Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Here's an excerpt from "Reeling in a Lone Star State: SXSW Rocks the Docs," a review by Thomas White of the International Documentary Association:

Running with Arnold tackles an equally improbable, but improbably successful campaign—that of Arnold Schwarzenegger for Governor of California. The film, by longtime journalist Dan Cox in his first effort as a filmmaker, focuses on the celebrity and the larger-than-lifeness of the candidate and governor, utilizing clips and quotes from politically oriented comics, as well as scenes from the governator's action-adventure films. What's given short shrift is the substance behind the candidate-turned-governor, who has since proven that his run for Sacramento was not just a whim, nor was his victory a fluke. Given his re-election—as a Republican, in a landslide, in a blue state, when the Republican Party had taken a “thumpin'” across the nation—an examination of his acumen for politics and governance was surely needed in the film, no matter what one's political stripe.

Arnold—or at least the action-hero characters he plays—might find a fan in Billy Price, the endearing protagonist of Jennifer Venditti's Billy the Kid, which earned the Jury Prize for Best Documentary. I was initially skeptical of seeing a documentary about a 15-year-old, but there was something so engaging about Billy—his honesty, his self-deprecating humor, his intelligence, his pain—that my misgivings subsided from the very first shot: a close-up of his open mouth. This was no James at 15 meets The Wonder Years . The high school paradigm has been examined in many notable documentaries— Senior Year, American High, High School, Sixteen at Webster Groves, Seventeen. Billy the Kid joins that stately pantheon with this apotheosis of the anxiety, angst, awkwardness and loneliness of adolescence. But more so, the film celebrates that time-honored high school archetype: The Loser—the one who couldn't get a prom date, who sat alone in the cafeteria, who embraced a rhythm and rhyme that was off-kilter from the rest of the school. Kurt Cobain remarked in AJ Schnack's About A Son that the jocks who beat him up in high school were now buying his records. Beck wrote a song about being a loser, and that made him rich and famous. At the closing night party for SXSW, I remarked to the producer of Billy the Kid that everyone in the room could probably relate to Billy, that we should all embrace our Inner Loser.

Learn more about the world of documentary film at the International Documentary Association.


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