DOCS IN SIGHT

Shut Up and Sing!

(opens October 27th and wide release in November)

As a somewhat snotty New Yorker, I knew little of the Dixie Chicks other than that they were in the contemporary “country” world and that they got into some trouble over comments they made about President Bush right at the beginning of the invasion of Iraq. Owing to the power of the higher art of documentary verite, I now feel like they are my people. Shut Up and Sing directed by top filmmaker Barbara Kopple with Cecilia Peck is a tight and compelling film that fast engages the viewer into the on and offstage world of these smart and pretty women. Vital behind-the-scenes footage reveals not only how goofy the Chicks can be but also their increasing fortitude in the face of a right-wing manipulated media storm. While they bemusedly watch their country music core of listeners melt away amidst the jingoistic fervor, they also find a renewed energy in standing behind what at first was an offhanded remark by the lead singer Natalie Maines but what soon becomes an openly antiwar stance. In a time when celebrities are often lambasted for taking a political stance, Shut Up and Sing! skillfully portrays the liabilities of going public but also shows how doing so cements relationships and renews artistic energy. Ultimately, it’s a guilty pleasure for all of us who spoke out against the war to see people who really stuck their neck out vindicated.

The Bridge

(opens October 27th )

Photo copyright Peter McCandless, courtesy First Stripe Productions

It’s not easy to make a film about people jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. In order to obtain evidence, you have to set up a camera for a year and whenever someone starts standing in one place or pacing back and forth you have to zoom in and follow them. Given the statistics of how many people jump off the Golden Gate (roughly 20 a year) you’re bound to catch a few. Inspired by a much-discussed New Yorker article from a couple of years back, The Bridge captures this and more, weaving beautiful imagery of the Gate with interviews from family members and friends and witnesses of the jumpers. We even get to hear from someone that survived a jump and it is impressive that the filmmakers manage to find a cross-section of people connected with the people we see jumping or attempting to jump. But while the New Yorker article provided the span of history on how the Golden Gate became a symbolic (and world popular) place to jump and the controversies around how to try and stop the epidemic, The Bridge chooses to hauntingly concentrate on the stories and conjectures about why people jumped. But making a film about why people commit suicide is an ambitious thing. While The Bridge manages to tell the sad stories of obsession, mental illness or plain mystery that often accompany suicide, it fails to tell the story of the bridge itself, and why it has become such a place of epidemic suicide. It avoids the social, psychological and political implications in trying to stop it.

Contributor

Williams Cole

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