The Provincetown International Film Festival just wrapped its’ 14th season, boasting two new theaters and a very strong line-up of Docs.
Documentary Film Making was taken to a whole new level of social activism by filmmaker Kirby Dick and his powerful, unforgettable expose of female(and male) rape in the military called “The Invisible War.” It’s one of the best films of the year and is certainly going to be a very serious contender for an Oscar nomination in the always contentious Best Documentary category.
“The Invisible War” was named Best Doc when the Film Festival gave out its’ awards and Dick was there being honored as recipient of the Faith Hubley Career Achievement Award for his astounding body of work. His ground-breaking docs include “Twist of Faith”, “This Film Is Not Yet Rated”, “Sick” and many inflammatory others.”The Invisible War” also won the 2012 Audience Award at Sundance.
No stranger to controversy “The Invisible War’ is Kirby Dick’s most shocking film yet, as it details the facts that lead to the horrifying conclusion that nearly every female that enters the armed forces may very well be the victim of a violent rape. The statistics that Dick presents are beyond frightening. At least one in four women in the military have reported being sexually assaulted by their fellow soldiers and officers. And this figure is considered way under-reported.
And the women have virtrually no redress, because it is to the very same men who raped them that they have to report the crime.Which continues to go unpunished as the men are left free to pursue successful military careers, while it it the women who are accused as the perpetrators and prosecuted for adultery. In 2012, these circumstances are unbelievable, but true, as Dick carefully lays out incident after frightening incident. The viewer is left outraged and numb, as are the female victims “The Invisible War” so bravely champions.
“The Invisible War” details the stories of four or five of the bravest of these victims of these horrific casualties and how Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, referred to in the film as PTSD, is something that these women, and men, too, have to live with for the rest of their lives, some enduring permanent physical as well as emotional and psychological damage.
If there was ever a doc poised to jump out of its’ category and into a Best Film race of Ten Films(if that happens again this year) “The Invisible War” is the film that could do it. It is a towering, staggering achievement in the history of cinema as social action.
On a lighter note, it was another doc that impressed me. It was “Me @the Zoo” about the trannie You Tube sensation Chris Crocker. Crocker, now 24, became famous overnight online as he wailed “LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!” into his video camera at home in his grandmother’s house in rural South, racking up over 270 million hits.
Ultra-sharp filmmakers Chris Moukarbel and Valerie Veatch have created an extremely compelling doc on this online phenom. It reminded me of “The Naked Civil Servant”, the ’70s British documentary that re-created flamboyant homosexual Quentin Crisp’s out gay life in the ’30,’40s, ’50s and ’60s in pre-Gay Lib London.
Crisp only had his flame-colored hair, painted lips and nails and outrageous female stance as his weapons against the hypocrisy of British society. Chris Crocker has the Internet and his camera. And You Tube! Another effeminate homosexual who was so bullied, his proud and protective grandmother as well as the authorities of his local schools feared for his safety daily, so they advised him not to go to high school.
A virtual prisoner in his grandmother’s home, Crocker turned his camera on himself and in a series of outrageous You Tube homages to his idol pop star Britney Spears. He found freedom, recognition and in the end, fame and also an income. by charting the Pop Icon’s every move up and down the ladder of paparazzi/tabloid infused superstardom.
In reality, a very soft-spoken, intelligent and sensitive young man, he posits through “Me @the Zoo” that all his work is really a performance. Performance Art, actually, using the Internet as a medium. In the end “Me @the Zoo” is a tremendous condemnation of bullying, which is the film’s true subject. And like with “The Invisible War” I was gripped,moved and outraged from beginning to end. Bravo! Brava! Leave Britney alone, but DON’T for one minute, leave Chris Crocker alone! Keep your eye on this young gay man. He’s more than just an Internet Flash-in-the-Pan. “Me @the Zoo” shows that he is here to stay.
And then there was the beautiful, sensitive, heartfelt documentary memoir of the late Gay Activist Vito Russo directed by Jeffrey Swartz. A friend, I found “Vito” absolutely devastating, as in the end of this engaging, moving tribute, Russo’s life is cut short by AIDS. The author of the “Celluloid Closet”, this gentle, brilliant writer, film critic, and revolutionary is tragic beyond words for he simply, like so many of his generation, and most of my gay friends, died too soon.
On a completely different note, Rory Kennedy’s biographical doc on her mother the still-with-us Ethel Kennedy, was also powerful, compelling and gripping and also continuously,surprisingly funny. The most private of public figures, “Ethel” breaks new ground by having Ethel Kennedy herself speak in her own voice about the amazing life she led as wife of the late Attorney General Robert Kennedy and the sister-in-law of the late President John F. Kennedy, both assassinated in the 1960s. Many and most of these topics have never been spoken of before by her, and certainly not in a public forum. Her youngest daughter Rory, who was born six months after Robert Kennedy was killed, is able to coax out of her famous mother. admissions, reminiscences and yes, jokes, that most likely any other reporter or journalist would never have been able to get the publicity-shy Ethel to reveal.
How did she ever survive all these tragedies? Well, “Ethel” beautifully and warmly reveals that it was the strength she got from her Catholic faith and her love of her eleven(!!) children that helped her surmount almost every challenge life threw in her path.
There were also some marvelous fiction feature films at the Provincetown International Film Festival 2012, too. “Two Days in New York” by Julie Delpy and “The Intouchables,” the most successful French film of all time, gave PIFF a charming, humorous Gallic flavor. “Gayby” the story of a determined duo of a straight girl and her gay BFF trying to have a baby together was delightful and very funny. “Take This Waltz” Sarah Polley’s directorial follow-up to “Away From Me” gives us another luminous performance from Michelle Williams as a conflicted Canadian housewife, torn between her stay-at-home husband Seth Rogen and her alluring lover Luke Kirby, Williams never disappoints.
And good as they all were, it was the Docs this year that rocked my world. And Provincetown!