Saturday Morning Documentary: Outrage

10 08 2010
outrage poster

Outrage

Gays can be pretty mean mofos.  That’s essentially the premise of Kirby Dick’s 2009 documentary, Outrage.  But we’re not talking trash talk mean–it goes way beyond that.  As we see from Dick’s examination of closeted American policitians, apparently gays will do anything to keep their image as a heterosexual–even if it means denying their own people rights.  Dick attempts to out several allegedly gay policitians with his film; whether it is right or not is up to the viewer to decide.

This is a film you have to watch for yourself and anyway, Dick explains things a lot better than I can right now (also it’s been a while since I’ve seen the film).  If you aren’t outraged at any point during the movie, I’d be surprised, at the things some people will do for their reputation.  In the wake of the recent overturning of Prop 8, Outrage is a reminder that there are certainly gay policitians in the US, though you could’ve just as easily confused them with a Republican.





Saturday Morning Documentary: Freeheld

17 07 2010

Laurel and Stacie

Laurel and Stacie

At first, I thought watching a documentary short would be cheating for my documentary mornings on the weekend, but now that I think about it, it’s not the length that counts, it’s the fact that it is a documentary — a film that shows real life.  I was randomly scouring the pages on imdb like I do sometimes, aimlessly clicking on link after link of things.  I think I started off with Christopher Nolan’s Inception since it’s coming out this weekend, then clicked on Ellen Page, then clicked on one of her upcoming movies, titled Freeheld.  The synopsis was intriguing enough, about a lesbian couple trying to obtain pension benefits when before one of them dies from lung cancer.  As I scrolled down the page, I noticed it was a remake of a 2007 film of the same name, and instinctively thinking, “Oh god.  Another crappy remake”, I clicked on the original title.  What surprised me what that 1) the original is a 38 minute documentary short and 2) it won an Oscar.  More intrigued than ever and being very interested in social issues like this, I decided to Freeheld my film for this morning.

“You have denied Lieutenant Hester a pension she worked hard for.  A pension, that like every other officer who worked, derserves.  And you’re denying those benefits to her partner because her partner is not a man.”

Freeholders

The Freeholders

This is the opening line of the film, spoken by George Farrugia, part of the Gay Officers Action League (I didn’t know there was such a thing but I’m not really surprised).  Laurel Hester, a former Lieutenant of Ocean County, New Jersey, is dying from lung cancer.  She wants to pass on pension benefits to her partner, Stacie Andree but of course, there’s a problem — the county won’t allow it, that it only applies to hetersexual couples.  The film chronicles Laurel and Stacie’s fight for justice not only for themselves and their situation, but for same-sex couples in the county and in New Jersey.  What surprised me was how many people supported Hester and Andree.  Perhaps I’m merely pessimistic when it comes to gay rights and issues and assume that there must be opposition ALWAYS but I was pleasantly surprised.  The only people that were holding back were the Freeholders, the county officials who determine whether or not the benefits can be passed on; they are the people who can change the life for the couple.  As Hester’s health worsens, time slowly runs out for the couple to get permission from the Freeholders, who are hesitant to allow them the pension benefits.  Although the reasons behind their denial are only speculative (someone in the film suggests why they’re reluctant to say yes, but I won’t spoil it), they can’t ignore the voices of people in the room, powerfully chanting,”You have the power!  You have the power!”

There are few documentaries (and films, for that matter) that really resonate with me and make me cry.  But this little film does that.  It made me think of what would happen if I were in Laurel and Stacie’s situation, and made me very, very glad to be living here in Canada.  There are some powerful words spoken in the film, like this one by Joan Hervey, of the Garden State Equality: “Please don’t let her die.  Don’t let her die remembering you saying ‘No.  No, you’re not good enough; your 25 years of service was not good enough.  The criminals you put away, the lives you saved was not worth our time.'”

Thank you to Laurel Hester for such a compelling and moving story, and to Cynthia Wade for directing and making this film available to people.  It really touched me, and I’m willing to bet it did with plenty of other people.  Perhaps Laurel herself sums everything she goes through in the film thebest: “We’re just average people that have a home and a couple dogs and pay our taxes.  And we just wanted everything to be… equal.”

Freeheld

Supporters of Laurel and Stacie





Saturday Morning Documentary: Paul Merton in China

16 07 2010
The funny Paul Merton

The funny Paul Merton

Who’s Paul Merton?  Well, for those of us North Americans, he is well-known in England as a comedian/occasional actor and his travels in China are unique and interesting, to say the least.  His goal was to explore China the unconventional way, avoiding the typical tourist attractions like the Great Wall to get a glimpse of the true heart of the country.  Merton’s charm and humor draw viewers in every episode and he serves as the perfect host for the series.  With only 4 episodes of his travels in China, he still manages to do quite a lot — from eating exotic and strange cuisine like a donkey’s penis in the first episode to buying a pair of fighting crickets that escape on the train to visiting a Shaolin temple complete with martial arts-practicing monks.

What makes this series unique is the people he meets along the way who are full of heart, full of stories that we never see in other travel shows.  The villagers in rural China who have lived that way are unsure of their children’s future as urban areas expand and cover their land is a sad an unfortunate situation — the traditional and the modern way in conflict.  Because it’s been a while since I’ve seen the series, I can’t fully recall all the things Paul does and all the people he meets but I can say that this is a fun, humorous series — like a B-sides disc to the more well-known album.  A definite favourite of mine to watch for the beautiful landscape and to take a look at the China people rarely, if ever, see.