Movie review round-up

Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975. Supplied
Sound It Out. Supplied
Forks Over Knives. Supplied

Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

Directed by Göran Olsson, 2011
100 minutes
English and Swedish with English subtitles.
Plays at Cinematheque June 8-June 9 at 9 p.m., June 10 at 2 p.m., and June 14 at 9 p.m.

It’s interesting to think of a documentary of found footage as the equivalent to a hip-hop mixtape, but that’s precisely what it is (except, in this case, the samples are cleared).

A Swedish film crew spent some time in the United States, specifically 1967 to 1975, to delve into what was goin’ on - and what a time it was.

With various interview segments from musicians and educators being used as narration, the film’s structure is focused and never condescending.

Robin Kelley, professor of American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California, states at one point that “through the eyes of a Swedish film crew (there’s) a sense of innocence - a global perspective that’s pretty extraordinary,” and it’s true. Only through the lens of the objective observer can these stories truly be told.

Spending equal time in each year and told chronologically, the filmmakers visit with anti-Martin Luther King, Jr. activist Stokely Carmichael, the Black Panthers, lawyers involved with the ’71 Attica riots and the imprisoned activist/author Angela Davis.

It’s powerful viewing this previously unseen footage of events that are widely known. Most compelling, however, is footage of the everyday struggles of ordinary citizens, including one woman’s daily routine of not having enough breakfast to feed her 10 children.

Another interesting moment comes from a narrator who wasn’t there when it happened, but someone who was definitely influenced by it - Black Star member Talib Kweli. The MC tells a tale of simply owning and listening to a recording of a Stokely Carmichael speech shortly after 9/11, trying to board a JetBlue flight and being detained by the FBI.

It’s a film that tells both sides of the story - not everyone agrees with Dr. King’s messages and ideas, but the consensus is clear. As stated by the owner of an all-black bookstore, “Black isn’t power, knowledge is power.”

-Nicholas Friesen

Sound It Out

Directed by Jeanie Finlay, 2011
75 minutes
Plays at Cinematheque June 15-16 and June 21 at 9 p.m.

It’s not quite Vinyl, Alan Zweig’s 2000 documentary about rabid record collectors, but this Indiegogo-funded doc is a pretty entertaining portrait of the clerks and customers at the last vinyl store in Teesside, England.

The film is a snapshot of the community that hunts out LPs, seven-inch records and everything in between. Ninety-nine per cent of them are men with no wives/girlfriends who don’t smoke or drink, with their collections that spill from shelves in their listening rooms to boxes in their bedrooms.

Are these men filling holes in their lives with wax they’ll never listen to? It seems so, as one father of two decides to simply sell his entire collection based on the fact that he now has a life.

Occasionally leaving the Sound It Out shop to enter the homes of these fans, we enter the caves of metal fans, a House DJ, a Status Quo junkie and a Bowie booster.
The customers talk about how there’s nothing to do and no jobs, so they just hang out and listen to music to keep out of trouble.

An intimate in-store performance from local gal Saint Saviour that appears halfway through the film provides the moment when you realize indie record stores are truly special and unique.

Never condescending, Tom, the main “character” in this doc, is the clerk who feels bad about turning vinyl sellers away for having “well-loved” records. This is a breath of fresh air from recent reality shows such as Pawn Stars that talk down to the customers for a cheap laugh.

Tom and co-worker David don’t even quibble about HMV stores (the well-known chain began in the UK), as they aren’t really “record shops.” Even the customers agree - they come and see Tom because Tom actually knows what they want. People that actually know anything about music are usually fired from HMV.

It’s a meandering film that never really picks up, but it’s engaging nonetheless.

- Nicholas Friesen

Forks Over Knives

2011, 90 mins
Directed by Lee Fulkerson
Plays at Cinematheque June 15-17 and 20 at 7 p.m.

Forks Over Knives explores the “profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods.”

Lee Fulkerson’s film opens with some staggering statistics on the health of modern Americans: The health crisis has reached the point where one in four four-year-olds is obese, and one in three Americans will develop diabetes within their lifetime.

Fulkerson is close to becoming a statistic himself, so he decides to take on the “whole food, plant-based” (the term “vegan” is rarely used) diet that the film’s main scientific contributors, physician Caldwell Esselstyn and professor of nutritional biochemistry T. Colin Campbell, profess to be a “cure-all.”

Do not watch Forks Over Knives expecting to be entertained. Fulkerson is no self-deprecating personality like his fellow documentarians, Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock. His intent is to examine the results of years of research compiled by Esselstyn and Campbell and experience the effects of the diet on his own health.

The film plays with little humour to lighten the subject matter, and the pacing begins to drag toward the end. While I was engrossed in the information, it became overwhelming, with too many talking heads.

It is interesting to have this information delivered with a scientific, health-focused approach, which should dissuade those that believe a vegan diet is solely for “bleeding-heart hippies.”

However, a lot of it seems to be common sense: cut out processed foods and you cut the health risks.

But maybe seeing a film like this is what it takes for people to make the connection.

- Kaeleigh Ayre

Published in Volume 66, Number 27 of The Uniter (May 30, 2012)

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