Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Documentary Truth

"Calmness is strength."

In an effort to fulfill my goal of seeing all of the short films nominated for Academy Awards, my honey and I went to our favorite movie theater and watched the movies in the documentary category.  They were all very good, and I am glad I got the chance to see them.

I'm not sure which film will win, but the film that intrigued me the most was The Lady in Number 6:  Music Saved My Life.  It is the story of Alice Herz Sommer, billed as the oldest pianist and Holocaust survivor at age 109.  She is incredibly upbeat and positive.

She's an amazing musician who still plays the piano every day.  Music certainly did save her life in the camps, but her optimistic personality must have shown through, even then.

She makes the statement that everything is beautiful, even bad is beautiful. The observations made by her and other survivors in the film were thought-provoking.  I could easily watch it again with notebook and pen in hand to record their statements.  I was left with the sentiment that I am not as good a person as she.

Here are the other films on the list in no particular order.

Karama Has No Walls is a fly on the wall account of a Yemeni government attack on student protesters during the Arab Spring.  Intense images of battle and its aftereffects are both searing and powerful.

A gay man who as a teenager was attacked by Neo-Nazis meets one of his attackers by chance as an adult.  Forgiveness plays the central role in the nominee Facing Fear.

Two interconnected stories come to the light in Prison Terminal:  The Last Days of Private Jack Hall.  The reality that many prisoners are dying incarcerated has led some states to create hospice care within the prison system.  One man's last days in that arrangement shows the humanity that can exist in even the most difficult circumstances.

A bit of the life of Ra Paulette, a man who literally digs caves out of mountains, Cavedigger, has beautiful images of sandstone caves in northern New Mexico. The film showcases the struggle of an artist to remain faithful to his artistic vision. Some of the obstacles he faces include lack of money, clients' ideas that differ from his, and the occupational hazard of cave-ins.

It was an emotional afternoon, and I admit that I was happy to leave the darkness of the theater and come out into the bright sunshine of the day.  But the films and the people in them stay in my mind.  The opening quote was the last thing a father said to his children as the Nazis took him away to die.  May we all be calm and strong.

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