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Saturday, August 3, 2024
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Woods Hole Film Festival 2015 Documentary Feature Films In Competition


by Lauren Shaw

Angkor’s Children is a film about the power of art to heal a nation after genocide, told through the voices of three young women. A singer of Buddhist poetry, a circus artist, and former garment workers, grassroots, protest band; these are ANGKOR’S CHILDREN. They are members of the generation after the Khmer Rouge regime that tragically killed 90% of artists and intellectuals. Sreypov, Phunam, and Messenger Band have stepped out of the dark past of their parents by expressing the resiliency of Cambodia through their art and advocacy. The arts become a vehicle of change in a country that has suffered so much. ANGKOR’S CHILDREN is a film of hope for post-conflict nations that are also seeking renewal through cultural and artistic expression. Cambodia, USA 2014


By Gerald Peary

Archie’s Betty is a documentary story of the filmmaker’s 25-year search to determine if the characters in Archie Comics—Archie, Betty, Veronica, Moose, Jughead. etc.– were modeled on real-life people. As an Archie-obsessed child, Gerald Peary believed that somewhere in America there was a real town which was the basis of Archie Comics’s mythic Riverdale. As an adult, he found that his fantasy might have basis in fact. Riverdale could be the city of Haverhill, Massachusetts, where Bob Montana, the original cartoonist of Archie, had gone to high school in the mid-1930s. Did Montana love his time so much at Haverhill High that he mythologized it through the iconic Archie characters? Was Archie based on a Haverhill High cutup named Buddy Heffernan? Veronica on Agatha Popoff, the most popular girl at the high school? Betty on Elizabeth Walker, the girl living next door to young Bob Montana?

Was Jughead inspired by a slacker student named Richard “Skinny” Linehan? And the dumb athlete Moose on Haverhill High football player Arnold Daggett? And what about the spinster teacher, Miss Grundy, or the principal of Riverdale High, Mr. Weatherbee?

Peary realizes he can never know the complete story, as Bob Montana died decades ago while cross-country skiing. The cartoonist never discussed the true identities of his characters. But that didn’t stop the determined filmmaker from an obsessive search. USA, 2015


By William Saunders

Billy Mize’s contributions to Country Western music helped shape the industry. His charm and golden voice are legendary among country music’s elite, as is his passion for music. A performer on the brink of fame, his is a spectacular tale about identity and sacrifice amidst a Country Music revolution. A line wraps around Buck Owens Crystal Palace, a coveted local venue in Bakersfield, California. Flyers honoring Billy Mize’s eightieth birthday decorate the walls as country music fans wait to catch a glimpse of their local music legend. Rumors begin to circulate that Billy Mize will sing tonight, which shouldn’t be a surprise, given his fifty-year career in country music. But Billy Mize lost his voice to a stroke at age fifty-nine and hasn’t performed in over twenty years. Singing on stage tonight would be something of a miracle.

In his prophetic career, he earned eleven Country Music Award nominations, and five wins, including Most Promising Male Vocalist. His song “Who Will Buy the Wine,” is considered to be one of the top one hundred country western songs of all time. His body of work has been covered by a diverse group of artists including Jerry Lee Lewis, Dean Martin, Merle Haggard, Glen Campbell, Ray Price, Waylon Jennings, Barbara Mandrel, and others. But Billy won’t be remembered for golden statuettes or billboard charts, his legacy will be an unwavering dedication to family and friends. Country legend Mae Axton said of Mize, “He is the compassionate kind of person who reinforces the confidence of friends, allays their fears and truly cares about them and their problems.” USA, 2014


By Chip Hiden, Alexis Irvin

A documentary exploring the explosive growth of the craft beer industry and the dramatic stories of two start-up breweries. The film follows a trio of 23-year-olds as they struggle to start The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company in Braddock, PA. Matt, Asa, and Brandon hope their brewery will help this once-prosperous steel town bounce back from decades of neglect, violence, and population loss. The film also tells the emotional story of Danny Robinson, a boardwalk brewery owner and restaurateur whose empire is threatened by an aggressive trademark lawsuit that could leave him penniless. Four entrepreneurs, two brand new breweries, and one ultimate goal: to quench the thirst of the craft-craving masses. This isn’t just a movie about beer – it’s a movie about the American Dream and the entrepreneur’s journey from blueprint to brewery. USA, 2014


By Susan Gray and Linda Matchan

CIRCUS WITHOUT BORDERS is an enlightening tale of two circus troupes from opposite ends of the globe who converge to realize a common dream. Using circus arts as a means of self-expression and cultural exchange, the two circuses — Artcirq in the Canadian Arctic and Kalabante in West Africa — give youth in two of the world’s most challenged communities the tools to travel beyond their borders and succeed. The film is a beautiful performance piece; a portal into two remote cultures; and an inspiring story of joy and heartbreak with universal relevance. Guillaume and Yamoussa, two world-class acrobats from remote corners of the globe, share the same dream: to bring hope and change to their struggling communities through circus. Their dream unfolds in the Canadian Arctic and Guinea, West Africa where they help Inuit and Guinean youth achieve unimaginable success, overcoming suicide, poverty and despair. USA, 2015


By Robb Moss and Peter Galison

Every nuclear weapon made, every watt of electricity produced from a nuclear power plant leaves a trail of nuclear waste that will last for the next four hundred generations. We face the problem of how to warn the far distant future of the nuclear waste we have buried –but how to do it? How to imagine the far-distant threats to the sites, what kinds of monuments can be built, could stories or legends safeguard our descendants? Filmed at the only American nuclear burial ground, at a nuclear weapons complex and in Fukushima, the film grapples with the ways people are dealing with the present problem and imagining the future. Part observational essay, part graphic novel, Containment explores the idea that over millennia, nothing stays put. USA, 2015


By Alexandria Bombach and Mo Scarpelli

After the repeal of a devastating media blackout enforced by the Taliban, four local photojournalists face the realities of building Afghanistan’s first free press. When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, taking a photo was a crime. After the regime fell from power in 2001, a fledgling free press emerged and a photography revolution was born. Now, as foreign troops and media withdraw, Afghanistan is left to stand on its own, and so are its journalists. Set in a modern Afghanistan bursting with color and character, FRAME BY FRAME follows four Afghan photojournalists as they navigate an emerging and dangerous media landscape  – reframing Afghanistan for the world, and for themselves. Through cinema vérité, intimate interviews, powerful photojournalism, and never-before-seen archival footage shot in secret during the Taliban regime, the film connects audiences with four humans in the pursuit of the truth. USA, 2015


By Ron Davis

Dutch immigrant, Harry deLeyer, journeyed to the United States after World War II and developed a transformative relationship with a broken down Amish plow horse he rescued off a slaughter truck bound for the glue factory. Harry paid eighty dollars for the horse and named him Snowman. In less than two years, Harry & Snowman went on to win the triple crown of show jumping, beating the nation’s blue bloods and they became famous and traveled around the world together. Their chance meeting at a Pennsylvania horse auction saved them both and crafted a friendship that lasted a lifetime. Eighty-six year old Harry tells their Cinderella love story firsthand, as he continues to train on today’s show jumping circuit. USA, 2015


By Jon Nealon and Jenny Raskin

HERE COME THE VIDEOFREEX tells the timely and inspiring story of the most radical video collective from the 1960s and 70s, using their own incredible archive. It’s a story about a crucial turning point in the history of visual media, when it was possible to believe that people would tell their own stories without corporate interference – an idea that resonates strongly today, as bloggers, citizen journalists, and activists speak their voices on the web. It’s also a thought-provoking story about artistic and political creativity, where the concept of innovation had nothing to do with making money, but rather making change. USA, 2015


By Gayle Kirschenbaum

In 2007 Emmy-winning filmmaker Gayle Kirschenbaums’ comedy short, MY NOSE, became a festival hit. With her trademark self-deprecating humor, Gayle told the story of her mother Mildred’s lifelong crusade to her single, middle-aged daughter to get a nose job. But after the laughter died down, Gayle was surprised by the audience reaction. After every screening, she’d be contacted by a dozens of women – and men – from all walks of life, who all confided that they too had a parent whose relentless put-downs and criticism haunted their adult lives. They wanted to know how Gayle could laugh about it. LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER! is Gayle’s answer – a raw, fearless but bitingly funny journey into a childhood fraught with pain, shame, and humiliation and an adulthood scarred by its fallout. Woven together from decades of nakedly personal home movies, photos and videos, the film invites audiences to join Gayle on her quest to love, understand, and forgive her proud, formidable, aging mother, before it’s too late. Grudgingly, Mildred agrees to submit to the process – and follows her daughter down a bumpy road of discovery, past inter-generational shame, long-held family secrets and into deeply buried pain. Their relationship changes before our eyes, and teaches a universal lesson of family dynamics, empathy and the power of forgiveness that could be the story of any American family. USA, 2015


By Mike Scholtz

Vikings! Their thirst for conquest was quenchless! Historians claim the Viking Age ended nearly a thousand years ago. And yet there remains one place on Earth where Vikings still rule: Minnesota! It began when Leif Ericson secretly invaded the state and claimed it for King Olaf of Norway. Today, it remains as one of the last outposts of that once-mighty empire.

Or not. Some archaeologists say none of this ever happened. They say Minnesota has fallen victim to the greatest practical joke of all time. They say it’s better to get history right than to tell a good story.

But does anyone care what they say? Because Viking culture is alive and well in Minnesota, where you can dress like a Viking, fight like a Viking or even sleep like a Viking in the world’s only medieval bed & breakfast.

Welcome to Minnesota, the LOST CONQUEST of the Viking Age! USA, 2015


By Laurie Kahn

Love stories are universal. Love stories are powerful. And so are the women who write them. While romance novels and their signature covers are ubiquitous around the world, the global community of millions of women who read, write, and love them remain oddly invisible. Love Between the Covers is the fascinating story of six very different authors who invite us into this vast female community, running a powerhouse industry that’s on the cusp of an irreversible power shift. We enter one of the few places where women are always center stage, where female characters always win, where justice prevails in every book, and the broad spectrum of desires of women from all backgrounds are not feared, but explored unapologetically. USA, 2015


By Drea Cooper, Zackary Canepari

“T-Rex” is an intimate coming-of-age story about a new kind of American heroine. For the first time ever, women’s boxing is included in the 2012 Olympics. Fighting for gold from the U.S. is Claressa “T-Rex” Shields, just 17 years old, and by far the youngest competitor. From the hard knock streets of Flint, Michigan, Claressa is undefeated and utterly confident. Her fierceness extends beyond the ring. She protects her family at any cost, even when their instability and addictions threaten to derail her dream. Claressa does have one stable force in her life. Coach Jason Crutchfield has trained her since she was just a scrawny 11-year-old hanging out at his gym. Jason always wanted a champion, he just never thought it’d be a girl. Her relationships with her coach and her family grow tense as she gets closer to her dream. But Claressa is fierce and determined. She desperately wants to take her family to a better, safer place and winning a gold medal could be her only chance. USA, 2015


By Malika Zouhali-Worrall, David Osit

When one-year-old Joel is diagnosed with terminal cancer, his father Ryan begins working on an unusual and poetic video game to honor Joel’s life. Following Ryan’s family through the creation of the game and the day-to-day realities of Joel’s treatment, Thank You For Playing is a thought-provoking testimony to the empathetic power of art, examining how we process grief through technology in the twenty-first century, and the implications of documenting profound human experiences in a new artistic medium: the video game. USA, 2015


By Mark Dixon

‘The Power of One Voice: A 50-Year Perspective on the Life of Rachel Carson’ is a groundbreaking documentary examining the life of Rachel Carson and the profound implications of her environmental work. Perfect for classrooms and community events, this 52-minute film features interviews with Rachel Carson’s adopted son, Roger Christie, her biographer, Linda Lear, and other notable writers, scientists and advocates. Today, Rachel Carson remains a role model and inspiration for people across the globe, even as the controversy created by her challenge to the chemical industry continues unabated. USA, 2015


By Hildegard Elisabeth Keller

What do life and the making of a work of art have in common? The documentary portrays the outer and inner lifescapes of the American artist Annemarie Mahler with Austrian roots. An intimate conversation with herself and her dog unfolds in front of the camera. Autobiographical miniatures evoke a childhood in Vienna and Manhattan. The original score animates the wonderland of girl within a 88 year old woman, who fled to the United States as a twelve year-old and, early in 1939, arrived alone in Hoboken NJ. She lives in Bloomington IN and Woods Hole on Cape Cod. The film takes its audience to a ride through the life of a Viennese girl who leaves Europe in one of the last “Kinderzüge”, gets to Rotterdam and then, alone, to Hoboken NJ in early 1939. In the American wonderlands of Manhattan and later Berkeley, she becomes an artist. She looks back on her 88 years between two continents.   The film features her two voices, both her real voice in interviews at Bloomington and Woods Hole, Cape Cod, and her inner voice taken from her unpublished autobiography and embedded in bioscapes (with historical documents). These two strands of storytelling, each enhanced by the original score, insinuate that a life is more than the sum of its days with their grief and grandezza. Switzerland, 2014


By Peter Barton

Intimate, personalized portrait of women of the 1960s through the eyes of one colorful class that graduated in 1969 – same year as Hillary Clinton – and recently turned 65, starting to explore the New Old Age. At a time when these Boomers’ parents were asking less of themselves, many of these distinguished citizens are asking more, feeling a Third Wind. Where will it take them? Some are determined to keep making waves. The trigger for these revelations/reminiscences is the class’s yearbook. Each photo was a collaboration with a sexy Turkish artist, is full of the 60s spirit of risk, rebelliousness, creativity. Indeed, this yearbook wasn’t a book at all. The portraits came to each alumna loose leaf, in a box. Hence the metaphoric title: Unboxed. USA, 2014