Sunday, August 25, 2013

Documentary Roundup

Movies seem to suck right now, but documentaries are in a nice upswing. Documentaries currently have some tailwinds at their back. Technology for filming, editing and lighting has become cheaper and of a higher quality than the old film days. Professors and experts are more than willing to show up for screen time to add the 'was featured in' tag to their resume and for billing appearance fees. Like reality television, if you make a hit or have a wide effect, it can be done on the cheap so political activists can find willing patrons. There are still distribution choke points, so is the product available good?

After seeing the American Indians used as the guilt object in the poorly done "American Meth" documentary like an Ethiopian child in an '80s hunger ad, I looked up the story on the spread of meth at one western reservation. How did a crew of three Sinaloan gang member enter a remote (check NY Times census map for Riverton, WY) and normally private American Indian reservation to sell meth? Easy, they got Indian girlfriends.

A documentary available through streaming called "13%" discusses the whys behind black overrepresentation in HIV infections. It was terrible but had better production values than "American Meth". HIV has spread like wildfire because of family silence, oppressive religious attitudes, ignorant doctors and Reagan. With how much they hammered on blacks suppressing discussion of unpleasant things, maybe Hollywood should start black jokes instead of WASP jokes re: avoiding unpleasant subjects. No mention of attitudes towards unprotected sex, sexual behavior or rates of intravenous drug use.

Human Zoo TV is in effect for "Wake Up". The documentary makers completely side with this innocent guy who was very religious growing up but moved to the big city and then one day woke up seeing angels and demons. His religious parents are awkward with him with the big revelation. He passes tests for brain disorders and is not declared schizophrenic. Smells entirely made up, except for the codependent girlfriend. Best part was subject talking to an MD. MD asks him about what he sees. Subject starts describing a demon right behind the doc and the doc's aura. Subject starts crying. Weird how when the subject first walked in the room he didn't say, "whoa, man, your aura is really bright and there's a freaky demon behind you". Quite the opposite, he acted calm right up to the doc's question. This was pretty comical and painful to watch.

"Hungry for Change" explores the problem with food, nutrition et cetera in America. This is one of maybe 70 similar documentaries available on Netflix. One nice thing about this doc was that the interview subjects did not look down on commoners. A steady message was that eating good is part of orienting your entire life to being better and wanting more. Another message was that it is easy once you're committed to it. Some politically incorrect snippets with one of my favorites being the older female interview subject who said in the midst of a rant (paraphrased) "maybe you're depressed you're a middle aged woman with cats".

Last but not least is "Dr. Bronner's Magic Soapbox". Ever use the stuff? It's pretty good and has a wacky label. The label is the work of Dr. Bronner. Guy was nuts. He did hit the right note for the right audience at the right time. He made all natural soap with his one world one religion nonsense on the bottle and pitched it to hippies. He also lied about being in a concentration camp (that was his parents), because in reality, he was in the loony bin. He abandoned his kids, but his family carries on with the business. He of course has one son who didn't feel loved and that son now tours the country talking about good business and worker relations, spreading the message and legacy of his dad. Cheaper than therapy. The film was very entertaining between contemporary scenes and archived film of Dr. Bronner.

Let's see: the horribleness of the drug war, blacks are victims and have no control over their decisions, negative view of religion, pro-healthy eating, and pro-hippie/anti-corporations with a dash of Holocaust. The Netflix documentary section in a nutshell.

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