I wasn't expecting this level of ambition. Not only do we see… MoreI wasn't expecting this level of ambition. Not only do we see Zachary's story of self-discovery unfold from his birth to his mid 20s, we also see the evolution of his family and the surrounding culture from the 50s through the 70s. Unexpectedly, the movie so accurately captures the horror and humiliation a child often goes through while suffering from nocturnal enuresis, or "bedwetting," when we see Zach get outed at summer camp. By avoiding sleepovers, I managed to successfully keep my bedwetting known only to my immediate family, but that is where I was also shamed by my step-mother and step-brothers who lectured and teased me about being too lazy or too chicken to go upstairs to the bathroom. My father, more nurturing in his approach but still lacking understanding, also believed it was voluntary. When I was around six, a couple of years before my step-family came into the picture, he started paying me $5 for every night that I didn't wet the bed, inadvertently seeding my humiliation and confusion over whether I could fix myself if I really wanted to, and why it it was that I subconsciously chose not to. Unlike 0.5-1% of adults out there and all people in the LGBT community, my developmental abnormality abruptly came to an end at age 13, confirming that assigning neurosis to my condition was absurd. Fortunately, kids are now blessed with the internet to educate themselves and even their families. The message both me and Zachary learned is the same: do not trust people with your differences, exposing yourself will only result in further isolation and loneliness. This lesson is more acutely relevant for Zach, because he was also born with a more polarizing and permanent sexual difference that his father and society also believes are chosen behaviors, and he doesn't want to be outed again.
My biggest criticism with the film is that it seems confused and possibly ignorant about the main character's identity. When Zach is a young boy, he shows strong signs of "gender identity disorder," where he only wants a baby stroller for Christmas and he dresses up in his mother's clothes, puts on makeup, and acts like a mother to his infant brother. In the next timeline transition, immediately after his summer camp bedwetting trauma, this desire and behavior disappears entirely and never returns in the film, including when we see him alone. Instead, he becomes hardened and aggressive with a strong counterculture fashion sense and discovering an attraction to men. It's as if another writer took over and switched out Zach's brain, or at least the transgendered part.
This underwhelming documentary does not live up to its title or… MoreThis underwhelming documentary does not live up to its title or marketing. Visually, Jessica Yu did a great job keeping us engaged, but the film lacks coherent focus, substance beyond conjecture, and dare I say honesty in it's coverage.
The first 20 minutes creates an adequate, cohesive thread introducing two water depletion issues affecting the western United States (the desert city Las Vegas, and the Central Valley), but we don't get any data or evidence to be convinced these represent a sweeping issue around the globe. Rather than explain some infrared imagery of the earth like any 10 minute TEDTalk presentation would do, the professor behind the images is simply reduced to vacuous dramatic tension by saying some form of "we're screwed" every time he's cut into the narrative. It reminds me of when I would come home from school ten years ago; a local christian station had a daily program on that spent an hour connecting the current international news events to the book of Revelations with their point being that the rapture was coming soon and that President Bill Clinton was most likely the Anti-Christ who would unite the world as the leader of he U.N. Any fool can make an argument; I need compelling evidence to show me it's worth my time to consider.
From here, the film then abruptly shrinks itself down to a handful of 15 minute anecdotal vignettes, mostly on a few individuals in small American towns. These feel like desperate time fillers, superficial in their coverage (again, lacking data to either show us a problem or the cause) and too niche to be relevant to most Americans let alone the global community. Instead of water shortages, these mostly had to do with random accounts of pollution in small community water supplies, usually involving agriculture. I had to laugh at one point when it tried to make an algae bloom in lake Michigan sound like an unsafe toxin. Algae is just a benign, natural, single-celled aquatic vegetation that grows rapidly in warm and sunny water, as all photosynthetic organisms are prone to do.
In the last 20 minutes, the film picks back up where the first 20 minutes left off, a quick look at a couple of government water projects outside the US that affect the supply of others. Its message about the social effect was that when neighboring countries have water disputes, it actually ends up being the topic that brings them together amicably with a shared future vision.
We can feel the limitations in the budget by the shots that aren't… MoreWe can feel the limitations in the budget by the shots that aren't shown, but the shots we are given are convincing. The story is a "B movie" thriller/horror by design, but it's produced very intelligently with its less than $10 million budget.
We are given a gentle, touching narrative of the Myanmar people,… MoreWe are given a gentle, touching narrative of the Myanmar people, largely a Buddhist nation which had an authoritarian government and lacks severely in education and human rights. Many children who were asked said they only had 1 or 2 years of school. No one can afford it. Child labor and the trafficking of young girls is heavy. And as in other countries in the area, there are hundreds of cultures and many different languages. It is hard to bring a country together that has so many different ethnicities, cultures, and potentially values. We get an informative glimpse at the past 80 years of Myanmar's history, environmental challenges, living conditions, and citizen's perspectives. My main complaint with this documentary may be an unjust one, but it felt a bit limited in the same way that a person's vacation footage only narrowly covers the country they explored. But since cameras were forbidden during the time of this production, the limitation is understandable, and Director Lieberman does provide a nice interview with an admirable and hopeful voice of democracy - only this politician, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, had been under house arrest for 15 years at the time of the film's production. Since then, some promising governmental moves have taken place and she has been released and elected into parliament. Her party, National League for Democracy, won 43 of the 45 seats available during the 2012 by-elections, after being unbanned just the year before.
This movie strives and succeeds to do nothing more than give us… MoreThis movie strives and succeeds to do nothing more than give us complete, unrequited intimacy with female prostitutes of Thailand, Bangladesh, and Mexico, none of whom wanted their names on the film. It's remarkable how candid and comfortable everyone is with the camera present. There is no verbal narrative from Director Glawogger, only the women and their customers, but Glawogger complements their stories with a delicate soundtrack and camera angles full of information, sensation, and introspection. There are no judgements explicitly placed here, nor are there any motions of activism. The film invites the viewer to think for themselves about the whys and the hows of economics, society, culture, and the instinctual drive for both sex and survival. In one scene, a young, soft spoken Bangladeshi who looked as if she knew her life is already written on the wall, broke a silence, "We women are actually very unhappy creatures. It is very hard to survive as a woman . . . Why do women suffer this much? Isn't there another path for us?" She paused. "Is there a path at all? . . . Who can truly answer this question?" Who, indeed.