BY PAMELA JO BOWMAN, MANHATTAN, NEW YORK – Today we took the opportunity to watch three documentary films at a venue for the press. WILL EISNER, PORTRAIT OF A SEQUENTIAL ARTIST; TWO EMBRACES; BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH. We do like documentaries. We recognize how more people are beginning to appreciate them as well. We acknowledge that the public is becoming more sophisticated and more interested in these types of films.
You might wonder how a documentary on a man known for his contribution to the comic book world could reach a sophisticated audience but anyone who has been watching the evolution of the graphic novel craze knows that it does. PORTRAIT addresses Eisner’s contribution not only to animation but to young animators. Many artists including Neil Gaiman expressed their awe for his talent and their appreciation for enlarging the comic book venue to the adult population with adult topics, concerns and opinions. Eisner’s work was revolutionary. It expanded to more than the typical superhero stories. Comics became political and relevant mainly because of Eisner’s insight and vision. Eisner died in January of 2005 but his work has enabled others to see a different possibilty and experiment with their own vision.
TWO EMBRACES (DOS ABRAZOS) is a movie from Mexico. Since I lived there for 17 years, I am always interested in movies from and about Mexico. This was actually two movies blended together by a shared moment. What I appreciated about these films is the subtle acting that occurred. When you live in Mexico you realize that children are taught to act at festivals and school plays and presentations with theater flair and overly dramatic preformances. Watch a novela and you will know what I mean. In TWO EMBRACES, the actors were subtle and thus more powerful.
As for BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH, we weren’t sure for quite some time if we were watching a feature or a documentary. We weren’t sure if the story was about the circus or the political situation or the social ramifications in Uzbekistan. There were some amazing shots and even some story lines I wish they had developed more, but mostly I wish they had chosen one of the story lines and developed it into a more thoroughly satisfying film.
After today’s viewings, we felt that there are some amazing stories that need to be told. More voices that need to be heard. The ability to create these beautiful shots should enhance the story. Today’s technology should enable the filmmaker to add more depth to their story, but first the story has to be clear and crisp and did I mention clear? We know we can do some amazing things with the software that is available to us. We must not forget that it begins with the story and it should be about the story and it should end with the feeling of experiencing an unforgettable story. That’s the story for today’s slate of films.