« Rooftop Screens | Main | North Carolina Film Event »

June 15, 2006

Wednesday at Silverdocs

Longer reviews later, but I've just returned from day one of Silverdocs (technically day two, I suppose, but I skipped opening night), where I took in a triple feature. I started with What Remains, which I saw based on Cynthia's recommendation, and I ended up finding the film, which focused on the work of photographer Sally Mann, to be utterly fascinating, a meditation on death and decay in the spirit of her recent photography series, but also on the processes of photography itself. The film was directed by Steven Cantor, who had documented Mann's work in the past in Blood Ties: The Life and Work of Sally Mann, which I now very much want to see.

From there, I went to Jesus Camp (official site), Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady's documentary about a camp for evangelical Christian youth, "Kids on Fire," led by children's pastor Becky Fischer, who rallies children to become more active as Christians in spreading their faith. While it would be tempting to treat this subculture with ironic distance, Ewing and Grady are careful to treat their subjects fairly, and they spend significant energy in the film depicting the links between evangelical Christianity and the Republican right (the kids pray for a life-size cardboard cut-out of President Bush and travel to DC to march against abortion). As someone who was raised as an evangelical, I'm always curious to see evangelical culture represented, and the film certainly brought back a lot of (sometimes painful) memories, and I have to admit that I'm still processing the film. But what I found most fascinating about it was the depiction of how these children "learn" evangelical culture, and within Fischer's camp, we see the children picking up the lingo and finding ways to minister to others. During the Q&A, several of the questioners depicted this as a process of brainwashing, and I think that gets what happens within evangelical culture wrong in ways that are rather significant. While we see the kids primarily within the context of the church services, their behavior elsewhere in the camp shows that the kids who attend make sense of their world in a variety of complicated ways.

Finally, I caught most of Punk's Not Dead before I had to dash out to catch the last train to Hyattsville (which I managed with less than five minutes to spare). Punk's Not Dead was a relatively solid treatment of many of the big definitional questions associated with punk. What is punk? Can commercially successful bands such as Sum 41 or Good Charlotte still be classified as punk if they've signed with a major label? Or if their lyrics lack any political content? Because I left before the film ended, I don't know what kind of conclusions the film reached, but at the very least, the filmmakers have assembled a wealth of concert footage and interviews with punk musicians that will provide useful for anyone who is interested in the history of punk.

Again, I'm hoping to write longer reviews later, especially for Jesus Camp, but after six hours staring at a giant screen, another hour staring at a smaller one seems a bit tedious. Tomorrow afternoon, I'll see Black Sun, and we'll see how things go from there.

Posted by chuck at June 15, 2006 12:39 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Wednesday at Silverdocs:

» Drawing My Own Restraints from Drifting: A Director's Log
I finally saw the new Matthew Barney film today - and there was much rejoicing. Drawing Restraint 9 certainly bears aesthetic similarities to The Cremaster Cycle, but it is far more formally rigorous in its attention to process, and in... [Read More]

Tracked on June 17, 2006 4:37 AM


Hey, Chuck. Looking forward to hearing more about Jesus Camp.

Are you going to the Jarmusch/Scorcese discussion tonight?

Posted by: dave at June 15, 2006 9:53 AM

Oh, wow, I didn't know that Jarmusch was going to be there. I hadn't planned on it, but now I'll try to go (if there are any tickets left at all).

Posted by: Chuck at June 15, 2006 10:44 AM

I'm still wondering how I missed that Jarmusch was going to be there. It could be that I was too focused on the films that would be playing, but I just checked the website and Jarmusch's name isn't listed among the special guests. Of course, it probably says something that I'm more interested in seeing Jarmusch talk about Scorsese than I am in seeing Scorsese himself.

Posted by: Chuck at June 15, 2006 10:53 AM

Yeah. On closer inspection, I see it's actually not part of Silverdocs (but instead the Guggenheim Symposium) and that it's sold out. Sigh.


Posted by: dave at June 15, 2006 11:08 AM

Maybe its for the best for me, at least. I'm already slated to see my first film of the day at 3 PM (and to see at least two on Friday). Not sure I can handle three long days in a row.

Posted by: Chuck at June 15, 2006 11:17 AM

By the way, while I missed the big Scorsese-Jarmusch interview, I *did* end up standing about six feet away from the Broken Flowers director on the red carpet in front of the AFI Silver. So that's gotta count for something.

Posted by: Chuck at June 16, 2006 12:04 AM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)