“Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone” Directed by Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler, “Everyday Sunshine” will be screened tonight at 7 PM in Redfield Auditorium. It is the story of Fishbone, an African-American alternative rock band considered one of the distinctive and influential bands of all time.
Founded in 1979 in Los Angeles by brothers John Norwood Fisher (bass, vocals), his brother Phillip “Fish” Fisher (drums), and Angelo Moore, “Dr. Mad Vibe” (vocals, saxophones, theremin), the band plays what has been described as a fusion of ska, punk rock, funk, heavy metal, jazz, hip-hop, and pop. Sometimes they are all in one song.
Other band members have included Kendall Jones (guitar), “Dirty” Walter A. Kibby II (vocals, trumpet), and Chris Dowd (keyboards, trombone, and vocals).
The band “had this idea that we could be a pure democracy,” which led to the multiple styles and mix of music, and to problems within the band.
The film not only traces the band’s history, but looks at racial issues in Los Angeles. Busing for racial integration is what brought the band members together at a white school, where their time together is recreated through humorous animated cartoons.
Even if you have never heard of Fishbone, this is an entertaining and absorbing film about the ups and downs of a rock band and its very individual members, full of energy, music, and cultural commentary.
“Raising Renee,” by Newton filmmakers Jeanne Jordan and Steven Ascher, is an honest and intimate portrait of a family and the issues of race, class, and intellectual disability that they face. The feature documentary (81 minutes) will be screened on Monday, August 1, at 7 PM in Redfield Auditorium on Water Street.
As the film opens, Beverly McIver, an accomplished painter, is happily pursuing her career, winning awards, exhibiting her work. In 2003, she had her first solo exhibit in New York City, and she flew her mother, Ethel, and her sister Renee up from Greensboro, North Carolina, where she had grown up in the projects.
The documentary captures that trip. We meet Ethel and Renee, who is often the subject of Beverly’s bold, colorful portraits. Renee, 43, is mentally disabled, functioning at about the 3rd grade level.
Violent and angry when growing up, Renee developed a more gentle nature in her adult years. She spends her days making potholders, selling them for $1.25 each. She and Ethel live in housing for the elderly and disabled, and Ethel takes care of Renee’s every need, and they do good deeds for other people, without ever asking for money in return.
When making out her will, Ethel asked Beverly to take care of Renee after her death, and Beverly reluctantly agreed, though she was single and had never taken care of anything other than her cats. Her mother was strong and healthy, though, and Beverly did not expect anything to happen.
The next year, however, Ethel is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and the end comes quickly. And Beverly must fulfill her promise to her mother.
The film follows Beverly and her family over six years, from the solo exhibit, through the death of Ethel, and during five years of Beverly and Renee’s life together. We learn about the changes Beverly must make in her life, her frustrations with Renee, her fears that her life as an artist is over, and we see the deep love this family has for one another.
Illustrating the film are Beverly’s wonderful portraits of Renee and of family scenes. We see her painting techniques and learn about the evolution of her approach over time.
Beverly tells what it was like growing up in the South, about poverty, racial discrimination, and violence against African Americans. Beverly’s bluntness, her vibrant personality, Renee’s quiet endurance, and the sensitive work of the filmmakers draw one into this eloquent and warm-hearted portrait of a family.
“Jimmy Tingle’s American Dream” will be screened on Tuesday, August 2, at 7 PM, at Redfield Auditorium on Water Street, and Tingle, himself, will perform at Woods Hole Community Hall, 68 Water Street, on Thursday, August 4, at 8 PM.
A comedian and a commentator on social and political issues, Tingle explores what the American Dream means to him, and to others, in this hour-long documentary. And he mixes in a healthy dose of humor.
“The American Dream,” he says in the opening scene, “is about creating a better life for yourself and your family, and thereby creating a better world. It’s about new ways of thinking, and new beginnings, and new opportunities. It’s about challenging the conventional wisdom of the day, pushing the boundaries of the human spirit. It’s about a second chance in life, a second opportunity. It’s about freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, free enterprise, freedom of just about everything, except parking.”
The film, written and produced by Tingle, was shot over the course of seven years, during which time Tingle realizes his dream of having his own theater, where he and “like-minded” people could perform, and also sees that theater fail and close, as he moves on to pursue other dreams.
We hear from many of the people who performed at the theater, as well as his mother, Frances, and others he encounters, including Robert Altman, Mort Sahl, Janeane Garafalo, Sean Hannity, Lewis Black, Al Franken, Robert Reich, Colin Quinn, and more. He talks to the man and the woman in the street, to political commentators, to journalists, to those with money and power and to homeless people struggling to get by.
The film traces Tingle’s career as a comic and political activist from his early appearances on late night talk shows, as he explores the many elements of the American Dream: freedom, equality, immigration, religion, and civil rights, and the factors that work against the American Dream: religious differences, intolerance, corporate greed, political intrigue, and loss of values.
He takes us to Provincetown, Plymouth Rock, and Plimoth Plantation to discuss the American Dream envisioned by the Pilgrims, and then to Washington, where he is inspired by the dreams of Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, and others.
Tingle also shares some more personal dreams: his tale about taking his son to a Red Sox game is funny and endearing. And his commencement speech at Harvard.
Tingle makes us laugh, but also encourages us to think about the American Dream, about social and political issues, and what it takes to realize our dreams.
“We Still Live Here (Âs Nutayuneân)” (2010, 56 minutes) is a feature documentary by Anne Makepeace. This is a beautiful, fascinating, and inspiring film about the efforts of the Wampanoag people to bring back their native language—100 years after the last fluent speaker died.
It was in 1994 when Jessie (Little Doe) Baird, a Mashpee Wampanoag social worker, began having recurring dreams about people who seemed familiar—they looked like her relatives—but spoke a language she could not understand, until one day she realized it was Wampanoag, and they wanted her to bring the language back to those who were still living.
She found that many other Wampanoag shared her interest in the language, and a group of them set to work, trying to figure out how to learn a language for which there were no textbooks or recordings. Eventually, she received a yearlong research fellowship to study linguistics at MIT, and then earned a master’s degree in linguistics.
Two sources of native language were used to recreate the language: original deeds and legal documents written in English and Wampanoag, and copies of the Bible, translated into Wampanoag, often with notes in them, written in Wampanoag. Ironically, the legal documents had been written to deprive the Wampanoag of their land and rights, and the Bible had been written by missionaries to replace their native religion with Christianity. But, for Jessie, they were the Rosetta Stone that allowed her and others to figure out the language, to teach it to herself and to others.
This connection with the past was extremely meaningful. Touching the original documents written in Wampanoag, said one woman, “is like touching the hand” that wrote them.
The Wampanoag have experienced many losses: the loss of land holdings to the English settlers, death of two-thirds of the population from yellow fever, the loss of children to the state, and loss of cultural traditions along with their language.
As they began learning the language, they gained insights into their lost culture. For instance, the literal translation of “I lost my land rights” is “I fell down on the ground.” To have no land is to have nothing to stand on.
It becomes clear that the language is not just words; knowing the language opens up a whole new understanding of the world. Though fluency has not yet been achieved, dramatic progress has been made.
Ms. Makepeace tells this incredible story through Jessie’s own words, and the words of many other members of the tribe, including Jessie’s daughter Mae, the first contemporary native speaker of the language. The cinematography of the land and the people is very effective, as is Ms. Makepeace’s creative use of animation and old maps to illustrate historic concepts.
“We Still Live Here” will be shown Sunday, July 31, at 7 PM, at Redfield Auditorium. For more information on the film, including film clips and an interview with the director, visit www.makepeaceproductions.com/wampfilm.html.
Chief Earl Mills, Jr.
The trailer was also shown last weekend at the Cultural Survival Bazaar, tomorrow and Sunday, at Peg Noonan Park, on Main Street in Falmouth.
Circus Smirkus, the only traveling youth circus in America, comes to Sandwich for its annual visit in August. Performances are at Heritage Museums & Gardens, with shows on Monday, August 1, at 7 PM and Tuesday and Wednesday, August 2 and 3, at 2 and 7 PM.
Those who love the circus and those who love a good film will want to see Signe Taylor’s documentary, “Circus Dreams” (2011, 82 minutes) at the Woods Hole Film Festival, on Sunday, July 31, at 7 PM at Redfield Auditorium on Water Street, serendipitously the day before the actual circus comes to town.
“Circus Dreams” is the engaging behind-the-scenes story of Circus Smirkus. We follow a group of young performers from their auditions to rehearsals to their performances in the ring. Because most of the footage was shot four years ago, we learn what happened after their Smirkus adventures, too, who went on to perform in professional circuses, and who moved on to follow other dreams.
The movie focuses on Joy and Maddy, two young women clowns (a rarity in the circus business, where most clowns are male), who are out to show that girls can be funny, too; Jacob, a lonely young man who finds friendship among his fellow performers; and Thula, a 12-year-old hula dancer from Hawaii, unable to attend the audition because of an arm injury, but who prevails because of her unique talent.
Competition is fierce, and rehearsals are demanding, as the teens learn a whole new set of skills. We see daring young aerialists and a pair of brothers determinedly practicing their diablo juggling, inventing new tricks and ways of working together. A clown routine, “which always worked before,” is not successful with the young women clowns, and the two girls rush to create a whole new routine, taking more advantage of their skills and interests, right before the opening performance.
We also learn about the history of the circus and the struggle to keep it above water financially.
Cinematography is excellent, wonderfully documenting the personal and on-stage drama, telling the intimate stories of the lives of the circus performers and the organizers who keep the show on the road. Children (and adults) of all ages will be intrigued and entertained, even, perhaps, inspired to run away and join the circus themselves.
The gorgeous and awe-inspiring feature documentary “Oceans” opens the Woods Hole Film Festival tomorrow at 7 PM. The film will be shown in Redfield Auditorium on Water Street.
Produced by Disneynature (2010, 84 minutes) and directed by Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud and narrated by Pierce Brosnan, the film offers one spectacular shot after another, from every possible angle, of the amazing creatures that live in the oceans of the world, and of the oceans themselves, its vastness, its power, its calmness, and the many and varied habitats within it.
In one remarkable sequence, huge numbers of dolphins race through the water, leaping and diving, chasing a school of sardines, while, overhead, flocks of seabirds soar and divebomb into the water, after the fish themselves. Soon they are joined by whales and sharks.
Later we see whales breeching, one after another, then quietly tending to their young. We see seals and sea lions basking in the sun and bounding through the water, their journeys occasionally cut short by a great white shark, or an orca.
We see baby sea turtles emerging from their nests, trying to make it to the water before being scooped up by a frigate bird. Only one in 1,000 turtles make it to the sea.
There are crabs, sea slugs, and strange and exotic creatures of all kinds, such as the blanket octopus, or the dugong, a large marine mammal that once lived entirely on land.
The film mentions, but only briefly, problems such as endangered species, overfishing, unintended capture in fish nets (by-catch), pollution, and the effects of climate change.
Music and sound effects are used well, never overused, to illustrate the playfulness of dolphins, the drama of life-and-death struggles between predator and prey, and the relentless march of spider crab battalions across the ocean floor.
There is not, however, a lot of information about any particular species or detailed explanations about their behavior. Often the narration simply stops as the viewer is left to wonder and imagine on their own. Many times, it seems, more information would be helpful.
Yet, there is a certain advantage to the minimal narrative. Rather than barrage us with facts and figures, the film allows us to make our own interpretations, and it make encourage many viewers to seek out additional sources of information on the ocean and its inhabitants. And the minimal narration probably makes the film more accessible for children.
Viewers will learn that there is an incredible world beneath the surface of the ocean, one that is well worth exploring.
The Woods Hole Film Festival 2011 opens Saturday, July 30, and runs through Saturday, August 6: eight days of feature length and short films, workshops, classes, parties, and live entertainment. For details, go to Woods Hole Film Festival.
For the past couple of weeks, I have had the pleasure of previewing films that will be shown at the festival. There are films for every interest, by emerging and independent filmmakers, some quite mainstream in style and others more experimental. There are documentaries, narratives, and personal stories. You can’t go too far wrong.
In this and the next several posts, I will share my review of the movies I have seen. If you have seen any of the films, I would love to hear what you think.
Let’s start with short films:
One of the unique things about film festivals is that they provide opportunities to see quirky, innovative, experimental, and otherwise non-mainstream short films. Here on the Cape, short films are simply not seen outside of film festivals.
Those who enjoy short films will have plenty to choose from at the Woods Hole Film Festival, which opens Saturday, July 30, and runs through Saturday, August 6. Fifty-eight short films will be shown in 10 short-film sessions. Kids Day, beginning at 2 PM on Saturday, August 6, offers an additional 13 shorts, 10 of them animations.
Several films are about Cape Cod and the Islands: “02543,” “Morning Copy,” “Patrimony,” and “Waves.”
For a complete schedule, visit www.woodsholefilmfestival.org. One may browse by date, type of film, or search for films by name. Additional information is available for each film, including stills, trailers, and, in one case (“Morning Copy”), the entire short film.
“02543,” to be shown on Tuesday, August 2, at 5 PM, in the Old Woods Hole Fire Station on Water Street, is a 12-minute documentary about Roger Gamache and the Woods Hole Post Office. It was produced and directed by Woods Hole documentary filmmaker Kristin Alexander, who was also the cinematographer and, with Ken Alexander, edited the film.
It is simple and direct, capturing the essence of Roger Gamache’s 20-year career with the Woods Hole Post Office (29 years in the postal service). Mr. Gamache sings a song he wrote about post office regulations, tells anecdotes about his mentor John (“Johnny Rotten) Klink, plays the bagpipes (he learned to play while he was working at the post office and went on to form the Brian Boru Pipe Band), and talks about the Stage Door Canteen, which he directs and plays saxophone in, every Thursday night at Liam Maguire’s Irish Pub & Restaurant in Falmouth.
Mr. Gamache graduated from Berklee College of Music in 1977, and took a post office job when his father suggested he needed something to fall back on. He ran the post office for many years single-handedly. Not too much intrigue here, but it is a nice, homey look at the Woods Hole community, and the Stage Door Canteen provides the swinging soundtrack.
“Morning Copy” will be screened on Friday, August 5, at 9 PM in the Woods Hole Community Hall. The 10-minute film shows two old men who live in the gingerbread cottage community in Oak Bluffs. Their story is told without words. The men speak, instead, through some expressive light, jazzy music, a clarinet representing one of the men, a trombone, the other. In this little vignette, the Vineyard Gazette is printed every day, and the two men vie to get the first copy of the paper as it comes hot off the presses.
Two local actors, Don Lyons and Leslie J. Stark, star, conveying volumes with their facial expressions. The photography is well-done, the music is wonderful, the scenery is lovely and familiar, and the storyline is heartwarming. The film was produced and directed by 20-something brothers Dan and Greg Martino of Martha’s Vineyard Productions.
“Patrimony” and “Waves” are both beautifully produced, with gorgeous scenes of their settings in Pocasset and Wellfleet, respectively. Both are debut films for their directors.
“Patrimony” will be screened Wednesday, August 3, at 7 PM, at the Old Woods Hole Fire Station. The 17-minute film stars Robert Vaughn and Melissa Errico, major Hollywood stars, but it was written and directed by first-time filmmaker Donald E. Marcus, a resident of Cataumet.
Mr. Marcus has long written and produced for theater and television, but this is his first venture into film. He decided to start small, with a short, to learn the ropes of film-making, before venturing, in the future, into feature films.
Mr. Vaughn plays an elderly man whose son has died, and Ms. Errico plays his son’s wife, who visits him at his spacious coastal estate. The two have never gotten along, and the death of the son/husband has introduced a new problem.
There is not enough back story here to convince one that the ending is logical and justified, but it is still a compelling film that raises interesting questions about family dynamics. And the scenery is exquisite.
“Waves,” 20 minutes long, will be shown Wednesday, August 3, at 5 PM, at the Old Woods Hole Fire Station. The film follows Norah Winslow, a young woman who has just graduated from New York University with a degree in journalism.
She fails to get a job at The New York Times, and she is rejected by graduate schools, despite her impressive credentials. So, she returns to Wellfleet, moves into her old house, gets her old part-time job at the Wellfleet Market, and takes up with her old boyfriend, who has never left his job at the market.
Director Emily Harrold, a film student at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, writes that she wanted to bring attention to the problems that college graduates are having finding jobs. While this film is an excellent effort for a team of young college students (they were freshmen when they made the film), it may not be as successful in conveying that message. Norah seems to have given up the job hunt rather soon after graduation, and it does not look like she even scouted out the local papers before settling into the grocery store job.
The film, however, like “Patrimony,” is professionally crafted and well worth a look. And do not forget the 67 other shorts. Chances are you will find some you might not understand or agree with, some that make you smile, some that teach you something, and a lot that will impress you with the talent and vision of the writers, directors, cast members, and technical teams involved.