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David Poland

By David Poland


Kim Vonyar does a nice job starting down the doc road for the year in Cinematical.
But she misses the most important doc of 2007 by a country mile… Tony Kaye’s best-ever-in-the-category Lake of Fire.
If you think I am exaggerating, go see the movie. It’s no cuddly Moorian tour of abortion clinics with wacky right-wingers out on the lawn, happy to be humiliated by a celebrity.
If you haven

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38 Responses to “Docs”

  1. EDouglas says:

    This may sound like sacrilege but I walked out of “Lake of Fire” after an hour and a half… it wasn’t the abortion scene/footage that bothered me (though it was disturbing) as much as listening to Christian right-wingers prophesize for the camera for an hour and a half.. in black and white. The movie looked great but just listening to the same thing over and over and over… I understand that the last half hour of the movie is a study of one particular case of a young woman getting an abortion but I couldn’t get that far and I wish that Kaye had interspersed all the talking with that story, because it sounded more interesting.
    This is probably the first documentary I’ve ever walked out of and I don’t regret it in the slightest.

  2. I’ve been waiting and waiting to see LAKE OF FIRE….where and when can I see it!?! Kaye needs to hire a better PR company and some distribution, stat!

  3. EDouglas says:

    BTW, great list of docs… I’d probably add “No End in Sight” as well. (Or maybe that was in Kim’s original list)

  4. EDouglas says:

    Lake of Fire opens in New York at the Film Forum on October 5.. I’d expect it to open in L.A. shortly after and then Chicago and other cities. If you’re down South somewhere, I wouldn’t expect to see it until it hits DVD.

  5. jeffmcm says:

    It plays at UCLA tomorrow.

  6. IOIOIOI says:

    No love for KING OF KONG… shocking.

  7. David Poland says:

    This was not meant to be a complete list… but please do offer up more titles and it will lead to one.
    That said, King of Kong is a terrific human story and not much of a doc.

  8. Crow T Robot says:

    So does Lake of Fire take a side on the issue, Dave? And if so, which side?
    I think the only honest doc on the subject would be one featuring a Pro-Choice voice addressing the realities of the other side OR one by a Pro-Lifer addressing the good points of their opponents. A film about the subject that doesn’t eventually take a side is cowardly and redundant. The subject does not fit will with humanism. And I think that is why intelligent filmmakers steer clear of it.

  9. jeffmcm says:

    How’s that? If the film is actually an honest dialogue/debate, and if it gives honest voice to the ideas and emotions of both sides, I think that should be sufficient to make for a good film. What do you mean ‘the subject does not fit will with humanism’?

  10. IOIOIOI says:

    Most docs work because they are “terrific human” stories, Heat. So… it deserves a little dap.

  11. seenmyverite? says:

    I’ve heard good things about Kevin MacDonald’s “My Enemy’s Enemy.” He already won an Oscar for another doc way back when – “One Day in September”. Sounds like he has a chance again. (and I liked Last King of Scotland.)

  12. David Poland says:

    That is what is so remarkable, which is also what Ed spoke to in the first comment… the lifers get plenty of space to preach… the ugliness of abortion is given full airing… and the humanity of women who make the choice is apparent.
    I think, in the end, you have to think it leans towards choice. But that might well be my perspective, given that I am a first trimester choice absolutist and am willing to see reasons for later abortions… none of which can speak to how I feel about any of it for myself and my loved ones.
    I don’t agree with you, Crow, on not taking a clear position leading to irrelevance. It is not an event that is black and white for any woman choosing whether to have the procedure or not. Women who feel they did the right thing by aborting also have regrets and often, major emotional trauma. And reproductive realities have a million variations that people rationalize their way through every single day.
    I think this is a scrupulously honest doc. And I think that narrative filmmakers stay away from it because narratives almost always do choose a side and neither side is 100% “right.” Filmmakers tend to shy away from most issues that are gray – including rape, killing in war, and politics – making them into either black or white since the middle is terribly hard and pisses audiences off.
    The latest victim of this is Gavin Hood, who made a wonderfully gray movie in Tsotsi and then turned Rendition into a polemic so one-sided that it becomes as boring as a slow moving train by the third act.

  13. Nicol D says:

    “And I think that is why intelligent filmmakers steer clear of it.”
    I couldn’t possible disagree more. This brings us back to the same discussion we had after Bergman died. The modern crop of filmmaking ‘artistes’ are nowhere near as courageous or intelligent as they like to think. That is why they do not deal with this issue.
    Regardless of where one stands, the notion of abortion is complex and rests on perhaps the most philosophical concept one can think of: where does human life begin?
    I am glad Kaye has the courage to tackle this and look forward to seeing it in the theatre.
    It sounds like he took the right approach. Women who have had abortions should be treated with compassion and intelligence, and people who are pro-choice should have to see what exactly it is they are in favour of.
    Sounds like this is the film he was made to direct.
    Question is, will the academy feel comfortable with a film that shows the reality of abortion from both sides?
    My guess is they won’t and the film will be forgotten at Oscar time. Especially if some pro-life groups embrace it.

  14. Crow T Robot says:

    The abortion issue is a tough one, Jeff. And any film that basically adds up to “the abortion issue is a tough one” however passionately is, in my opinion, worthless.
    To present a fair debate on the issue is to suggest a common ground can be found on it. But the tragedy of the subject is that it cannot. You have to be either “Allow” or “Disallow.” Straight up.
    Anyway, I’m intrigued.

  15. David Poland says:

    I am fine with Kong, IO… just think the mouth breathing excitement is a bit overstated. Would be happy to watch it again… will surely stop to watch each time it rolls by on cable… and will be intrigued by the feature they are making. It’s just that I think some docs reach a different level… and it’s not visual style so much as the weight of the subject and the depth of the subtext, I guess.

  16. jeffmcm says:

    Well Crow, I guess I can agree with you that if the statement of a film is “ain’t this issue tricky!” then it’s fairly worthless. But, without having seen Lake of Fire (what does that title mean, anyway?) it doesn’t sound like the case here. I think that a movie doesn’t need to actively and obviously take sides in order to succeed as a work of art. If it confronts the viewer and challenges their preconceptions, that’s pretty damn good.
    A friend of mine didn’t like the movie Vera Drake from three years ago precisely because it didn’t end on an obvious note that what Vera was doing was right or wrong, the film merely presented her story as it happened with no judgment and fully-rounded characters in a rich emotional setting. And that’s why I thought it was the best film of that year.

  17. Nicol D says:

    “…the film merely presented her story as it happened with no judgment and fully-rounded characters in a rich emotional setting. ”
    Although sometimes not judging the subject matter can be a way of implicitly condoning it.
    It all depends on the subject and the context in which it is presented and the way other views are characterized.

  18. jeffmcm says:

    Sure. My point was, the movie was not being explicit or obvious as to its statement.

  19. Nicol D says:

    Not explicit, no. But it certainly is not a neutral film on the subject matter, which was my point.

  20. David Poland says:

    Nicol… I think this is a film that the right will have a hard time embracing, since their position tends to be more black and white. Hopefully, the left will appreciate the discussion, though I have seen a number of docs shut down because they weren’t pc enough.

  21. jeffmcm says:

    I guess I agree with you there, also, Nicol. However, I also don’t think that Vera Drake was a movie about the abortion debate in the first place.

  22. The Carpetmuncher says:

    Lake of Fire is as objective as it gets for documentary. Everybody gets their say. Shooting in black & white was a great choice. It gives the film real authority. As does the POV.
    It’s not an enjoyable film – tough to sit through. But Poland is right, it is the definitive film on the subject of abortion, and one of the most important films I’ve seen in awhile.

  23. Nicol D says:

    I don’t know. I think both sides have elements that are very B & W and see the other in one dimensional terms. I certainly think there will be people on the right who are glad to have thier views seen if they are presented in a proper context.
    On the other hand I know people on the left who are every bit as dogmatic and rigid on the issue as those on the right.
    In the interest of full disclosure, in Canada there are no restrictions on abortion whatsoever. A woman can, in theory, legally get one up until the moment she gives birth. It would be hard to find a doctor to perform it of course, but there have been a couple of documented cases if the money is right.
    In Canada this is not open for debate. Hence, for me, I do not see the left as being any more open to discussion than the right. On the other hand I do think many people on the right need to see the women who seek an abortion with compassion.
    I look forward to this film.
    As for docs, yes I saw Pierre Rehov’s Suicide Killers last year and thought it was really unfortunate that it was shut out from any Oscar consideration.
    Did you see that by any chance?

  24. jeffmcm says:

    So you do live in Canada, then, right?

  25. Nicol D says:

    …do you really want me to spoil that? Isn’t that like Mulder finally kissing Scully?

  26. David Poland says:

    I have not, Nicol. Is there a DVD in distribution to track down in whatever country?

  27. IOIOIOI says:

    Heat stated; “the mouth breathing excitement is a bit overstated…” and it comes across as a shot. I doubt it’s meant to be a shot, but it reads like a shot. Nevertheless; it’s the basic story of many a doc set in the world of competitive arcade gaming. What’s not to like, Heat?

  28. IOIOIOI says:

    Heat stated; “the mouth breathing excitement is a bit overstated…” and it comes across as a shot. I doubt it’s meant to be a shot, but it reads like a shot. Nevertheless; it’s the basic story of many a doc set in the world of competitive arcade gaming. What’s not to like, Heat?

  29. IOIOIOI says:

    Sorry about the technical difficulties.

  30. djk813 says:

    I agree that Lake of Fire is a very important film, but I’m not sure it’s one that the Academy will embrace, which is a shame. (I wonder if Kaye’s past behavior will affect him in this category.) If pressed, I would say that it leans pro-choice, but is very balanced. There is the occasional pro-life extremist who is scary and dangerous, but for the most part the position is presented rationally and I liked the presence of a pro-life atheist to keep it from being a purely religious argument. I went into the film pro-choice, and I came out of it pro-choice but more willing to be in favor of some restrictions.
    And as for a documentary to add to the list, what about The Man from Plains? If you want something from way out in left field, Darius Goes West, but that’s more of a crowd pleasing festival audience award winning film than a crafted documentary Oscar nominee.

  31. djk813 says:

    Heh, and now that I’ve read the Cinematical column, I see that Darius Goes West is also listed as a long shot nominee there. It’s the type of documentary where the filmmaking craft might not be the absolute best, but the subject and story is so compelling that just about anyone who sees it will wind up with tears in their eyes and a smile on their face at the same time, even Academy voters.

  32. Joe Leydon says:

    I’m afraid I missed Lake of Fire at last spring’s Nashville Film Festival, due to a scheduling conflict. But while I was there, I did see another recent Tony Kaye film.

  33. I really, really loved the doc BILLY THE KID. Don’t know if you caught it, but it’s very cool.

  34. Nicol D says:

    Yes, actually Suicide Killers came out on DVD this past May, I believe, on City Lights Entertainment in the States.
    I met the director briefly and heard him speak last year. The film is very well done and he was determined not to make propaganda. I believe he also had a write up in the LA Times and other papers.
    I would be interested in hearing what you thought.

  35. David Poland says:

    Not meant as a shot, IO. A description of the intensity some have brought to the film… like thay can’t catch their breath, they are so excited.

  36. Kim Voynar says:

    I didn’t include LAKE OF FIRE because it’s one I’ve not managed to catch yet, and I haven’t heard too much about it. I need to get my hands on it, though, post-haste. Thanks for the strong recommendation, David, I’m always up for a good doc, even (or perhaps especially) a cringe-inducing one.
    DARIUS GOES WEST just won two more awards at the Sidewalk Moving Pictures fest — the jury doc award and another audience award.

  37. bipedalist says:

    She’s right on the money with War / Dance – gorgeous and moving film. I don’t know what crack pipe y’all have been smoking but this is anything but a weak year for docs. We Are Together is also a really good one. I would argue that the docs this year are stronger than any other category, really. Usually it’s the foreign language films that are showing up to embarrass the features. But this year, it’s the docs. imo.

  38. djk813 says:

    Darius Goes West reminds me of The Boys of Baraka, which was another crowd pleasing documentary that went the “smaller” festival route picking up award after award along the way. Baraka didn’t get nominated, but I do think that it was shortlisted.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

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And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

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