Documentary

Section



Craft Documentary

Everything is Incredible: A Man Ravaged by Polio Spends his Life Building a Helicopter from Trash

September 11, 2012

Christopher Jobson

I honestly have no idea where or when I first saw this film, but it’s stuck with me for over a year, and unable to find it again after searching the past few days I turned to Jason Sondi over at Vimeo. Armed with my vague description, and despite never having seen it himself, he found it in about 10 seconds.

Everything is Incredible is a short documentary by Tyler Bastian, Trevor Hill and Tim Skousen about a man named Agustín from Siguatepeque, Honduras who was struck with polio at a young age. His body ravaged from disease, he was left unable to walk and spent most of his life working as a shoemaker in what is described as near-poverty. Possibly plagued by childhood dreams of flight, in 1958 he embarked on his life’s work: the construction of a crude, custom-designed helicopter made completely from trash with the exception of a few pieces of rebar purchased from a hardware store. Even the chains he uses to power the propeller were forged by hand. The filmmakers do a wonderful job interviewing local residents and family for their reactions that vary from hope to despair. I find this video to be both very beautiful and very sad as it discusses what is gained and what is sacrificed through the act of devotion and creation, yet I’m left feeling a profound sense of love for Agustín, which is perhaps why it’s stuck with me for so long. Definitely worth 10 minutes of your time. Thanks Jason.

Also, if you liked this, check out the exceedingly bizarre Welcome to Planet Earth: The UFO Welcome Center.

Update: In response to recent attention the filmmakers have launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise enough funds help Agustín with living expenses by purchasing the helicopter and his home. He will of course retain both through the end of his life, but with the funds raised from the campaign the helicopter itself would be preserved in his memory. Go donate, I did.

 

 



Amazing Documentary

Samsara: 5 Years, 25 Countries, 100 Filming Locations

July 27, 2012

Christopher Jobson

Samsara is the first film by director and cinematographer Ron Fricke (Koyaanisqatsi, Baraka) in nearly 20 years. Following in the footsteps of his earlier work, it will be completely devoid of dialogue and text, relying solely on compelling visuals shot on 70mm film.

Samsara is a Sanskrit word that means “the ever turning wheel of life” and is the point of departure for the filmmakers as they search for the elusive current of interconnection that runs through our lives. Filmed over a period of almost five years and in twenty-five countries, Samsara transports us to sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial sites, and natural wonders. By dispensing with dialogue and descriptive text, Samsara subverts our expectations of a traditional documentary, instead encouraging our own inner interpretations inspired by images and music that infuses the ancient with the modern.

I am ridiculously excited to see this film. It opens in the U.S. on August 24th in a few cities and then has a larger release on September 7th so check release dates. Do yourself a favor and watch the trailer above full-screen.

 

 



Documentary Photography

Haunting Portraits of the Homeless by Lee Jeffries

December 21, 2011

Christopher Jobson

Manchester-based photographer Lee Jeffries is an accountant by profession but for the past few years he’s traveled around the world photographing people he encounters on the streets, particularly the homeless. He spends time getting to know each of his subjects before shooting them, which I think is completely evident in his work, as the stark portraits seem to suggest details of each individuals life, taking a hard unflinching look at their personal condition. Jeffries was just announced as the Digital Camera Photographer of the Year and you can read more about him at the Independent. (via impose)

 

 



Documentary Photography

Serpentine: Beautiful Portraits of the World’s Most Deadly Snakes

November 22, 2011

Christopher Jobson

For the past year LA-based photographer Mark Laita has been traveling to various locations around the U.S. and Central America photographing some of the world’s most deadliest snakes, a series entitled Serpentine. Of the project he says:

The sensual attractiveness of snakes, which coexists with their threatening, unpredictable and mysterious nature is truly unique. This dichotomy, in which their beauty seems to be heightened by their danger, and vice-versa, is what I find so fascinating. Add to these contradictions the rich symbolism of serpents and you have a wonderfully compelling subject.

Laita works with collectors, breeders, zoos, and even anti-venom labs who let him photograph their snake collections. But as you can imagine snake handling can be dangerous work. Just last week on a photo shoot in Costa Rica, he tangoed with a Black Mambo (last photo), the longest venomous snake in Africa that can grow up to 14 feet long. So what kind of risk did you take at work today?

See also his beautiful if somewhat heartbreaking catalog of ornithological specimens entitled Amaranthine, and some exquisite images of sea life. All images courtesy the artist. (via feature shoot)

 

 



Art Documentary

Chris Sauter: The Whole World

November 4, 2011

Christopher Jobson

For his installation entitled “The Whole World”, artist Chris Sauter of San Antonio, Texas surgically extracted drywall components from the gallery walls and used the raw materials to construct a microscope and telescope. The kicker being that the footprints left by the removed pieces formed an amoeba-like slide and a starry sky. Sauter talks about his work and process in another fantastic documentary from
Walley Films (previously), who are quickly becoming my favorite art filmmakers of all time. Video stills above courtesy Walley Films.

 

 



Craft Documentary

Wonder Object: Playful Mechanized Objects by Gary Schott

November 3, 2011

Christopher Jobson

I was unexpectedly delighted by this documentary short on jeweler, artist, and metalsmith Gary Schott who creates these small kinetic sculptures that produce tiny, intimate gestures. The attention to detail in each piece is astounding, from the early detailed sketches and balsa wood models, to the selection of materials, and even the color of fabric—all to create a tiny device, the sole purpose of which is to gently evoke a smile, to express, in the words of the artist, an action of love. The wonderfully produced video was shot and edited by husband and wife filmmakers Mark and Angela Walley of Walley Films out of San Antonio, Texas. (via junk culture)

 

 



Documentary History Photography

Suitcases from the Willard Asylum for the Insane

October 31, 2011

Christopher Jobson

The Willard Asylum for the Insane was an institution in Willard, New York designed help people with chronic mental illness, and was in operation from 1910 through the 1960s before being closed by the state. In 1995 New York State Museum staff were given access to the secrets left behind decades before when the doors were shuttered. After an initial investigation they became aware of an entire attic full of suitcases in the pathology lab building, the personal belongings of patients admitted to the asylum who supposedly never left. In an effort to archive and document the history of the institution photographer Jon Crispin has been given the rare opportunity to photograph the contents of each suitcase and has launched an extremely successful Kickstarter project to help fund the endeavor.

While I fully recognize the fascinating and historical nature of these very personal items, and applaud the museum staff and Crispin for their preservation work, I can’t help but feel a tinge of sadness and unease for the circumstances under which these belongings became separated from their owners. To me they seem like the time capsules of lives arrested, their contents suggesting the hope of a continued life elsewhere: everyday objects for grooming, hobbies, fashion never to be used again. Eerie.

See more contents from the suitcases on Crispin’s blog.