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by Cynthia Fuchs

22 Jun 2012


“I’m leaving today,” Rita (Lisa Fávero) says, standing for the last time at the table where she and her host, Madalena (Sônia Guedes), have been making bread each morning. It’s early morning in the tiny Brazilian town of Jutuomba, and the sun isn’t up yet. “But you can’t leave,” Madalena says, turning toward Rita, her lantern providing the scantest of light on the younger woman’s face and white t-shirt, which is adorned with the cheesiest of cartoon hedgehogs. “I can’t keep pretending I belong somewhere else,” Rita doesn’t quite explain. Madalena sums up: “And where do you belong?”

The question is key in Found Memories, Screening 22 through 28 June at the San Francisco Film Society Cinema. Júlia Murat’s lovely film looks at how the rhythms of daily life form not only patterns and routines, but also ways to see. When Rita, a photographer, arrives in town near film’s start, she’s enchanted by what she sees, the dirt paths and simple building structures, the mountains and the grassy fields. Madalena at this point sees something else, her routine so fixed that she can’t imagine a change. Each morning, she makes her bread, walks along railroad tracks to the coffee-making shop owned by Antônio (Luiz Serra), where they share breakfast. Rita’s arrival alters Madalena’s day and her view, and vice versa.

by Cynthia Fuchs

18 Jun 2012


“I’m looking for a specific type of girl for the Japanese market,” says Ashley, scouting girl models for the Japanese agency, Switch. She’s explaining her work for David Redmon and Ashley Sabin’s extraordinary documentary, Girl Model. “The girls need to be a certain height, not too tall, cute, young. Young is very important.” Ashley turns her own camera on a few girls as they hold up handwritten papers noting their names and birthplaces. She shoots them with their hair up and down, from the side and from the front. The session—vaguely awkward, tense and brief—introduces a disturbing phenomenon. As much as these slender, big-eyed children (and their parents) hope that the promises of agents will come true, that modeling will help them escape their impoverished small towns, they are, in fact, headed into a business designed to exploit them—in any number of ways.

by Cynthia Fuchs

18 Jun 2012


“Our women used to cook and farm and milk the cows. There was nothing like sports.” So proclaims a grizzled man on the street, not exactly thrilled by recent changes in Iraq. Still, as demonstrated in Salaam Dunk, those changes are well underway. Filmed in 2009, during the American University’s women’s basketball team’s second season, David Fine’s inspiring documentary keeps focused on the effects on the women, as well as their American graduate student coach, Ryan Bubalo. Introduced one by one, designated by their team numbers, the players share their initial nervousness (some had never dribbled a ball before they joined the team), their frustrations and their evolving commitment to each other.

by Cynthia Fuchs

18 Jun 2012


“The biggest mistake made about fishing is that it’s about catching fish,” observes J.T. Van Zandt at the start of Low & Clear. “Fishing,” he goes on, “is a micro examination of life itself.” The film illustrates, not only with the usual images of beautiful streams and rivers, wide skies, and rocky slopes—here shot primarily during a winter flyfishing trip to Canada. The movie rather digs into the “examination” too, offering a version of “life itself” that sets J.T.‘s philosophical bent against that of his favorite fishing partner, mentor, and friend, Alex “Xenie” Hall. While J.T. maintains that the beauty of the activity lies in perfecting techniques, in contemplating the magnificent environment and perhaps one’s place in it, Xeni is more concerned with catching fish. Indeed, he keeps a journal of his catches, as well as a calendar and an extensive visual record. “Photo album after photo album, shoebox after shoebox,” J.T. marvels, “Photos of every fish the guy has ever caught in his life.” Cut to Xeni, not quite explaining, “Just to freeze frame that moment in time, yeah, it’s a little weird.” But, he adds, “Time is precious,” and he resists “dividing it up” into a career or a family. “Right now, [J.T.‘s] behind a desk somewhere, I’m imagining, clutching his cell phone.”

by Cynthia Fuchs

11 Jun 2012


“That was our objective, there was no other.” Bernardo and Lautaro Arratia are chopping trees, in the Patagonia region of Chile. This is what they want to do, they demonstrate with their focused labor, what their father did, what they’ve grown up doing. Now, however, they’re looking at the end of the future they never doubted, as corporate forces descend on the region with plans to build five hydroelectric dams, two on the Baker River and three on the Pascua River.

These plans look awfully grim in Brian Lilla’s Patagonia Rising, currently screening at New York’s Cinema Village. While the dams provide electricity, they do so in a way that Stephen Hall sees as old-fashioned (other forms of renewable energy are more efficient and forward-looking) and they exact particular costs. Mitzi Urubia, coordinator for the campaign, Patagonia Without Dams, points out that the question of who has possession of the water—Chile or Argentina—is not entirely clear. Moreover, according to Patrick McCully, executive director of International Rivers, the companies in charge are less than truthful about the deleterious effects of large dams, which have been demonstrated by previous large dams, more than 40,000 worldwide: they displace populations (between 40 and 80 million people, mostly in India and China thus far), cause flooding and contaminated waters, wreak havoc with fishing and other livelihoods, spread diseases.

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