FFF Day 4–Three Fabulous Documentaries

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Kimberly Reed with Selection Committee Member Christopher Ramsey

This is Home
This powerful documentary begins with an aerial view of Homs, Syria. A modern city that has been absolutely decimated by the Syrian civil war. Block after block of destroyed buildings give a small glimpse into the suffering of the Syrian people. With millions of Syrians displaced because of war, our country’s pitiful response and lack of compassion are evident. Fortunately, there are pockets of places, such as in Baltimore, where a small number of Syrian refugees are given a new start in life along with significant social services for eight months in an effort to help them back on their feet.

This documentary follows four families during their first eight months in America. The filmgoer is drawn into their internal struggles to adapt to a new language and cultural while at the same time holding onto their own ethnic values and traditions. For them, it is a test of survival as those who can’t successfully navigate the first eight months are in danger of being deported back to the dangerous hell of their homeland.

The movie shows both the best and the worst of our own citizens. There are those who reach out to help these poor innocent people as well as those who make it obvious that some of us are not very welcoming. In the same way, the refugees themselves display both eagerness and ambivalence as they strive to find a new place in the world.

Very compelling and well made, this documentary will touch your heart and, hopefully, change a few minds.

Preceded by Let My People Vote
In Florida, over 1.7 million convicted felons have lost their right to vote–forever. And before you consider that this might be a just consequence for such heinous criminals, you might be interested to know that a person can have a felony conviction for the horrible crime of releasing more than 15 balloons at one time! This documentary features Desmond Meade who made some bad choices when he was younger and is now fighting to make his vote count considering that he has paid his debt to society. In 2018 this issue will be put on the Florida ballot. And it’s about time. This is a well made and surprisingly emotional short film.

Dark Money
In 2009 Kimberly Reed enthralled us with her hard hitting documentary Prodigal Sons. This year she’s back with a government thriller to rival All the President’s Men. The movie is Dark Money. It tells the story of how campaign finance laws are allowing anonymous people or organizations to finance elections and what her home state of Montana is doing to combat it.

The film follows a journalist as he methodically uncovers the source of some of this dark money that has seeped into state political races in Montana. In the end, he succeeds in revealing enough information to bring a prominent lawmaker to trial.

Afterwards, Kimberly was available to answer questions. She noted that campaign finance is not a partisan issue. Christopher Ramsey, a member of the Documentary Selection Committee, could not restrain his enthusiasm and he pointed out that the film featured Republicans battling Republicans on this important issue.

Preceded by The Shift
A powerful little short that gives an inside look at what it is like to work a shift at a 911 call center. Well paced and filmed, it gives the filmgoer a visceral experience of some of the challenges faced by those who answer the phone during some of the most traumatic moments of a person’s life.

Mole Man
I really don’t know why Mrs. LanceAround and I were in tears so many times during this documentary. It’s a relatively simple story about an older man on the autism spectrum who cannot refrain from building. He does so without mortar or nails. Yet he somehow has created a sprawling edifice of several stories with multiple basements, corridors, mazes, and tons and tons of compulsive collections. (Anyone want a bathroom plunger? He has one from every abandoned house he’s ever visited because, “it’s the one thing they always leave behind.”)

In Western Pennsylvania, the demise of coal and steel have left entire towns completely barren. Ron Heist seeks out these dilapidated buildings and takes anything he can get his hands on. In the meantime, his family has to decide what to do with Ron once his 92 year old mother becomes unable to provide him with his daily meals.

It’s a heart wrenching story of a man who has made the most, literally, with what life has dealt him. The documentarian skillfully draws you further and further into Ron’s world and introduces you to the friends and family who are working behind the scenes to figure out how to care for someone who is at once highly creative and capable and yet, somehow, unable to connect and find his place in today’s world.

Preceded by Nueva Vida
An unusual short documentary that is a complete animation of one person’s story of his near death experiences when an errant soccer ball damages his pituitary gland. A very creative way to take a true story and add life to it.

What a Night!
as Mrs. LanceAround and I drive the hour back to our home, we find ourselves deep in conversation about the three powerful documentaries and three shorts that we saw tonight. We both agree that this was one of the most powerful and enjoyable nights we’ve ever had at the FFF. If you get a chance to see any of these movies, don’t miss it. They have the capacity to change how you view the world.

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