Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wolves Unleashed and other tales

Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary festival, opens April 26th and runs until May 6th.  This year Toronto will welcome filmmakers from all over the world, and screen over 200 films representing over 40 countries. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry opens the festival. Alison Klayman’s work about the Chinese activist artist won a special jury prize at Sundance.

The Charleston International Film Festival had a very successful 5th year. Congratulations to Summer and Brian Peacher, and Tina McCard, Ron Krauskopf and all the good folks who work so hard to bring South Carolina a terrific, hip and fun festival.

This year I saw some wonderful films, mostly docs and some shorts. Loved Tracis Hollifield', James Edward Tilden and Barret Burlage's short, My Sister Sam.  It was shot in South Carolina on Super 16mm using students from Trident Tech as crew. Way to go guys.

Shooting My Sister Sam in Summerville, SC
Expect to see more of the two young actors cast as leads, Sheldon Faure and Olivia Gainey.

I also loved the doc, Take Me To the Water: the Story of Pin Point
Pin Point is a waterfront community founded in 1890 by freed slaves. It is located on the banks of the Moon River, just southeast of Savannah, Georgia. This Gullah/Geechee community was home to the A.S. Varn & Son, an oyster and crab factory which employed most of the people of Pin Point until it closed in 1985.

The hit of the festival, the audience favorite was the Wolf Whisperer, Andrew Simpson, with his documentary, Wolves Unleashed. If you are reading on email, click on Wolves to go to the Vimeo trailer.

I met Andrew Simpson, a Scottish-born Canadian animal trainer for Hollywood films, and a full-time wolf whisper. I had a chance to chat with Andrew at the festival and this guy is the real deal: sweet, humble, modest and not only can he dance with wolves, he can get them to follow a script. 

Andrew told me that he was to take his wolves to Siberia to star in the French feature film, Loup, when he got the idea to make a "behind the scenes" documentary so that people could appreciate a side of wolves that is almost never depicted in films. Audiences are familiar with the snarling evil beast, but not the affectionate, trusting, spiritual animal that he knows so well. Andrew told me that wolves are very intelligent - even more intelligent than dogs, and that they can be very caring and are fully capable of forming bonds with people.
Andrew raises his wolves from pups and has them live in the house with him, travel in his car, and even sleep in his bed. This way, the wolves develop a special relationship with him and are able to take direction. They also seem to enjoy all the attention and respond to human warmth and kindness.

  Wolf Credo
•Respect The Elders
•Teach the Young
•Cooperate With The Pack
•Play When You Can
•Hunt When You Must
•Rest In-Between
•Share your affections
•Voice your feelings
•Leave your mark
Del Goetz

I received an excellent critique on my recent post and review of the film Knuckle. (two posts ago) I am reprinting it here in full with permission of the author, Dr. E. Moore Quinn, an anthropologist who has done extensive research in Ireland. I respect Dr. Quinn tremendously and appreciate her thoughtful evaluation.
  • "As for "Knuckle," I think I was so close to the subject that it made objectivity a bit difficult for me at first. Now I believe I can speak with less emotion. I had problems with the gratuitous nature of the violence, which is something you pointed out as well. More than that, however, I felt that the director did the viewers a great disservice in failing to contextualize the *entire culture* of the Travelers with more taste and understanding. For someone who has been filming for many years, he seems not to have gained a good perspective on Traveler life in toto. Rather, he has selected one aspect of Traveler culture and aggrandized it devoid of the nature of the overall culture. Likewise, he did very little to present the historical background of "The Travelers," and in not doing that, his film fed into the stereotypical ideas about them that colonialists perpetrated against the Irish as a whole: they're dirty, violent, ignorant, irascible, unable to solve problems with civility, etc.

    Finally, I think that the film fed into the "reality TV" genre very well, which returns me to a questioning of the filmmaker's motives. Since that genre is still attracting a great deal of viewer attention, it seems to me that "Knuckle" ends up being a filmic version of the same, and a viewing audience that is attracted to that kind of popular cultural norm is being wooed into the genre yet again, without being offered a fair understanding of what the truth left out of the film is all about."

    Thanks for reading. Please comment.

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