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|Written by Taryn Cheal|
|Monday, 14 May 2012 20:12|
Last week I attended a few showings of films at Vancouver's DOXA Documentary Film Festival, running from May 4-13. DOXA showed over 100 different films covering a huge range of topics included large personal vinyl collections, the Palestine-Israeli conflict, west coast architecture, and death. Read on for some of my reviews.
The most purely enjoyable documentary of my selections this year is Vinylmania: When Life Runs at 33 Revolutions Per Minute, by Italian filmmaker and DJ Paolo Campana, who exclusively DJs with vinyl records. The documentary tracks his journey to find out if there are other vinyl-maniacs like himself (spoiler alert: there are). He travels around the world to places like Japan, London and San Francisco looking for people with a passion for vinyl, along the way exploring the attraction to it and talking about the personal experiences of these people with their vinyl collections.
A repeated theme that most of the people Campana spoke to brought up is that vinyl records are a visual experience of music, almost as much as they are a sonic one. From the bumps within the grooves of the records that form a visual sound wave (if you look close enough), to the spinning of the record, to the album art, and the looks one gets walking down the street towing a trunk of records, the preference for vinyl over any electronic version of music values the visually aesthetic aspects as part of the listening experience. While in Japan, Campana goes to a company that manufactures laser record players rather than those with the traditional needle, producing immaculately clear sound, which sincerely impressed the filmmaker, but he lamented the lack of being able to see the record spin.
One DJ was adamant in his belief and exclusive use of vinyl, suggesting that the tangibility and ownability of a recordand the content it contains is one of the more valuable aspects of records. Suggesting that the physical imprint of music into the record allows the person who buys it to thus own the actual music, which gives the purchaser a concrete sense of commitment to the act of ownership, as opposed going onto iTunes and downloading half a dozen songs and deleting them in four months when you are tired of them. There is permanence to vinyl that does not exist with any other musical medium, an indication as to why people hold onto their vinyls over any other form. The film also explores the culture of buying records, which seems much more cutthroat than I feel comfortable with, with people jockeying for the position to get the first glimpse into a box of records before anyone else at a sale. In addition to the interesting content, the film was expertly shot, including montages of people demonstrating their varying techniques for thumbing through boxes upon boxes of records, or going through their personal collections. These two elements combine to make Vinylmania: When Life Runs at 33 Revolutions Per Minute a very entertaining film.
The next DOXA feature I viewed was Who Cares? by Canadian filmmaker Rosie Dransfeld. This documentary goes into the world of prostitutes in Edmonton, Alberta, highlighting the lives of one ex-prostitute, another as she tries to get off the streets, and the efforts of an RCMP initiative called Project KARE. This film is a part of the Making Waves program at DOXA this year that showcases the achievements of Canadian women documentary filmmakers.
The film first documented Project KARE, an RCMP program that collects personal information and DNA of prostitutes and other people living high-risk lifestyles in the hopes that in the event of an unidentified murder they would be able to find an identity and notify next of kin. This information is not available to anyone beyond this department and is only used in the unfortunate event of homicide. I found the program itself interesting because beyond maintaining a friendly relationship with the women and asking them if they have heard of any abuse from any other the other women, this agency does not offer active protection, only identification after the fact. While it is a sad reality, the reasoning was particularly interesting. As the central officer explains that these women will not give up their lifestyle until they want to, and at that time he can aid in connecting them to social workers, shelters or whatever services they require, so in the meantime, the only service he can provide is to help to identify them if they are murdered.
The other two primary narrative threads in Who Cares? follow two women, one who is an ex-prostitute and is dealing with the consequences of her previous life while she works to overcome that stigma. The other is a woman who announces to the camera that she is retiring and hopes to get clean and work towards a degree so she can work with prostitutes to help them also get off the streets and away from this terrible life. All three stories were touching and humanizing and provided insight into the problems that the individual faces when forced into this kind of lifestyle. I was touched by the officers working on Project KARE, as they did what they could for the women they were meeting and collecting data from, offering them water, a snack or condoms if needed. It was evident that these men cared for the women, and that they deeply felt for their situation, but were ultimately at a loss to save them. This film also underscored the abuse that these women face, by sharing personal stories of abuse from the women interviewed and through interviews with the RCMP officers who tell of the dangers that these women face on a daily basis.
One thing that really struck me as poignant was how the filmmaker repeatedly showed women getting into cars to go off with the Johns, these repeated images showing the unknown danger that lurked in every single interaction. These women do what they do in order to feed themselves and survive, but what they do not only puts them at a health risk, but a very real physical danger at all times because of the unknown element to their clientele. It was heartbreaking to think about, but truly eye-opening for me, because I was able to see the personal problems and struggles of these women who are desperate and trapped. This documentary did a really excellent job of highlighting the humanity of the problem, not just the social concerns that are widely known.