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by Cynthia Fuchs

17 Nov 2011


When Jessie Littledoe enrolled in MIT’s linguistics program, she was hoping to recover, or at least trace, the origins of her people’s lost language, Wampanoag. Here she met professor Ken Hale, a white man who turned out to be as invested in her aim as she was. Littledoe’s story forms the center of We Still Live Here (Âs Nutayuneân), the fascinating documentary premiering on Independent Lens 17 November. It’s a center from which multiple other stories emerge, traversing borders of time and place, communities and individuals.

The film traces the initial encounters between the Wampanoag tribes (which currently number five) and white settlers, in the area that would become Southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, during the early 1600s. As Jessie and other Wampanoag individuals come together to learn, speak, and keep the language, they forge a new sense of community and also show how others can benefit from such recovery. For it’s not only the Wampanoag who learn about themselves in this ongoing process. Descendents of white settlers can also rediscover their history, as it is entwined with others, as all stories, communities, and histories are connected.

See PopMattersreview.

by Cynthia Fuchs

8 Nov 2011


“When I think about myself, I say, ‘But I didn’t want to the son of a master.’ That’s the high Tibetan Buddhist Master, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, and his son is Yeshi Silvano Namkhai, born and raised in Italy by his father and Catholic mother. “As long as I remember,” Yeshi says in My Reincarnation, “my father was always traveling to teach Dzogchen.” Resisting the expectations that come along with being recognized at birth as the reincarnation of a famous spiritual master, Yeshi spends years finding other outlets for his energies, with Jennifer Fox’s camera in tow for nearly 20 years. Yeshi seems open about his doubts: “A person who doesn’t want to be what he is. And he ought to be something that he doesn’t like to be. Obviously for my father, I’m not a mistake. Because for him it’s right, for me it’s wrong.” His questions multiply as he grows older, marries and has his own children, and finds a “stable” career with IBM. Perhaps unsurprisingly, has job has him on the road frequently, and as he drives, he talks to the camera: “I live in a very common Italian way,” he says, “I’m happy to be a normal, common father.”

And yet he’s also restless. As Norbu’s fame expands, the film shows him with students in search of peace and wisdom: he offers cryptic comfort: “It’s how Buddha said,” he tells a young man in tears over his HIV positive status. “Everything is unreal, like a big dream. That is something real.” But as you come to understand Yeshi’s frustrations with his absent, much-adored dad, the film also suggests he’s leaning away from his secular life, thinking more about his father’s legacy. With sections divided by underwater scenes, making visible Yeshi’s own wondering at how his hesitation is turning into something like certainty. If the film can’t show his changing feelings, or even his decision to perform such changes, it can suggest how he fears and how he takes risks, even how he comes to appreciate the paradoxes of time, how his past can become his future, his memories his visions. And in these suggestions, the film might emulate Yeshi’s own process.

by Cynthia Fuchs

23 Oct 2011


“She functions better under pressure.” Tended by her makeup artist, the newly elected president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, sits quietly. She’s functioning exceptionally well under pressure—and has done so in the years following this moment, captured in Iron ladies of Liberia in 2006. (She is currently enduring pressure again, awaiting results of this month’s presidential election.) Recently named one of three winners of 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, Sirleaf in this documentary—which premieres on Global Voices 23 October—is resolved to lead her nation out of the darkness of 14 years of civil war, and following the resignation of Charles Taylor in 2003 (he’s now awaiting a verdict in his war crimes trial in the Hague). In the film, co-directed by Siatta Scott Johnson and Daniel Junge, President Sirleaf staffs her cabinet with “iron ladies.” Showing the difficulties facing Sirleaf in impressionistic, unforgettable images—kids playing in garbage dumps, demonstrations in the streets—the documentary keeps focused on the president’s good intentions and efforts, filtered through her indomitable personality.

See PopMattersreview.

by Cynthia Fuchs

20 Oct 2011


Girls can do anything, right? Except that they’re still encouraged to see themselves as helpers, raised, represented, and expected to be wives and mothers rather than independent achievers. This is the primary argument made by Miss Representation. Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s documentary isn’t making a new or a very subtle argument, but it’s one—made emphatically—that makes the film a perfect fit for Oprah’s OWN Documentary Club. Media representations of girls and women as objects are actually increasing. The reasons are various, and include predictable fears and anxieties concerning potential shifts in power and money, and, the film submits, these representations influence how girls and boys think about the world and themselves. As Margaret Cho says plainly, “The media treats women like shit and it’s horrible and I don’t know how we survive it. I don’t know how we rise above it.”

by Jessy Krupa

10 Aug 2011


PopMatters’ Kerrie Mills recently reviewed Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops?, a book by Gael Fashingbauer Cooper and Brian Bellmont that looks at the food, TV shows, toys, and other pop cultural milestones that kids grew up with from the 1960’s to 1992.

It sounds like a great idea, but why did they stop at 1992? A brand new generation has sprung up since then, with an emerging sense of nostalgia. Look at the success of Toy Story 3, the New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys tour, or Nickelodeon’s heavily hyped decision to add reruns of ‘90s series like All That and Clarissa Explains It All to their late-night schedule.

It’s enough to make you wonder what future generations will look back on wistfully, and how this will influence Hollywood and/or manufactures to make a profit out of it. So here’s a look at a few things that have only recently disappeared from the spotlight, and their cultural impact.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Moving Pixels Podcast: Unearthing the 'Charnel House'

// Moving Pixels

"This week we discuss Owl Creek Games's follow up to Sepulchre, the triptych of tales called The Charnel House Trilogy.

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