January 2005

Arthur Kanegis on Film

The Worst
of Times
are the
Best of Times
The Explosion of Documentary Films
Michael Moore

Michael Moore Scene4

I've never seen a less-joyous face receiving top honors in a Hollywood Award Show than when Michael Moore received best feature award for Fahrenheit 9/11 at the International Documentary Association.  At the December 10th IDA Annual Achievement Gala, Moore lamented "Thank you, but the award show I really wanted to win was the one held November 2nd."

Despite the gloom, Moore, who's web-site sports "17 reasons not to slit your wrist," struggles to look on the bright side.   Maybe now that Bush has "proved his point, avenged his father and kicked our ass… he'll spend his lame-duck years like a permanent Friday – party time!"    

Moore, grateful that 57 million people voted against Bush, turned to the Canadian Consulate General and implored him to stem the exodus and turn it around: "Infiltrate America:  We need a Canadian in every church basement, every town meeting infecting us with such dangerous thoughts as the crazy notion that when people get sick they should have a doctor!"

Moore closed by leading us all in a ringing rendition of the Canadian national anthem: "Oh, Canada, Oh Canada…"

The Consulate General tried to keep from laughing long enough to enjoy the honor. He was here at The Director's Guild to join Mr. N. Bird Running Water as he presented the Pioneer Award. The award went to Alanis Obomsawin, an Abenaki Indian who has produced, directed and composed music for 20 films documenting the history, achievements and tribulations of native peoples in Canada.

Another International official was Ahmad Fawzi who represented the United Nations in accepting the IDA Preservation and Scholarship award for the UN's extraordinary film library - used by documentary film makers around the world.  

Other top honors went to:

Born into Brothels, which shared top honors with Moore's film, is an intriguing look at Calcutta's red light district through the eyes of children of prostitutes who were taught by Zana Briski to photograph their own lives.   

The New Americans miniseries was awarded for its powerful stores of refugees – ordinary people who suddenly find themselves torn from their homes, ripped-off of their possessions and "unwanted" in the place of their birth.  Fleeing war and repression, a few lucky ones make it to America and start over from the bottom of the heap.

Mighty Times Vol. 2: The Children's March showed brave children during the 1963 civil rights struggle in Alabama facing down cops, getting arrested, getting released, and then running right back into the paddy wagon for more – not because they liked the game (the nightsticks were too painful) but because they were desperate for freedom.  In the face of intense intimidation, children managed to turn the tide where adults had failed.

Oil on Ice totally captivated me with the stunning beauty of the Artic National Wildlife Preserve – teaming with life -- the richest assortment of wildlife in North America.  The film contrasts this splendor  with the words of politicians, like Tony Knowles, former Alaska Governor, who speaks of "development of the artic national oil, er, ah wildlife refuge" and Senator  Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) who holds up a totally white blank foam-board and proclaims to his fellow Senators:  "This is what it looks like… Don't be misinformed."  Amory Lovins and other environmentalist counter with facts including the remarkable calculation that if right-wing politicians hadn't derailed the fuel-efficiency steps we started from 1977-1985, we would have eliminated imports from the Gulf and been energy independent for the past decade and into the future.

The American Masters series profiled Judy Garland, Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, Julia Child, Billie Holiday and many others.  

"When they went to my closets, they found shoes, not skeletons," brags Philippines First Lady Imelda Marcos, who seems to tout herself as a fore-runner to the era of Greed.  The documentary Imelda follows her rise to power, and fall to the People-Power nonviolent revolution.   

I wish we had space to tell you about all the fabulous film-makers and more honored and nominated films – such as Control Room, The Corporation, Supersize Me, Tarnation and many more—so please just click on www.documentary.org for more information.

Interview with Jeff Gibbs, Michael Moore's High-School Friend, Collaborator and Composer.

"Michael and I have been friend for 34 years – we met in High School" said Jeff Gibbs in an interview after the award ceremony.  "We were both on the student council.  We had those big old theaters in Flint.  It was always a real treat to go to the movies."

"Later Michael and I went to film appreciation school at U of Michigan, Flint.   We saw Blow Up, Wild Strawberries – lots of films."

"I didn't even know what a DP does," Gibbs said, "when Michael asked me to drive around and find subjects to film for Columbine.   So I took off from work with a sick day and  found "Bomb Boy" who makes bombs in his back yard.  I found a football field sponsored by a funeral home.  A bank giving away guns instead of toasters.  I didn't have any training but I knew what blew my mind.   

"I was taking Michael and a van full of New Yorkers around telling them what to shoot.   Finally Michael said: 'why don't you stick around?'   I quit my job as a social worker, rolled up my sleeves and plunged in."    

"Michael asked me if I could go to Saint Helen, MI, where Charlton Heston grew up, and find 6 people who know him.  I knocked on every door.  I found a Librarian who was pissed at Heston because he hadn't donated, and she opened up a floodgate."      

When Heston failed to respond to requests for an interview, Moore's crew simply followed Star Maps and showed up at his Beverly Hills Mansion gate.  "You wouldn't know it watching the movie, but we were so nervous at Heston's gate that Moore nearly hyperventilated."

The rest is history – Bowling for Columbine broke all records.

Gibbs became Field Producer of Bowling for Columbine and  Co-Producer of Fahrenheit 9/11.

He is also a self-taught musician who scored the original music in "Bowling For Columbine" and "Fahrenheit 9/11". The latest CD of his original music, "Reflections", includes selections featured in "Bowling For Columbine". He feels that his music is "all about emotion, not the notes"  (www.jeffgibbs.com)

"I'm upset that the evil-doers won this election.  But I think we need to come together – own up to the dark side in all of us, and find the light side as well. The Red states have something to offer. If you show up at a Southern Baptist or evangelical church, they are going to be singing, dancing, taking you out to dinner.  The left is missing the joy.  We need to give people joy and hope in a very dark time."

Drawing by Dean Lewis

© 2004 Arthur Kanegis

Arthur Kanegis founded www.FutureWAVE.org and is working to develop and produce stories about new kinds of heroes, including a feature film focused on the dramatic adventures of the first
World Citizen, Garry Davis. More information at:www.onemotionpicture.com

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