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January 21, 2010

2009: VI-Documentaries


Capitalism: A Love Story – Writing about Michael Moore’s Sicko two years ago some critic complained that it was nothing more than a polemic. Hel-lo. That’s what Michael Moore does – and he does it sooo well. I’m no economist, but as a person who 1) has insisted to anyone who would listen since 1980 that deregulation was a recipe for disaster, and 2) sought in 2007 to follow emerging news of impending economic crises to prove my Malthusian economic predictions, I would think that any person with eyes, ears and a brain the size of a pea would not find Moore’s outrage unjustified.

The Cove – Louie Psihoyos’s film seeks to put to rest the tragically mistaken idea that dolphins are cute performers that revel in being held captive for human entertainment. Beyond that, however, those involved in this brave documentary risked their lives to expose the barbaric practice of corralling, then harpooning, thousands upon thousands of dolphins annually in order to put dolphin on the Japanese market as whale meat – a ruse necessary because dolphin flesh contains such high concentrations of mercury that it is dangerous to eat. At the heart of the film is Richard O’Barry, famous as “Flipper’s” trainer. (Flipper was an amalgam of many dolphins.) He has been trying to atone for 25 years, and is at the forefront of the effort to protect these noble animals. You will not be able to shake the blood soaked images from your mind for weeks. (See the Oceanic Preservation Society.)

Crude – Joe Berlinger’s dogged investigation of Texaco’s and Chevron’s 1970s oil explorations that turned a swath of Ecuador into a death sentence for tens of thousands of indigenous people. That the case even makes it to court, considering the oil behemoths’ clout, is astonishing. As much as we want to bury our heads in the sand, we need the Joe Berlingers to hold them in a vice and make us look at what our privileges wreak. When we talk about sustainability, we rarely extend the reasoning to the consequences for whole populations of exploited people. (Berlinger also directed the 2004 documentary Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, which I was predisposed to dismiss and then found quite compelling.)

Food, Inc. – Confession. I have not seen this movie. It came to San Antonio, and I didn’t go. It stayed another week and I didn’t go. I put it at the top of my NetFlix queue but before the turnover, I moved it down. I want to watch this movie. I know what corporate produce farming and animal processing practices are like, having read extensively on the subject. I guess I just don’t want to actually SEE it. I’m going to move it back up in my queue, I promise. But will I ever eat again? Uugghh.

The Horse Boy – The opening scene scrolls out slowly, and not until father and son come into full focus do I say to myself, “That’s Rupert Isaakson!” I met Rupert while working at the Center for Spirituality and the Arts in San Antonio, when he came to speak on his poignant book The Healing Land: The Bushmen and the Kalahari Desert. Michael Scott directs this chronicle of Rupert and Kristin Neff’s son Rowan, who despite or because of his autism, possesses an exceptional emotional bond with horses. His parents’ research leads them to Mongolian herders, and a quest to heal their son through the intervention of Mongolian shamans.

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