MIFF 2011: A Good Film & A Very Bad Film
I really need to pay attention more. After missing the first 30 minutes of a session on my first day due to mistaking the start time, today I walked into the wrong theatre only to realise my mistake as it was starting. I watched it anyway (and rather enjoyed it) but I was pretty confused as to why I wasn't stopped at the door as my ticket was scanned? In the end the two films I am about to discuss were perfect examples of good and bad documentary filmmaking.
But first the good; CLIENT 9: THE RISE AND FALL OF ELIOT SPITZER is the second Alex Gibney doco I have seen at MIFF this year after the thoroughly disappointing MAGIC TRIP. Luckily CLIENT 9 is a much better film than MAGIC TRIP. Gibney tells the story of Eliot Spitzer a strong-willed, iconoclastic man who made his name as New York D.A between 99 and 06. During that time Spitzer prosecuted a great deal of white-collar crime, notably being unafraid to take on big business in a way that was unknown before him.
This behaviour, while putting him offside with much of big business, led to a groundswell of popular support that resulted in him moving into politics and becoming Governor of New York in 07. As governor he continued to push for large scale reform, often in such a hot-headed way that it found him new political enemies to go with his already burgeoning group of corporate ones. In early 08 all this came to a sharp, undignified end as Spitzer was revealed to have cheated on his wife many times with high-priced escorts.
Gibney's film treads a fascinating line between glorifying Spitzer as a man unfairly removed from office and painting a picture of an argumentative character who's primary downfall was an inability to "play well with others". This latter perspective is when the film is at its strongest as we see Spitzer as a man who, while having some great and important ideas, simply refused to understand the process of politics. For him, being right was enough and his temper with others who would disagree simply made him more enemies rather than allies.
The ultimate question Gibney raises with the film is a more universal one though. He finally asks, what does a man's private life have to do with his ability to complete his job? Ultimately Gibney is biased (as I would be too) in that he believes New York and America at large needed someone like Spitzer in office. They needed a strong character, willing to take on corporate entities when they were blatantly breaking the law. Whatever Spitzer was doing in his personal life had nothing to do with anything. Of course Spitzer made too many enemies along the way to let his private life become irrelevant. CLIENT 9 is an interesting watch, only let down by some slightly off pacing and a generally bloated running time (although it seems to be a regular problem of Gibney's).
Next was a film that I barely want to talk about to be honest. THINK GLOBAL ACT RURAL was a traumatic experience. This was simply one of the most ineptly made and misinformed documentaries I have ever seen (and I saw VILLALOBOS last year). I was not only disgusted that MIFF programmed something as amateurish as this but I was horrified at the blatant stupidity that was coming off the screen. From idiotic connections to outright lies, this film is filled with some of the most misinformed 'experts' I have ever seen.
I should've known what I was in for immediately as it began with an opening credits sequence where a shaky video camera zooms in on farmyard animals eyes as if to elucidate the sadness and torment that is held within. I really don't want to think about this much more as I'm getting angry right now just recalling the screening but I must give you some examples of this films idiocy. Early on we see some footage of young people standing around the streets of Casablanca, Morocco. The film explains that because mass commercialisation of agriculture has forced small farmers to shut down farms there are hordes of young people unemployed in Morocco. Amidst these garbage strewn streets we see them aimlessly walking. They even get a moment to yell at the camera, "We want jobs!".
What is so offensively disingenuous about this moment is that while there are enormous rates of unemployment amongst the youth of Morocco it has absolutely NOTHING to do with closing farms or mass agriculture. Morocco has one of the youngest populations of any country in the world. Almost 60% of their total population is under 30 years old. This huge surge in its population has resulted in a multitude of social problems but any connection between agriculture and youth employment in this circumstance is either a flat out lie or simply a misinformed argument.
The film is full of moments like this, where it connects two things that have absolutely no connection. I wanted to yell at the screen. I even tried to fall asleep half way through in the hopes I would wake up and it would be over but the constant stream of horror coming from the screen kept me awake. The film ends with an idiotic montage showing the streets of India set to an acoustic psuedo-Ani DeFranco song that made me want to throw up. This sequence shows us countless shots of the streets filled with roaming cows. The montage is given no contextual motivation but considering the film has been constantly iterating how many farms have been shut down by evil corporations the only interpretation I could possibly make was that the filmmakers were taking this sight of cows being everywhere as a sign that they have no pasture land and have been forced to wander the city.
Who here can tell me why you would find cows roaming freely everywhere you go in India? If you know the answer to that question then you are smarter than this film or maybe you know how to google or maybe you just have an more than a single figure I.Q.
Fuck you THINK GLOBAL ACT RURAL. This is the type of film than includes a shot that zooms in on the watering eye of a horse as if to show the horse is crying. Again, fuck you. This films makes me want to spray pesticides and chemicals on my foods just out of spite for everyone involved with the making of this film.