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.

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