American Winter

American Winter, a film by Harry Gantz & Joe Gantz 

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This film is framed by the personal stories from eight families in the Portland Oregon area who are struggling to pay bills, keep their power turned on, food in their bellies, and a roof over their heads during the Great Recession. Each individual story exemplifies how one misfortune can lead to a life of poverty. The social stigma surrounding homelessness and those living on welfare is completely challenged in this film. The grit and determination of those families who we follow in this film have chosen to never give up. We are reminded that the middle class is becoming an endangered species and that the gap between the rich and the poor is growing more and more rapidly and that their is something each and every one of us can do about it.

This is an important film that should be watched. It is an affirmation that something can always happen, to anyone.

 

 

 

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Spark: A Burning Man Story

Spark: A Burning Man Story, a film by Steve Brown & Jessie Deeter

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This film is unlike many I have seen before. A true insight into not only the weeks leading up to and the “burning of the man”, but a peak inside the lives of those who began this vibrate culture, over 21 years ago.

The film takes us on a journey as the founders as well as some of those “participating” in putting together different theme camps as well as art installations, plan Burning Man 2012. All of those involved in transforming Black Rock Desert into Black Rock City are very transparent in how they describe their experiences and intimacy surrounding Burning Man. Each person in the film plays a different role in regards to the event, but they are all linked together by the common thread of creating, learning, being, celebrating, participating, and having been changed in some way by Burning Man.

The first part of the film takes us through the history of the event from it’s inception to current day. The second part of this film gives us a glimpse, almost an appetizer, of what the week long event is all about.

From beautiful images to Michael Franti telling us to “let it go”, this film is very entertaining and is wonderful food for thought. It highlights the 10 principles the event is based on, including self reliance and self expression. Both forgotten essentials in our every day lives. Not only is my interest peaked in attending the annual event, but I am inspired to reflect on and implement the 10 beliefs and behaviors that are at the core of Burning Man.

 

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Surfwise

Surfwise, a film by Doug Pray 

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“Health, more than the mere absence of disease, is the presence of a superior state of well being. A pizzazz. A vitatily that has to be woked for each and every day of your life.” – Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz

I think this quote by Doc is the thread to this entire film, the story of the Paskowitz family. I give this film a standing ovation. While weaving together this beautiful, yet at times tumultuous story, Pray caputred the heartbeat of each individual family member. 

Doc, as he instilled in his children, taught the viewer the importance of living a healthy and balanced life. Pray facilitated this lesson through briliant archival footage mixed with present day interviews. 

If you aren’t familiar with the story, as I wasn’t before watching, I don’t want to give anything away. It is a must see and a truly special film. 

“It’s easier to die when you have lived, than it is to die when you haven’t. So I say to all young people, go make memories, beautiful memories. When the time comes for you go, you will not go alone.”

– Doc Paskowitz

 

 

 

 

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Gasland

Gasland, a film by Josh Fox

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Starting in 2008, Fox takes a relentless journey exploring and documenting the affects of natural gas drilling throughout the West. He met  with numerous residents who have been affected by Gaslands across Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Texas. Those he spoke with have experienced a variety of chronic health problems directly traceable to contamination of their air, water wells, or of surface water.

During his cross-country odyssey, Fox visits drilling sites, did water analysist tests, spoke with scientists, and uncovered a trail of secrets, lies, and contamination. When Fox meets with the Pennsylavania Department of Environmental Protection, bringing with him contaminated tap water samples from all across the country, the Secretary’s response was, “There’s no such thing as a perfect source of energy”.

I admire Fox’s perserverence and fearlessness when making this film. He has helped bring contaiminated water to the surface. The proof is in the pudding.

“If your word ain’t no good…then you ain’t no good”.

-Resident Lewis Meeks

 

 

 

 

 

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Cutie and the Boxer

Cutie and the Boxer, a film by Zachary Heinzerling

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“Art is messy and dirty when it pours out of you.” – Ushio Shinohara

Simply put, this film is a love story. A love story between an artist and their creations. A love story between two people. A love for and of making art. With all great love stories, comes sacrifice and chaos.

This film follows the artist Ushio Shinohara as he continues to re-define his style through his boxing paintings as his wife Noriko, finds her artistic voice through a series of drawings she calls, “Cutie And Bullie”. This film is driven by stories of the past mixed with their present day struggles.

Heinzerling combines cinema verité with archival footage as well as live animation to portray Ushio and Noriko’s love story. I enjoyed how open and honest the couple was with their feelings. It didn’t leave the viewer wondering what the characters were thinking or questioning the sacrifices each had made, or not made, to be lead them to where they are in their lives.

This film is beautifully shot and wonderfully produced. It was refreshing to see in to the lives of two extremely talented and complex artists and how their love story is told.

 

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Remembering Pete Seegar

Through his power of songs about love, peace, protest, and brotherhood, Pete Seeger lived his life to make a change in this world. Pete Seeger said once of his music “I call them all love songs, they tell of love of man and woman, and parents and children, love of country, freedom, beauty, the world, love of searching for truth and other unknowns. But, of course, love alone is not enough.” Let his life and work be lesson to us all. We have the power to live each day thoughtfully and to the fullest. May you rest in peace, love, and happiness Mr. Seeger.

Remembering Pete Seeger

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The Crash Reel

The Crash Reel, a film by Lucy Walker 

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{Kevin Pearce and filmmaker Lucy Walker}

Is there one thing that you love doing so much that you would risk your life to continue doing? The accident Kevin Pearce had in 2009, just months before qualifying for the Vancouver Winter Olympics, lead filmmaker Lucy Walker on a journey to try and answer that question. The Crash Reel is filled with heartache, recovery, hard hitting questions, and inspiration.

After having recently lost a friend close in age to a horrific disease, I have been asking myself a lot of hard hitting questions lately. Am I doing all I can to live each day to the fullest? Is there anything I am not doing because I am afraid of falling and/or failing? What does the saying “you only live once” truly mean to me?

Kevin Pearce was faced with a traumatic brain injury due to his accident while performing a practice run on a half-pipe in Park City, Utah. He was perusing his dream of being the best snowboarder in the world. At an early age he started competing and his snowboarding career took off, along the way creating a rivalry between his nemesis Shaun White. Kevin’s accident left him in a coma fighting for his life and Shaun on the winners podium at the 2010 Olympics.

Walker’s style of filmmaking paralleled the boundaries pushed in Kevin’s recovery. Her love of “emotional power”, “visual excitement”, and “cinematic power” are shown throughout the use of archival and vérité footage. She captures moments from Kevin’s older brother David, who has Down Syndrome, who talks about his disability openly and honestly.

Walker’s determination and hard work to source over 11,000 clips of archival footage, to piece together the story; before the crash, the crash itself, and the aftermath of Kevin’s and other extreme sporting accidents, truly became a crash reel. Walker has put a whole new style of filmmaking on the map. Her bravery to show the consequences of extreme sports and the severity of traumatic brain injuries speaks to the strength of the film.

Walker has built a foundation for those of us questioning if we are living out our dreams to the fullest. For me this film, in so many ways, has inspired me to be present in the moment and to continue to challenge myself fully.

Coming to terms with snowboarding being a part of his “life before the accident”, and Kevin Pearce’s tenacity and courage to fight to live a life of normalcy, should be an inspiration to all.

“Breathe in courage, breathe out fear.”

-Anonymous 

 

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