not censoring it - you can go watch it here.  Remember, the programmers thought it was worth being 'in competition'.  I'm waiting to be pleasantly surprised.

The Robbery
Jim Cummings
15 min

Cummings won the best Short Award last year at AIFF with his film "Thunder Road."  It also won at Sundance which led to a slew of opportunities which are described in this IndieWire article.  The article also includes a full version of of The Robbery.  I don't recommend seeing it now if you plan to see it at the festival.  I'm not sure how much it offers with additional viewings.

It's about a robbery that goes badly.  It's well made.  It spoofs our national (global?) cell phone addiction among other things.


This second group of shorts in competition all are part of the program "Love and Pain."  I've done it this way to help you identify which films are shown together so you can easily find when and where to see them.  

If they are in blue, they are together in this program  Also, both Shorts and Super Shorts* are together in the same programs, but they are eligible for separate awards.  

The * marks the Super Shorts.  These are films under 10 minutes long.  

In this group, all but "Temporary" are Super Shorts.

Love and Pain
Sat Dec, 2  12pm AK Exp Large
Frit Dec 8  AK Exp Small 7pm


Emily Pando
5 min

Can't find much on this film, though it was at the festival in August 2016, the Cleveland International Film Festival and the Seattle International Film Festival's Shorts Fest this year if I'm reading the Facebook page right.  

Brain Storm* (Remue-Meninges)
Christophe Clin
6 min
(Also Showing at Martini Matinee - Friday December 8, 2017 2:00pm - 4:00pm)

Another film that's got few internet footprints.  From Augohr:
"What happens in our heads when we are about to meet someone on the street? Anguish, prejudice, expectation, surprise, disappointment … These few very brief moments are the nest of a real brainstorm!"
I had to look much harder to find Christophe's Vimeo page. (His Youtube page was blank. You really don't need a link to a blank Youtube channel.)  But it was worth the effort.  (Actually, if you only google his name, there's more, mostly in French.)

This is one of the most tantalizing trailers I've seen. It could be a super short all its own.

REMUE MENINGES (2017) - TRAILER from Christophe Clin on Vimeo.

Couples Night*
Russell & Robert Summers
4 min

This is a four minute movie.  What do you want?  A ten second trailer?  Christophe Clin found a way to do a trailer for a six minute movie (above) but . . . And why would you want a description?  This is part of a program of other shorts.  Just sit back and watch it.  I can give you one hint - it's been in some horror movie festivals.  

Milena Govich
12 Min

The first few minutes of this probably tells you what you need to know about this film.  It comes from her Kickstarter page and I found the embed code at Vimeo.

Temporary - A film by Milena Govich from Troy Foreman on Vimeo.


I'd also note there are other Shorts programs.  Global Village has a series of international shorts.
There are Made In Alaska shorts.  And Martini Matinee will play a mix of narrative shorts, short docs, and animation.  I'm not totally caught up (and probably will never be) with all these programs but I did want to give you an alert that the narrative shorts and super shorts in competition aren't the only shorts.