a place for sharing all things photographic and some things not

Documentary

Deep Sea Challenge

It’s been a while since I’ve written on a current event, but I’ve recently stumbled upon one that seems to be quite intriguing.

National Geographic has started a new expedition entitled the Deep Sea Challenge, and they’ve designed a one man submarine to be sent down to the deepest depths of the ocean (which, if you didn’t know, is taller than Everest if measured in terms of absolute heigh/depth).

It’s an interesting venture and I was even more surprised to discover that the first pair to achieve this managed to do so in the 1960s – for all our romping around Space we still haven’t quite figured out the entire surface of our own world.

Anyway, I mentioned it’s a one man submarine, so who’s the man? He’s the veritable James Cameron, if you’ve never heard of him (which rock do you live under?) he directed the film Avatar and more aptly, Titanic. Why’s he involved? Well this is the real reason why I can post this here – the sub’s rigged with a ton of 3D cameras all over the place and Cameron will be putting together a film to bring the deepest part of our Earth to a screen near you! Do keep an eye out for it.

Cameron has recently completed the first dive down (setting a record along the way) and has come up, he’s taking a break to appear at the premieres of Titanic around the world, so he won’t be diving for a while. The adventure itself, though, is highly interesting and I believe it’s the first one that’s been open to so much public access.

Here’s a video from the site detailing the process of going down.

that is a pretty swanky sub

Anyway, the site URL is http://deepseachallenge.com/, I’ll leave it to the perusal of the movie buffs or the genuinely curious!


Documentaries (update)

On hindsight my previous post on documentaries to watch might have been a tad premature for not 3 days later were the Sundance 2012 Awards announced and my, what a great collection of films there were.

The entire list of movies and awards that were given out can be found here, but I just wanted to highlight a few that I thought were particularly interesting.

 

Searching for Sugar Man has an engaging synopsis – it’s about the search for famous 1970 South African musician ‘Rodriguez’, who was assumed to have died under mysterious circumstances. The search does yield some interesting results and well … I’ll leave you to watch it for yourself and find out. The movie is so fresh that it doesn’t yet have a trailer so keep a lookout for that.

 

‘National Geographic’ photographer James Balog was once a skeptic about climate change. But through his Extreme Ice Survey, he discovers undeniable evidence of our changing planet. In ‘Chasing Ice,’ we follow Balog across the Arctic as he deploys revolutionary time-lapse cameras designed for one purpose: to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers. Balog’s hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. Traveling with a young team of adventurers by helicopter, canoe and dog sled across three continents, Balog risks his career and his well-being in pursuit of the biggest story in human history. As the debate polarizes America and the intensity of natural disasters ramp up around the world, ‘Chasing Ice’ depicts a heroic photojournalist on a mission to gather evidence and deliver hope to our carbon-powered planet

– IMBD

There really isn’t much more to say from here, however, after An Inconvenient Truth this might be the next most important film to grace out planet. Especially so as debate over hydraulic fracturing, cap and trade policies and other environmental issues rages on with the upcoming US presidential election. While climate change is still considered a theory by many, one wonders how many more environmental films will have to come out (alongside a barrage of reports, photos and more tellingly, increase in natural disasters) before people start buying into it.

-Waiting for Superman

This was one of the films that I wanted to mention in the earlier post but it slipped my mind. The trailer is emotional and moving and I’m trying to find the documentary online. As Singapore, Finland and South Korea jostle for the position of ‘best education system’ what has become clear is that there is indeed no best system. There is however, a clear cut definition of a bad one, and what we can do to fix it.

I promised to update on how to get the films mentioned in the last post online and I have indeed found a way! Hell and Back Again and Gasland can be bought from the US Itunes store (if you have an account). I’m hoping to be able to get it soon via this method.

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom is still new and I can’t get it through any means yet, I’ll keep you folks updated here.


Documentary films to catch this season

Aside from photography, I also enjoy documentary films for they fall in the same vein of visual reportage and storytelling. Documentaries enable a longer story to be told and are often more emotional and captivating than a series of photos due to their extended period of engagement. I haven’t been following the recent documentaries too closely but here are a few I feel that are worth catching before they bow out of the documentary circuit.

Gasland by Josh Fox

Gasland isn’t a particularly recent production but it’s relevance has recently jumped a couple of levels as hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking) has recently become a very contentious issue between environmentalist and politicians. It’s been hailed as the magical remedy to America’s reliance on crude oil and many places have now been marked out for fracking developments. As the 2012 Elections near, this is bound to be an issue that will be brought up as Americans become more aware of this occurrence. Even if it doesn’t involve you directly, it is interesting to watch just to observe the relationship between the corporation, the government and the everyday man. The film does have it’s humorous characters and moments so despite all the unpleasant news that is being dished out, it isn’t just all doom and gloom.

Gasland won the special jury prize for the Sundance Film Festival (expect to see this name a lot, it’s quite synonymous with good documentaries) and an Emmy, and was also nominated for an Oscar.

Next up is Hell and Back Again, by Danfung Dennis

The film looks to be extremely visceral and intimate, the camera is never far from the combat. While trying hard not to take sides or make judgement, the film puts us into the eyes and shoes of a soldier and also what it means to be a soldier once the war is over. After watching Restrepo, I was greatly intrigued by the conditions of the war and I’m very interested in this film as well. I haven’t yet watched it but based on the reviews this is one film that should be caught as soon as possible.

Politically this plays a role in the rehabilitation of veterans as they return back home to peace. There have been multiple articles on veterans coming back and contributing to society in positive ways by taking up leadership positions and applying lessons learned in Afghanistan to situations back home. However, there have also been reports of negative impacts, such as the New York Times’ article on veterans anxiety while driving, you can read about it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/11/us/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-may-cause-erratic-driving.html

Ultimately this gives us a glimpse of the Afghanistan war and helps us to understand the situation of soldiers as they return back home. There will still be debate on whether the decision to get involved in the war as well as pulling out of it was a good idea, and this might add another layer to your perspective.

The film has won the World Cinema Jury Prize Documentary Award as well as the Cinematography Award at the Sundance Film Festivals. I don’t think the DVD has been released yet so I haven’t had a chance to watch it in full. I’ll put up updates once the DVD comes out.

Finally the most recent documentary that I’ve got my eyes set on hails from Japan. It’s titled The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom and it’s directed by Lucy Walker.

This one takes the prize of being the most recent, and it looks indeed to be a very promising summation of much of the shocking footage that emerged from the aftermath of the 2011 Japanese Tsunami (which was overshadowed greatly by the nuclear crisis). Besides being a summation, there seems to be very interesting glimpses of post-tsunami Japan and the much hailed resilience of the Japanese people in response to the entire event. The scenery is both catastrophic and beautiful and it looks to be a rather interesting mix of views. I’ll be interested to catch this because the media devoted most of it’s attention to the Fukushima crisis and I didn’t really get much about the rest of Japan.

While the scenery and film is beautiful, I read criticism on another website about the movie being too cinematic and not being true to the real situation of the aftermath. That really got me itching to go catch it somewhere, so that I’d be able to make my own judgement on that call.

The film still hasn’t won any major awards yet (for it’s still so fresh), but it’s making waves online and has already been selected as part of this year’s Sundance Selection as well as having been nominated for an Academy Award. Once again I have no idea how to catch the film because it’s unlikely to screen anywhere near here but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll bring it in for the Singapore International Film Festival. We’ll see.

A word of caution, I have yet to encounter a film that is perfectly neutral in it’s stance and presentation and almost all documentaries have their own personal agenda, so take the message of the director with a pinch of salt and be sure to cross check with other sources before taking all the facts as truths. Just because it’s entertaining doesn’t mean it’s true.

Take the following short documentary as an example, what do you make of it?