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Saturday Doc-day Question

Since I will be at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival today, I won’t be posting a bunch today. I thought I’d toss a question out there to you House Blenders out there reading on a Saturday.

Share your favorite documentary film and the impact it had on you. If it isn’t well-known, provide a link so we can all read up on it. I’ll start with a few off the top of my head (I have so many that I love; it’s hard to narrow down)…

* Harlan County USA (1976): Barbara Koppel’s documentary about the Kentucky coal miners strike in the 70s and the violence surrounding it is amazing. The use of music and the extraordinary portrait of the working class Appalachians — the living conditions, health problems, abject poverty and — is as good as it gets.

* Fahrenheit 9/11: Nuff said. It’s great filmmaking. For the wingnuts that cried foul, tough sh*t. The documentary form can never be objective; it strives to be factual. And there were more than enough facts and brilliance to make our Chimp in Chief look like the dangerous ass that he is. [See the equally brilliant Control Room in the same sitting; it’s a great companion piece on the Al-Jazeera news channel.]

* I Exist: Voices from the Lesbian & Gay Middle Eastern Community (2002): The “traditional values” of Middle Eastern culture, as you might imagine is completely and dangerously intolerant of homosexuality. The gays and lesbians interviewed in this film face rejection, violence and even death for coming out. The interesting aspect of the documentary is that there are profiles of native-born Middle Easterners as well as Arab-Americans. The bigotry and rejection occurs within their families because of the strong cultural ties. This film was extremely moving and disturbing for Kate, who is of Lebanese descent, and her father’s family (even though they are at least third-gen American) is only slightly less homophobic than the people portrayed in this film.

* One Day in September: This doc is about the 1972 terrorist event at the Olympics, where eight Palestinian terrorists killed two Israeli athletes and took nine others hostage. Kevin Macdonald deservedly won an Oscar in 1999 for this film, that shows the complete and utter incompetence of the German government in its ability to handle the unfolding events. The interviews are chilling. I remember with great clarity as a nine-year-old, watching the events on TV, and seeing ABC’s Jim McKay on the air for hours, finally coming on to tell us “They’re all gone,” — all the remaining hostages died in what turned out to be the most tragic bungling of the German government (which spurned Israel’s military assistance) in trying to resolve the tense situation. I saw this film with friends and came out so angry that we all talked about it for hours — the futility of knowing how it all ends doesn’t matter.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding