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|Shadows off the beaten path|
Indies, foreign, docs and shorts...
|See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 23.Sep.23|
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Rudy Valdez
prd Sara Bernstein, Justin Wilkes, Lizz Morhaim, Rudy Valdez
with Carlos Santana, Cindy Blackman Santana, Lety Santana, Maria Santana Vrionis, Deborah Santana, Salvador Santana, Stella Santana, Angelica Santana, Clive Davis, Bill Graham, Whoopi Goldberg, David Letterman
release US/UK 29.Sep.23
23/US Sony 1h27
Described by director Rudy Valdez as a hang out with musical legend Carlos Santana, this documentary is essentially an informal conversation interspersed with archival footage and snippets of music. Fans will fins plenty to love here, as the film is packed with terrific anecdotes as well as Carlos' unique brand of philosophising. These deeper ideas provide several thoughtful moments, especially as Carlos explores how music so often feels magical.
Born in Jalisco and raised in Tijuana, Carlos moved to San Francisco when his mariachi violinist father found work there. As a teen in the 1960s, Carlos developed his guitar style based on the likes of BB King, Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix. Then Fillmore Hotel founder Bill Graham put him on stage alongside Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dread. After signing a record deal with Clive Davis, his band played Woodstock before their first album dropped. Global success followed, and after indulging in sex and drugs, he went clean in 1972, adopting a spiritual approach.
Unusually, the film never offers outside perspective, simply seeing Carlos' life through his own singular perspective. This means that certain elements are played down, including as his hedonistic lifestyle and health problems. But he openly discusses his divorce from Deborah as well as his late-in-life revelation that he was sexually abused as a child. One of the interview settings is a desert campfire at sunset, which gives the entire film a warmly intimate texture.
Of course, it's also infused with music, although there aren't any performance clips covering an entire song. Instead, shorter clips fill every moment, with some terrific footage of Carlos on stage all the way through his career. And old family photos reveal his expectant young eyes, as well as his adoration of his father, who is seen throughout performing with his own band. The only other interviewees here are Santana's wife Cindy and his sisters Lety and Maria, who chat with him around a table, reinforcing the importance he places on family.
Carlos continually speaks of how music has power to capture hearts. It has caused him to dream expansively throughout his life, even now in his 70s. He's a terrific storyteller, with a twinkling sense of humour and perfectly timed punchlines. His firsthand account of unintentionally playing Woodstock while tripping is the highlight here, as he wrestled with his guitar thinking it was a snake. He's still wrestling, and urging people to use their creativity to add more beauty to the world.
Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Stephen Kijak
prd Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, George Chignell, Will Clarke, Carolyne Jurriaans
with Rock Hudson, Armistead Maupin, Doris Day, Linda Evans, Ross Hunter, Piper Laurie, Allison Anders, Illeana Douglas, Lee Garlington, Joe Carberry, Ken Jillson, Ken Maley, Howard McGillin, Peter Kevoian
release US 28.Jun.23,
23/UK Altitude 1h44
An intimate approach sets this documentary apart, as it looks into the life of one of Hollywood's icons. Rock Hudson was the world's biggest star in the in the 1950s and 60s, divided between his public machismo and his private homosexuality. By including so many firsthand interviews, it's clear that his life in the closet was happy, and his death in 1985 changed the way the world viewed Aids.
Born Roy Fitzgerald and renamed by his agent, Rock Hudson was the model of tall, rugged masculinity. Part of his charm was that his films regularly questioned his tough-guy image, most notably in his romantic comedies with Doris Day, which played comically with ideas of homosexuality. He proved his acting chops in serious films like All That Heaven Allows and Giant, then became a top TV star in the 1970s and 80s. The whole world was shocked when he wasted away and died in private, the first major celebrity to die from Aids-related illnesses.
Director Kijak takes a fairly straightforward journey through Hudson's life, using his own voice to narrate his story alongside costars, filmmakers, friends and lovers. The extent of archival material is hugely impressive, including clips of Douglas Sirk talking about him, plus a revealing array of home movies and snapshots. And the way Kijak assembles the film clips effectively dramatises Hudson's life, both revealing the extent of his talent and almost allowing him to play out forbidden real-life events.
Hudson was the epitome of virile heterosexuality in public, and he seems to have been comfortable with that image, even if his off-screen persona was far more jovial and sensitive. Interviews describe a man who preferred to keep his private life in the closet, even if it meant that he could never have a lasting relationship. So his friends describe his casual sexual contacts and close friendships alongside hints of hedonistic excess. Even after he finally admitted he was dying due to Aids, it's left to his friend Maupin to confirm his sexuality to the press.
This is an unusually clear-eyed doc, packed with knowing insight about Hudson's life. The varying quality of the interview material may make this movie feel a bit overlong, and the people who speak are sometimes rather cagey about details. But Hudson's story is a pivotal element in the bigger picture of cinema and queer history, with an added angle on American culture that is rarely discussed. All of this makes the film remarkably important.
Review by Rich Cline |
TORONTO FILM FEST
Shot in indigenous territory in Canada, this documentary centres around a summer camp in Alberta that has created a space for queer teens to be themselves in like-minded company, perhaps for the first time in their lives. Director Jennifer Markowitz simply allows these kids to tell their stories, revealing a range of experiences and feelings that help the audience identify with them. Their honesty is important and moving.
Camp Firefly is an oasis in a harsh world. While their parents are supportive enough to send them here, these young people have had to come out multiple times, clarifying their gender, sexuality and identity to families, teachers and classmates. But they wonder why they have to define themselves in such limited terms. The camp's resident artist Marshall says the staff's job is to let these kids be normal, so they encourage campers to let out their inner fierceness. And as they connect with older people like them, they begin to envision a promising future.
Aged 14 to 18, these young people need space to figure out who they are before they can have proper conversations with their parents. Dating is on their mind, but the main thing is to find friends who understand them. Isaiah and his buddies came here when they were much younger teens, and feel like the cool kids now. Manessa talks about the intersectionality of her groups as an immigrant, adoptee, Black and queer. Ren never knew queer people existed until she read about a gay couple in a novel.
In every way, this is a standard summer camp, with games, crafts, sports, horse riding and a talent show. The campers get a chance to talk to the Rainbow Elders from Calgary, who recount stories that these kids can personally identify with, offering inspiration and encouragement. They also echo similar stories about religious bigotry and social prejudice, but speak of surviving and thriving.
These young people note how nice it is to have a good time without having to explain who they are, fully understanding that they can only feel satisfied if they live as their true selves. They also relay their appreciation for people who, even if they get things wrong sometimes, are trying to understand. And along with finding support, this camp is a rare chance for these young people to offer support to their peers. This is the kind of doc that can help nudge feelings and opinions in the right direction. It should be mandatory viewing.
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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