SF Docfest 2011 – “Donor Unknown”, “First Position: A Ballet Documentary”, and “Peep Culture” Reviews and Trailers

Movie: Donor Unknown

In the short-term, being a sperm donor means a quick payday and a sense of accomplishment can be taken away from whacking your mole.  It’s long-term implications, however, means that possibly hundreds of offspring will be carrying your DNA and exhibiting many of the same characteristic traits as yourself.  This film is about one particular donor, known as Donor 150, and those offspring who wish to seek him out.  Half the fun of this film is learning about and following the sperm donor.  Like most character study documentaries, it’s always a bonus when the person of focus is just outside the realms of normality.  In this case, Mr. Donor 150 is an eccentric peace-loving beach bum resigned to live the rest of his days off the grid, in a camper, caring for pigeons, and spouting off conspiracy theories to anyone who will listen.  High entertainment value, indeed.

Showtimes for Donor Unknown:

Sun, Oct. 16, 9:30pm & Mon, Oct. 17, 9:30pm (Roxie Theater)

Thur, Oct. 20, 5:00pm (Shattuck – Berkeley)

Movie: First Position: A Ballet Documentary

My favorite part of watching the Olympics is hearing about the obstacles athletes overcome in order to get there.  Those stories play an essential role into me giving a damn about events I would otherwise ignore.  For instance, I have no desire to watch a curling (shuffleboard on ice) match, but if I knew that one of the team members spent years practicing his craft on a iced-over lake with the constant threat of man-eating beavers and neighborhood kids hurling rocks at his head, then I would be way more inclined to watch.  The same thing goes for competitive ballet.  And that’s exactly what first time director, Bess Kargman‘s impressive ballet documentary is.

Remarkably, in just 90 minutes, this film was able to bring to light both the stories of 6 child dancers being pushed to their limits, and the grueling practices that go on behind-the-scenes.  Even more impressive than presenting a thoroughly enjoyable documentary with so many characters in such a short time was the gracefulness in which the film was shot.  This film reminded me of a structural narrative version of Frederick Wiseman‘s brilliant observational documentary, Ballet.  If you have never seen that film – see it – but first see First Position: A Ballet Documentary.  You won’t be disappointed, and I, for one, will be eagerly awaiting Kargman’s next project.

Showtimes for First Position: A Ballet Documentary:

Fri, Oct. 21, 7:15pm & Thur, Oct. 27, 7:15pm (Roxie Theater)

Saturday, Oct. 15, 7:15pm (Shattuck – Berkeley)

Movie: Peep Culture

Peep Culture opens with this thesis statement on global media, “Putting ourselves out there for public consumption is supposed to make us happier, help us meet people, help us feel like we belong, but point a camera at us and we change.  The question is, what are we changing into?  What are we becoming?

Unfortunately for filmmakers, Sally Blake and Jeannette Loakman, the exceptional 2010 documentary, We Live In Public, about a .com entrepreneur and his social media experiments already answered these questions, and did it much better non-gimmicky way.  This film follows Hal, a writer and social commentator, as he sets up his own social media experiment where he will broadcast his life 24 hours 7 days a week.  I find the whole idea of somebody using themselves to prove a point very gimmicky, and grew tired of this shtick soon after Super Size Me was released.  Here’s an idea for your next social experiment ladies: go eat nothing but gummy bears for the next five years and see if its bad for you.  My guess is that your conclusion will be: too much of anything is bad for you.  With that being said, I already put too much time into this “short” review.

Showtimes for Peep Culture:

Sat, Oct. 22, 7:15pm & Wed, Oct. 26, 7:15pm (Roxie Theater)

Fri, Oct. 14, 12:30pm (Shattuck – Berkeley)


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