Marcos Hernandez lives and works in Chicago. He came to the United States from Mexico, after a life-threatening border crossing through the Sonora Desert in southern Arizona. Each month, he sends money to his mother in Mexico City to buy medicine for his brother, Gustavo, who needs a kidney transplant. The Undocumented, by acclaimed filmmaker Marco Williams, is Marcos’s story—as well as the story of countless other migrants.
Chronicling Arizona’s deadliest summer months, award-winning documentary and fiction film director Marco Williams (Banished, Two Towns of Jasper, In Search of Our Fathers) weaves Marcos’s search with the efforts of humanitarians and Border Patrol agents who are fighting to prevent migrant deaths, the medical investigators and Mexican Consulate workers who are trying to identify dead border crossers, and Mexican families who are struggling to accept the loss of a loved one.
In true cinéma vérité style, The Undocumented (91:00 TRT; 2013 Full Frame Honorable Mention for Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights) reveals the ongoing impact of immigration laws and economic policies on the very people who continue to be affected by them. By going beyond politics, the film also tells a story that is deeply personal.
The screening, which is free and open to the public, will be followed by a panel discussion featuring director Marco Williams and Duke University professor Charlie Thompson.
Winner of the Full Frame Inspiration Award, We Still Live Here/ Âs Nutayuneân (TRT 56:00) tells the story of the revival of the language of the Wampanoag people of New England. All speakers of the language had died out when in 1994 Jessie Little Doe, a Wampanoag social worker, began to wonder if it could be recovered.
With M.I.T. linguist Ken Hale, with whom she earned a Master’s degree, she and other linguists pieced the language together from old documents and related Native American languages. Through community-wide efforts among the Aquinnah and Mashpee Wampanoag, the language is being spoken again, and Jessie’s young daughter is the first native speaker of Wampanoag in more than a hundred years.
The screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Dr. Liliana Paredes and Dr. Benjamin Frey.
Dr. Liliana Paredes is Associate Professor of the Practice of Spanish and Director of the Duke Spanish Language Program. She holds expertise in the areas of sociolinguistics, minority languages, and Amerindian languages.
Dr. Benjamin Frey is a Fellow in the Carolina Postdoctoral Program for Faculty Diversity at UNC. He completed his Ph.D. in Germanic linguistics at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in August 2013. His research examines language shift among minority communities in the United States from their traditional languages to English, with specific focus on German in Wisconsin and Cherokee in North Carolina. Frey is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Oil Blue opens to long shots of only sea and sky, vast and awe-inspiring. Not until after the two-minute mark does any sign of humankind appear, when a gigantic oil tanker slowly moves across the screen. Finnish film student Elli Rintala sought to make a film about the North Sea oil industry, but not a conventional documentary. “I wanted to explore the area between experimental film and documentary film.” Oil Blue won the 2009 Full Frame President’s Award for the best student film.
“On the coastline of my hometown Porvoo is situated the biggest oil harbor and oil refinery of Scandinavia,” she explained to me by email. “I remember that as a child I was fascinated by the massive ships moving slowly in the horizon. . . . Of course I could have made a more traditional and more informative documentary on this subject, but somehow I wanted to maintain the viewpoint of a child, which shows the vessels as a mystery.”
Filming at sea was not easy. “Because the conditions were quite demanding we had to plan everything in advance as precisely as possible. Every image and every angle had to be known beforehand, we couldn’t improvise that much. But I think that all that planning was a great advantage for the film.”
Rintala was granted access to film aboard the oil tankers without much difficulty, however. “Neste Oil, the company which owns the refinery and the tankers, was very cooperative from the very beginning. . . . [They] realized that my aim was not to make a provocative or accusing film.”
But the strict security regulations were a challenge. “Any electrically powered cameras or equipment were prohibited on the deck because of the danger of an explosion. So we had to use a very old spring-wound Bolex camera when shooting on the deck. . . .
“Part of the material is shot from a tiny inflatable in order to get as close to the water level as possible.” Filming on a raft presented its own challenges. “Occasionally the swell of the sea was quite strong and naturally that made the filming more difficult. Once our camera-assistant even threw up during the filming.”
The absence of words in the film compel the viewer to listen—to the sounds of the ocean and machines and to the evocative musical score. “In general I like the way the music and the sound design coalesce in the Oil Blue. The structure of the film is quite musical in any case. One person said to me, that it is possible to watch it the same way you listen to ambient music. This was a great compliment for me, because my aim was that the images could be like music.”
Although Rintala wants to leave any message in Oil Blue open to interpretation, she says it “could be seen as an allegory of our life style also in a more general way. The oil transportations are only one example of this balance of terror between human race, technology and nature, which is so typical for our time.”
Rintala is currently at work on her graduation film “about the main airport of Finland, Helsinki-Vantaa and the development of air traffic from 1950s to this day. I’m going to use archive material and current footage to portray the lost innocence of flying in our time. So from the element of water in Oil Blue I’m moving on to the element of air.”
Post contributed by Tanya Lee, Full Frame Archive Intern.
Join us for a screening of Good Times (31 minutes, Hebrew/ Arabic/ English with English subtitles), the second film in the 2011-2012 Rights! Camera! Action! series and the winner of the 2004 Full Frame Jury Award for Best Short.
Good Times was shot in Abu Dis, a small Palestinian village divided in two by a wall built by the Israeli government. The film follows the villagers’ lives before the wall was built and through the construction of a temporary, then a permanent, wall. Moving in colliding microcosms, the inhabitants of the village and the Israeli soldiers protecting the border create an absurd routine of mutual respect and resentment.
This is the third of a series highlighting a few film shorts from theFull Frame Archive, a collection within theArchive of Documentary Arts, with the goal of preserving masters all past winners of Durham’s Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. The Full Frame Archive has acquired 75 films since 2007 and continues to grow; DVD use copies of these films can be viewed in the Rubenstein Libraryreading room. A complete list with descriptions, as well as titles of award-winners not yet acquired, can be found in the Full Frame Archivefinding aid.
After highlighting an animated short and an aesthetic one, we’re showcasing a purely observational documentary. Laura Paglin’s No Umbrella: Election in the City, winner of the 2006 Full Frame Jury Award for Best Short, documents election day 2004 at one polling site in a poor, black, Cleveland neighborhood. Its fly-on-the-wall approach reveals voters’ frustration as they wait long hours in the rain for voting machines and ballots to arrive.
Though she could not have predicted what would happen, Cleveland filmmaker Paglin knew there might be something to record. After the voting controversies surrounding the 2000 presidential election, concerns were high in 2004 over potential fraud at the polls, especially in large swing states like Ohio. “I had heard that Ohio could be the next Florida fiasco. Though I didn’t totally believe it, I thought I’d go to the inner city where they were anticipating problems—just in case,” Paglin wrote in her email interview with me last month.
“I felt a bit foolish at first—driving around looking for trouble—but then I found some. . . . When I got to the polling location, the scene was chaotic—a long line that wasn’t moving, tempers flaring. A young woman who invited me to come document the trouble was trying to reach someone on her cell phone. About ten minutes later, a tiny woman in her eighties covered in a yellow slicker showed up on the scene—and that was the first time I met Fannie Lewis.”
The indomitable Lewis, city councilwoman for the ward in question, becomes a central figure in the drama, a rock of competence amidst the confusion, holding a cellphone to each ear as she hounds election officials around the city and eventually persuades the mayor herself to make an appearance. Paglin’s favorite aspect of film in retrospect “is really the character of Fannie herself. You couldn’t make up a character like that!” Lewis passed away in 2008.
No Umbrella won honors at several film festivals in the U.S. and Australia in 2006, and later aired on Cinemax. “I think the film less was less shocking to locals who are used to decades of incompetence and corruption in Cleveland. But outside, people were really shocked I think. I don’t know if the film by itself has made and impact, but I think together with other documentaries, press attention, reports, a lot more attention and scrutiny is being paid to the whole voting process.”
Ultimately, for Paglin it is about the individual people. “While I’m interested in social issues, I’m much more interested in the characters who are affected by them. If these films help others to improve social policies, all the better. But I just want to make the films.”
Just this year, Paglin has completed her first feature length documentary, Facing Forward (http://www.facingforwardfilm.com/), following a charismatic but troubled teenager as he navigates a new, strict school in inner-city Cleveland. The central character “reminds me a bit of Fannie Lewis—of course very different—but temperamental, charming and not afraid to speak his mind.”
Post contributed by Tanya Lee, Full Frame Archive Intern.
Filmed over the course of 23 years, this is the epic story of a Lao soldier family’s journey from war-torn Laos to the mean streets of New York. Thavisouk Phrasavath describes his own life as a young man struggling to survive a war and survive the hardships of immigrant life, counterpointed by his mother’s astonishing tale of perseverance. Renowned cinematographer Ellen Kuras’ directorial debut is a remarkable collaboration with Phrasavath—a poetic, cinematically-resonant film about the hidden, human face of war’s “collateral damage.”
This is the second of a summer series highlighting a few film shorts from the Full Frame Archive, a collection within the Archive of Documentary Arts, with the goal of preserving masters all past winners of Durham’s Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. The Full Frame Archive has grown to 75 films since 2007 and continues to grow; DVD use copies of these films can be viewed in the RBMSCL’s reading room. A complete list with descriptions, as well as titles of award-winners not yet acquired, can be found in the finding aid.
“Virtuosity and improvisation.” That’s what connects Nilesh Patel’s 2001 film short that documents his mother’s hands making samosas with John Coltrane’s jazz masterpiece, its namesake. “I wanted to refer to both of these ideas, which I believe can be ascribed to a mother’s cooking. A mother feeds you before you emerge into the world, and would even go hungry if necessary, just to ensure that her children can eat.”
A ten-minute, black-and-white film, A Love Supreme won the 2002 Full Frame Jury Award for Best Short and is, in my opinion, one of the more consciously artistic films in the Full Frame Archive. The film shows Patel’s mother, whose face is never shown, making the popular deep-fried Indian pastry stuffed with potatoes, peas and spices. Completely wordless, it presents the preparation process in ten stages, each set to its own tempo, images seamlessly edited in time with a musical or ambient soundtrack.
This is the first of a summer series highlighting a few film shorts from the Full Frame Archive, a collection within the Archive of Documentary Arts, with the goal of preserving masters all past winners of Durham’s Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. The Full Frame Archive has grown to 74 films since 2007 and continues to grow; DVD use copies of these films can be viewed in the RBMSCL’s reading room. A complete list with descriptions, as well as titles of award-winners not yet acquired, can be found in the finding aid.
“This is a film about nuts,” a chorus of animated nuts declares to a bouncy, vaudevillian tune in the opening frames of Emily James 2002 short The Luckiest Nut in the World, winner of the 2003 Full Frame Jury Award for Best Short. More specifically, it’s a film about globalization and the nut industry. The luckiest nut himself, a tariff-protected, guitar-playing American peanut in a ten-gallon hat, segues into a country tune to explain the economic injustices faced by the nut industries in Mozambique, Bolivia and Senegal under policies of trade liberalization.
“We’re gonna tell you some stories that’ll make it clear
Why these problems won’t disappear
By making trade free indiscriminately
It’s only makin’ things worse,
It’s not a blessing, but a curse
And it’s happening more every year. . . . “
The third season of the popular Rights! Camera! Action! film series begins tomorrow evening with Citizen King, which traces the final five years of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s life, starting with his momentous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.
We’ll provide free drinks and popcorn, as well as a panel discussion following the film!
Rain in a Dry Land (82 min.) chronicles the first 18 months of the new American lives of two families finally allowed to immigrate to the United States after over a decade in a Kenyan refugee camp. Beginning with “cultural orientation” classes in Kenya, where they are introduced to such novelties as electric appliances and the prospect of living in high-rise apartment buildings, the film follows the families as they learn that the streets in America are definitely not paved with gold. The families’ sponsors—Jewish Family Services in Springfield, Massachusetts, and World Relief in Atlanta—have pledged six months of support, which makes for a daunting learning curve as the families settle into their new homes.
A discussion with director Anne Makepeace and Suzanne Shanahan, Associate Director of Duke’s Kenan Institute for Ethics, will follow.