Documentary

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Documentary

Commodity City: A Fascinating Glimpse Inside the World’s Largest Wholesale Market

May 15, 2018

Kate Sierzputowski

The Yiwu International Trade Market in China is the world’s largest wholesale market, stretching nearly five miles and containing over 75,000 individual vendors. Chinese-American film director Jessica Kingdon peeks into the daily lives of the market’s workers in her observational documentary Commodity City, exploring the subtle interactions that occur amongst hoards of dolls, flowers, neon signs, clocks, and other consumer goods.

The work is filmed in long, static shots, mirroring the days each vendor spends inside the consumer metropolis. Commodity City has played in over fifty film festivals, and was shortlisted for the 2017 Cinema Eye Honors. The Brooklyn-based director received her BA in Film Studies from Columbia University and her MA in Media Studies from The New School. In 2017, she was named one of 25 New Faces of Independent Film by Filmmaker Magazine. You can see more of the short films Kingdon has produced and directed on her website and Vimeo. (via Vimeo Staff Picks)

 

 



Documentary

Ai Weiwei’s Film ‘Human Flow’ Documents the Staggering Scale of the Global Refugee Crisis

March 23, 2018

Christopher Jobson

To create his new documentary film Human Flow, Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei spent a full year traveling through 23 countries, following the journeys of some of the 65 million people forced from their homes to escape famine, climate change, and protracted wars. Crossing oceans and visiting refugee camps in precarious border cities in Afghanistan, Greece, Iraq, Kenya, Mexico, Turkey and beyond, Ai documented the stories of fellow humans of all ages and nationalities who currently have no place to call home.

The individual stories of several refugees and their journeys—or near perpetual state of limbo—are interwoven throughout the film, though Ai focuses mostly on a macro view that illustrates the unimaginable scope of the unfolding crisis that has enveloped entire nations. By its nature, Human Flow recognizes that there are no easy solutions to these monumental catastrophes that impacts all of us directly or indirectly, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. A healthy dose of compassion and a recognition of a shared humanity would be a good start.

On a personal note, I felt deeply impacted by the film and strongly urge you to watch it.

On Sunday, April 29, 2018, Human Flow will be screened simultaneously across the United States. Immediately following, Ai will participate in a livestream Q&A with audiences around the country. If you are interested in hosting a public screening in a school, library, community center or elsewhere, you can find out more from ro*co films.

 

 



Art Documentary

Irregulars: A Short Documentary Traces Cyrille Kabore’s Harrowing Journey as a Refugee Set Against a Mannequin Factory

December 4, 2017

Kate Sierzputowski

Irregulars is a 2015 documentary by Fabio Palmieri that traces the first-hand immigration experience of a 20-year-old Ghanaian refugee named Cyrille Kabore. The short film is set within a mannequin factory, which provides all of the visuals seen in the condensed documentary. Kabore narrates his journey across land and sea, including harrowing details such as clinging to the bottom of a highway-bound truck, and being held out of the water by his older sister after falling out of a capsized boat.

The audience listens to his words as his actions and heartache are projected onto various mannequins in the surrounding factory. The story is a deeply personal tale, however its greater message is one that can be compared to the hundreds of thousands of refugees who painstakingly flee unsafe and oppressive forces in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East each year.

The film was produced by independent production company NotWorkingFilms, and since its debut has won 19 awards at film festivals across the globe. Watch the fascinating depiction of Kabore’s arduous journey in the video above.

 

 



Amazing Art Documentary

Brooklyn’s Famous Green Lady Explains the Obsession Behind Her Life Devoted to the Color Green

June 29, 2017

Kate Sierzputowski

Brooklyn-based artist Elizabeth Sweetheart really loves the color green. In fact she loves the color so much, there are not many objects in her life that aren’t marked by its vibrancy. From her braided hair to her rounded spectacles, Sweetheart’s life is dyed green. For this simple reason she has been nicknamed “The Green Lady,” and embraces the name and the joy it brings to others by continuing her passionate collection of all things green.

“I think people really, really like to believe that you like something enough to really carry it through,” says Sweetheart in a film created by Great Big Story about her obsession. “When you are young you tend to think you look good in black, but as you get older you realize that color is so fun. I will continue to be green because it is so positive. I think when it is not, then I’ll change to my next favorite thing.”

You can learn more about the artist’s life, and the 20-year span of her collecting, in the short film created by Great Big Story above. (via Laughing Squid)

 

 



Amazing Documentary

A Captivating Film About People Working Through the Fear of Jumping from a Ten Meter High Dive

February 1, 2017

Christopher Jobson

In this documentary short titled Ten Meter Tower, Swedish filmmakers Maximilien Van Aertryck and Axel Danielson paid 67 people $30 to climb to the top of a ten meter (33 foot) high dive for the very first time all while being filmed. Would they decide to jump? Would they be too scared? The resulting footage is surprisingly riveting as people slowly come to terms with their fears and make a decision. It’s one thing to admit defeat in private, but adding the cameras must add a near insurmountable amount of pressure. The filmmakers share with the New York Times:

In our films, which we often call studies, we want to portray human behavior, rather than tell our own stories about it. We hope the result is a series of meaningful references, in the form of moving images. “Ten Meter Tower” may take place in Sweden, but we think it elucidates something essentially human, that transcends culture and origins. Overcoming our most cautious impulses with bravery unites all humankind. It’s something that has shaped us through the ages.

Ten Meter Tower premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. (via Metafilter)

 

 



Design Documentary History

A Fascinating Film About the Last Day of Hot Metal Typesetting at the New York Times

September 7, 2016

Christopher Jobson

On July 2, 1978 the New York Times made a significant technological leap when they scuttled the last of 60 manually-operated linotype machines to usher in the era of digital and photographic typesetting. When working at 100% efficiency with an experienced operator the Linotype machines could produce 14 lines per minute cast on the spot from hot lead. That number would increase to 1,000 lines per minute the very next day using an array of computers and digital storage.

Typesetter Carl Schlesinger and filmmaker David Loeb Weiss documented the last day of hot metal typesetting in a film called Farewell — ETAOIN SHRDLU (the obscure title is poignantly explained in the film). This amazing behind-the-scenes view not only captures the laborious effort to create a single page of printed type, but also the the emotions and thoughts of several New York Times employees as they candidly discuss their feelings about transitioning to a new technology. One man decides he’s not ready for the digital age and plans to retire on the spot after 49 years, while others seem to transition smoothly into the new methods of production.

This historically significant documentary was digitized in 2015 and made available online in HD from Linotype: The Film, another documentary about linotype printing that includes portions of Farewell. While I’ve always been somewhat familiar with the history of typesetting and printing, I didn’t fully grasp the absurd mechanical complexity and scale required to print a newspaper before the digital age. Each newspaper page was cast in a 40 lb. block of lead!? A huge number of employees were deaf!? If you’re a graphic design or typography professor, here’s a great way to spend 30 minutes.

If you’re super interested, the New York Times TimesMachine has a complete high resolution scan of the final hot metal typeset newspaper made in the film. (via Reddit)

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Amazing Art Design Documentary

An Upcoming Documentary About Tall Bikes and a Family that Prizes Creative Expression Above All Else

April 21, 2016

Christopher Jobson

Part film trailer, part home video, part testament to the power of unbridled creativity, this extended teaser gives us a glimpse into the unusual life of the Zenga Bros and their obsession with absurdly tall bicycles. Born and raised in Vancouver, the 6 brothers come from an eclectic family of 9 children who were taught from a young age to explore their own creativity, no matter where it lead them. This belief was embraced so thoroughly it became a lifestyle complete with a set of three intersecting tenets called the Three Beans: Create Everywhere, Redeem Everything, and Be a Fool.

The Zengas have engaged in community art projects since 1999, but the most notable has been the design and fabrication of tall bikes. They first encountered photos of similar bike designs in the late 90s in a zine and soon the boys were singularly obsessed with building their own unwieldy cycles. The bikes have connected them to makers from around the world, taken them on a trip across Africa, and will culminate in an upcoming tall bike tour and film currently in production by one of the brothers, Benny Zenga. The Zengas also produced a film last year with Booooooom titled Skate Heads that’s definitely worth a watch.

The film’s trailer is currently premiering as part of the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival in New York. You can learn more on their website or by following them on Instagram.

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