We got some fresh snow last night and fortuitously a friend has offered me a pass to ski at Deer Valley today so I’m heading out to get a few runs and take in the snow and sunshine.
Here’s a brief rundown on the films I have seen since I’ve been here.

Jan 21 “What Remains” was a very interesting documentary about a photographer heralded as a US treasure,Sally Mann. She garnered controversy around her first big show called “Immediate Family” in the early nineties.This film looked at her more recent work which revolved around death and decay.Beautifully shot and compelling.

Jan 22 “DeNadie” and “God Grew Tired of Us” were both documentaries that shared one similar aspect, emigrants moving to the USA .

Denadie focussed on the trials that Central Americans trying to escape the crushing poverty in their respective countries experience traveling to the US while passing through Mexico. Many of them travel via train despite having to face horrors from beatings to rapes to extortion at the hands of rail security,police,or violent gangs called the Maras. Gangs that come from El Salvador principally but who are not held in check by the authorities.

God Grew Tired of Us followed the stories of three Sudanese men who at a very young age had been forced to leave the Sudan along with 27,000 other young “lost boys”, ranging in age from 3 to 13, during the major civil unrest that occurred in southern Sudan in the early 1980’s. They trekked thousands of miles across the desert, first to Ethopia staying until it’s government collapsed when they were forced to move once again this time to Kenya.
They landed in a refugee camp called Kakuna for ten or more years until the US opened it’s doors (pre 9/11) to provide some safe haven for them.
It was quite endearing and sweet to watch as they experienced the culture shock of airplane rides,running water,electricity,refrigeration,supermarkets,etc.
With their efforts to improve their lives here through hard work and perseverence they find themselves increasingly isolated from the comraderie they knew from home and learn to juggle their spiritual and emotional survival with their financial ones. Never forgetting the boys back home they stay in touch,send money back and are working to have schools and medical clinics built for them.
An Aside ….not in the screening I attended but at our theatre, two women were so taken with them they each wrote cheques to the tune of 30,000 dollars for the medical clinic John is building in Sudan. WOW

Jan 23 “The Giant Buddhas” was a story about the Taliban’s destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in the hills of Afghanistan. It also looked at the larger picture of the why the west didn’t get involved before hand (as in create it as a World Heritage site prior)instead of when it was too late to save them.
“The Trials of Darryl Hunt” searched for the reasons of the injusticeness of the justice system here in the US in Winston Salem North Carolina. Despite DNA evidence proving his innocence Darryl Hunt,an African American, lost trail after trail in the murder of a young white woman. Never giving up he and his lawyer were only succesful in obtaining his release once they found the real killer. Incredible testament of faith on Darryl’s part and perseverence on the part of those who never gave up his cause.

Jan 24 “Unfolding Florence:The Many Lives of Florence Broadhurst. A story about an Australian woman who managed to continuously reinvent herself finally landing on her feet as a designer of exceptional wallpaper and fabric, and her still unsolved murder from 1977. It was the style of filmmaking that grabbed me the most. I liked their use of animation and dramatization in a documentary.

“Black Gold” a very thought provoking and disturbing look at the coffee industry of Africa.
Did you know that coffee originated in Ethopia? me neither.
We follow in particular one man,Tadesse Meskela, who has organized a farmer’s cooperative and is tireless in his efforts to improve the lives of the farmer’s he represents.
This film looks at the unbalanced trade practices of the western world. Africa has only 1 percent of the world market. In the last 20 years as other lesser developed countries have managed to move forward some what, Africa has managed to go backwards and receives more aid now than ever before. If they could increase their world share by only 1 percent they could take in 70 billion dollars.
When will Multi National Corporations recognize that a hand up is better than a hand out?

An Aside…the Holiday theatre is going to become known as the charity theatre. In the premiere screening of this film a patron wrote a cheque for 10,000 to go towards building a school for the cooperative’s children.

Jan 25 “The Ground Truth: After the Killing Ends” this is a must see.
While it uses Iraq as its starting point, it’s really about the men and women who go do the killing for the rest of us. However the problem is in today’s war there isn’t an obvious enemy…any civilan could be a terrorist… and because of this soldiers find themselves having to deal with the guilt and confusion of killing innocent people. Post traumatic distress disorder is a common ailment that many return home with,yet the army continues to dispute it is truely a consequence of armed conflict and is slow to help those returning with it. Many groups have sprung up in an effort to help where the government they go to war for will not.

“So Much So Fast” It’s incredible what a family will do when one of their own comes down with a horrible and incurable disease…ALS..Lou Gehrig’s disease. Stephen Heywood at 29 was diagnosed and given a 3 to 5 year life span. His whole family refusing to give up hope jumps in and creates a foundation searching for a cure. It’s an compelling journey to follow….and so far Stephen while now in a wheelchair living with the aid of a respirator and a voice machine is fighting the odds and winning.

Animation spotlight included ten short films ranging from 27 minutes to 4 minutes. Some more amazing than others all fun to watch despite some morbid topics. More on these later.(sorry Chris)