Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sat. SXSW Film

Cat Dancers

I had no intention of seeing this film because of the aforementioned poster. Then I met up with some film buddies and they convinced me. This would continue to be a theme of the day and I will hereafter bow to their film-picking wisdom.

This doc tells the story of the first exotic animal act in the U.S. Joy and Ron Holiday were internationally-acclaimed dancers who thought ahead to the natural decline of their physical prowess and so transitioned into a touring act that incorporated dance, magic, and exotic cats. When the act grew too large for them to comfortably manage, they added Chuck Lizza to become a trio in more ways than one. From there the movie takes an almost inevitable tragic turn, which of course I will not spoil.

The filmmakers did a smart thing in the opening minutes of Cat Dancers. Ron Holiday is a bit of a comical figure. So, the filmmakers jump in and get it out of the way. Here's this guy who wears wigs and eyeliner. He's more than a bit nelly. And then they move on with the story. I really enjoyed this film. It's mostly interview footage intercut with photos and old 8mm films in a rather traditional manner, and yet the subject and the way it's handled is compelling. I believe it was picked up by HBO so should be showing there soon. Recommended.

Election Day

Election day 2004 from the perspective of voters. Simple idea really, but coordinating crews in 16 different cities must have been quite an undertaking. No revelations or big lessons learned. Just the experience of people voting all over the country: long lines, officials somewhat ignorant of election rules, idealism, apathy, etc. Not a stunning movie, but interesting throughout and a good document for history.

Big Rig

Great film. As with Cat Dancers, I was wary and then goaded into it by friends. Because it's a doc about truckers right? What convinced me was that the director, Doug Pray, also did Scratch and Hype! Glad I succumbed because I loved Big Rig. Turns out truckers are fascinating people who know how to tell a story. Pray and two crewmembers essentially hitchhiked across the country catching rides with truckers while interviewing them. The stories are often personal, but also touch on the commonalities of life as a trucker; long hours, rising gas prices, separation from family. Highly recommended.

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