Thursday, June 9, 2011

Brooklyn FIlm Festival: Scrapper and Sky Dancers

It's late,and I'm tired. I went to Brooklyn for three films but only stayed for two since I realized I couldn't stay out to one seeing movies, besides I had to get home so I could tell you about one of the finds of the year.

Before I talk about the movies I have to say that I've fallen in love with the Brooklyn Film Festival. It may not be the be all and end all of film festivals in New York, but it's like a warm fuzzy hug. It's a festival where the people are friendly the films are good and it's real casual. I'm having a blast.

I'm going to be taking the films tonight out of order. I'm going to save the best for last.

The second film tonight was Skydancer, a documentary about the Mohawk Indian steel workers who have helped build the world's skyscrapers. Actually it's about two of them who commute from the reservation near Canada down to Manhattan.Its a film with some great images of New York from above, but not much more than that.

Sorry guys, all I took away from the film was that it's hard to commute from Upstate to Manhattan and that it's a struggle to maintain family and tribal traditions when you do this kind of work. I would have liked to know more about what exactly they do, more then a general history of the the work, and spend more time with the families. We didn't get it. Its a nice film but it's superficial.

On the other end of the spectrum was Scrapper. This is one of the film finds of the year.

A good documentary should tell us something we don't know or show us something we do know in a new light. Scrapper does both of those things and more.

Scrapper is the story of several people living in and around the Salton Sea who make their living by sneaking on to a near by bombing range and getting the metal left behind from the exploded and unexploded bombs. It's the story of a hard scrabble existence in a dying desert town where most people are poor and those that can get out already have. (Some of the people in the same area were featured in the film Bombay Beach, which I saw and disliked at Tribeca about a month ago.)

Since I'm running out of steam (it's been a long hot day here in New York) and I don't want to give this film the bums rush, I want to say that over the next couple of days I'm going to try and write up a proper piece on this film. I'm going to have to go over my notes and see if I can come up with something truly suitable to tell you just how good this film really is. I have to find the words to express how it kind of snuck up on me. I was watching the film for much of the first half thinking it was the story of a bunch of crazy people running around in the desert, then it suddenly occurred to me that that there was more going on. There is a bigger story here not only about how these guys get scrap, but about how a town is trying to survive and how a government goes about fighting it's battles. Basically half way in I realized I needed to see the film again,partly because I missed stuff, but also because I was having a grand old time.

When the film was done there was a Q&A with Stephan Wassmann the director and producer. It was one of those Q&A's that you don't want to end because the talk is just so damn interesting. It was so interesting that Wassmann was surrounded in the lobby between screenings and I couldn't get near him.

However I did get to meet Mr Wassman after all. When Skydancer ended, I wasn't in the mood to hear more about the film so I left before the Q&A. This turned into a pleasant surprise since I got to meet Mr Wassman who was packing up to leave and tell him how wonderful I thought his film was.

I have to say, he's a great guy and he gamely put up with me gushing about how good I thought his film was. We talked about the production, how it's been a long time coming together and how he has other tales he ran across in putting the story on film. It's the sort of thing that makes me want to see the deleted footage and out takes on the DVD. (I'll go into what we talked about when I pull the longer piece together.)

Actually I'm really shot. As I said it was a hot day in the city and an exciting one at the cinema where I got to discover a neat little treasure of a film.

Until I get the longer piece done, know that you really should make an effort to see this. The film is currently paying at various festivals around the country (Its just played at the STIFF festival in Seattle) so keep an eye out and rush out to see this if it plays by you.

As I said this is one of the finds of the year.


  1. Great review! Scrapper sounds like quite a find! I look forward to reading the longer your longer piece on Scrapper.
    Cheers, Inas

  2. The clips I saw on the Brooklyn site were only nibbles of a great meal. Immediate. Down on the street. A heavy message. Slam bam thank you Ma'm. It's the first time I regret being so far from Brooklyn.
    Sullivan, Juan Les Pins