I signed on to see the “New Yorker” documentary about a polar bear who was known as the “Nuisance Bear.” No dialogue, just the bear, rooting around in the garbage or running away from vehicles.
Thousands of people flock to Churchill, Manitoba, to watch bears wandering around at certain times of year.
The star of this film was a big white polar bear who could be seen banging on a metal fence, hanging around garbage pails, running from vehicles and, ultimately, being shot with tranquilizers so it could be airlifted via helicopter in a net to some far-flung more suitable location.
I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a male or female bear. Regardless of what gender the bear was, it was going to wake up wondering, “What happened?” (I’m sure many of you have been there.)
The Panola Project
This documentary from Rachel Decruz and Jeremy S. Levine made me think of my daughter’s temporary job during the pandemic, helping distribute the Covid-19 vaccine for the state of Tennessee. At the time, she was on hiatus from her normal job as a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines and also helped conduct the census.
In this short documentary Dorothy Oliver of Panola, Alabama, is working hard to get 40 people from the Panola community of only 350 people to agree to come be vaccinated, so that the state team would come out. Apparently, the minimum number for which they would agree to bring the vaccine to the patients was 40.
Dorothy said, “It’s in my heart to do what I need to do to help people,” making me think of another Nashville Film Festival feature film, “Jacir,” where a Syrian refugee living in Memphis had the same sort of good heart (and suffered for it).
It was 39 miles to get the patients to the vaccine and, as Dorothy remarked, many of them did not have cars.
Original music and dancing by Jermaine “Mainframe” Fletcher.
Between 1950 and 1980 during the Cultural Revolution more than 2 million Chinese residents attempted to swim from China to Hong Kong.
The narrator of this animated film said, “Every young person in China wanted to leave.” He cited the greater freedom that was associated with Hong Kong in those days, which is now abating because of the prospect of mainland China cracking down on these freedoms.
The narrator said he had been trying to make it to Hong Kong for 15 years and started trying to emigrate at age 14. If a Chinese citizen was caught trying to escape he (or she) was branded a “capitalist” and would be jailed. He was unemployable in China thereafter and the narrator said he had been jailed 3 times.
He talked about the 3 routes that one might take: East had sharks. The central route was by train. The Southwest route was by water, but it was heavily guarded. Plus, our storyteller had to build a raft to allow him to take his small daughter with him.
They set off on Chinse New Year when the water was freezing, convinced that the authorities would not think any sane person would seek to travel at such a terrible time. They had a live chicken and gifts with them as their cover story (visiting relatives), no real food to eat except scraps, and it took 13 hours just to reach the beach. The journey, itself, took 8 hours.
When his small daughter, now grown, asked him if he was frightened at the prospect of the trip, he said, “There is no fear when there is no hope.”
The Australian documentary went on to say that, upon arriving in Hong Kong, the husband and his wife were given free clothing. He chose bell bottoms (then in style) and she took 3 free sweaters. The father worked 3 jobs, sometimes working 20 hours a day, trying to give his family a headstart in their new country.
This film by Maxim and Eugenia Arbugaeva followed marine biologist Maxim Chakelev in Chukotka in the Siberian Arctic as the walrus population gathered, as they do annually. A lot of it was Chakelev sitting around in his hut and eating something that looked gross out of a can. Chakelev has done this for at least a decade and, this year, the news from the front was not encouraging.
Unfortunately, because of global warming, the ice floes that the walruses normally rest and feed on as they sweep into Chukotka, have largely melted and the walruses arrived exhausted and hungry. Then, they were overly crowded on the beach. A scene that will linger in my mind for many moons, was an estimated 96,000 walruses crowded together on land, with another 6,000 in the water. There’s no dialogue, as the biologist, no doubt, speaks Russian, but there are a few informational subtitles.
Panics and stampedes happened several times a day and the biologist is seen counting the dead corpses of 600 walruses that did not make it and died on the beach, the most ever, in 2020.
The Sentence of Michael Thompson
Michael Thompson was, by all accounts, a pretty good guy living in Michigan with a relatively good job with General Motors and a family.
However, in May of 1996, he was caught trying to sell 3 lbs. of pot and, in a particularly rigid bit of sentencing, was given a sentence of 40 to 60 years for this non-violent crime. One of the mitigating factors was that he had access to a firearm, although the gun was not with him when he was dealing the pot, but was at home in a different location.
Still, Michael went to jail and spent 25 years behind bars for what is now legal in many states. In that respect, he represents 40,000 other prisoners in jail for pot offenses.
The film was directed by Kylie Thrash and Haley Elizabeth Anderson and it drags quite a bit, despite being only 25 minutes long. You pretty much know where this is going from the outset and it took way too long to get there.