In which we take stock of a few ambitious outings in the Santa Cruz Film Festival
Catch up on all the latest buzz at http://scfilmfest.org/
Abramoff exploits eroding democracy in trenchant ‘Casino Jack’
Just in case you’re not outraged enough over the stranglehold by which corporate interests have crippled the American political process, along comes Casino Jack And The United States Of Money to make it all perfectly clear. Alex Gibney’s new documentary is densely packed with information, but persuasive and eye-opening; it charts the course of “uber-lobbyist” Jack Abramoff, from ultra-conservative Young Republican with a James Bond complex in the Reagan ’80s to the most influential political power broker in America—and the disintegrating fabric of American democracy that permitted it to happen.
There’s plenty to go gaga over in ‘Babies’
It took director Thomas Balmès four years to give birth to Babies—talk about labor pains—so here’s hoping local audiences consider the new film a bundle of joy. Chance are they will.
The engaging documentary (HHH1/2 out of four), which opens Friday at The Nick, chronicles the offspring of four couples from different parts of the world, tracking a year of their baby’s life—from birth to first steps. There’s a boy from Mongolia, a girl from Namibia and a feisty gal from Tokyo. Best of all is San Francisco’s Hattie Bradshaw.
Naturally, her parents, Frazer Bradshaw and Susie Wise, couldn’t be more proud. Bradshaw is a cinematographer. He actually shot a good portion of Hattie’s footage whenever Balmès was in other parts of the globe filming the other babies. Wise teaches “design thinking” at Stanford.
Australian brothers craft a punchy noir debut
Film noir is alive and thriving in Australia. The proof is in The Square, an edgy thriller from the appropriately named Edgerton brothers, director Nash and co-writer/co-star Joel, whose raw, invigorating morality play captures the spirit of noir in all its gritty intensity—then ratchets the whole thing up that one outrageous step further. Twisty, smart, epic in its themes, but absolutely life-sized and credible in its characterizations, this is the kind of fast and furious thrill ride Quentin Tarantino can only dream of making.
Undersea kingdoms explored in poetic eco-doc 'Oceans'
A few years ago, French documentary filmmaker Jacques Perrin astonished the world with Winged Migration, an extraordinary you-are-there look at bird life in which cameras seemed to soar in the air alongside geese, gulls, and other migrating flocks. Perrin now sets the bar for wildlife documentaries, so it's no surprse it took him and his intrepid team some seven years to complete filming for his new release, Oceans. Although this time Perrin's cameras delve deep—often straight to the sandy bottom—of the world's seven seas, Oceans too soars in its own poetic way. Particularly when sea creatures huge and small are performing lazy aerial ballets in the vastness of blue aquatic space.
THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE PENTAGON PAPERS
The engrossing story of the brainy Rand Corp. employee who smuggled out the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times is told by filmmakers Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith in this lively, coherent and informative Oscar-nominated documentary. Fri., May 14, 2:15 p.m., at the Del Mar.
New leadership preserves intrepid, independent vision in Santa Cruz Film Festival IX
One-woman human dynamo Jane Sullivan may be out of the picture, but the show will go on next week for the ninth annual Santa Cruz Film Festival. While Sullivan enjoys a much-deserved sabbatical, the festival's intrepid board of directors has risen to the challenge of producing SCFF IX, which begins Thursday, May 6, and runs through Sunday, May 15. Under the guidance of a newly created leadership team made up of longtime board members and festival veterans, SCFF IX will feature 133 films from 33 countries (40 of them locally produced) at multiple venues around town, along with a full slate of panels, workshops, parties, live music, gala receptions, and a demonstration of extreme hula-hooping.