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Watch What I Watch

There are a handful of documentary films that have heavily influenced by thinking and research.

Rize directed by David LaChapelle — a documentary about clown and krump culture in LA.  Like most ethnographies, it’s problematic (filmmaker’s positionality is not addressed, the black body is exoticized, cultural commonplaces supplant background information about people being featured, etc.).  But taken with a grain of salt, it’s a beautiful and inspiring film that, as a white girl who can’t dance, was an introduction to a wildly dynamic art world.  Tight Eyez, one of the featured performers, is literally the best dancer I have ever seen in my life.  His performance at the Battlezone competition toward the end of the film is 30 of the most explosively creative seconds imaginable.

Grandma’s Bottle Village: The Art of Tressa Prisbrey produced by Irving Saraf and Allie Light, and available streaming on Folkstreams.  This film just feels pretty.  Unfortunately, it’s one of the last looks at an intact Bottle Village, although the website is still up and running.  It’s quiet and sweet and little tragic, and Tressa Prisbrey is charming, cheeky, and irresistible.

Murderball directed by Henry Rubin and David Shapiro.  Follows the US wheelchair rugby league to the Paralympic Games in Greece.  This film doesn’t contain much analysis, but it brought home to me the meaning of ableism.  The performance of masculinity with bodies that have historically been classified as ‘not masculine’ is also fascinating.  Plus these guys just seem like they’d be a blast to grab a beer with.

Paris is Burning directed by Jennie Livingston.  Examines Ball culture and the origins of vogueing in mid-1980’s New York City.  The people in this film are impossible to take your eyes off of, impossible not to love.  Most of the analysis comes from the participants themselves, which is nice, and it’s super colorful.

Transgeneration, Sundance Channel series.  Follows a handful of transgender people in their 20s as they build relationships, undergo surgery, go to school, come out to their families, and come face to face with a number of social biases.  As a cis person, I thought it was very well done, and I would suggest it as an introduction to anybody interested in learning more about the trans community.

Some other notable documentaries:

Harlan County directed by Barbara Kopple, Don’t Look Back directed by DA Pennebaker, Wild Wheels directed by Harrod Blank, Zulay, Facing the 21st Century by Jorge and Mabel Preloran and Zulay Saravino, Surfwise directed by Doug Pray, Commune directed by Jonathan Berman,Sound and Fury directed by Josh Aronson, Life After Tomorrow directed by Cil Cates Jr. and Julie Stevens, Prodigal Sons directed by Kimberly Reed,  A State of Mind directed by Daniel Gordon, Monster Camp directed by Cullen Hoback, The Education of Shelby Knox directed by Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt, Tarnation directed by Jonathan Caouette, Unmistaken Child directed by Nati Baratz, Virtual Skin Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza, Praying with Lior directed by Ilana Trachtman

Growing up, Ariel was my favorite princess.  The Little Mermaid was the first movie I saw in theaters, and it’s still one of my favorites.   Some other pop culture films I’ve found noteworthy are The Fall, Stranger than Fiction, Saved!, Swimming Pool, Crank, Under the Tuscan Sun, The Boys and Girls Guide to Hooking Up and Getting Down, Superbad, Severance, Teeth, Lars and the Real Girl, Little Miss Sunshine, the Invention of Lying, Howl’s Moving Castle, the Boondock Saints

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