February 14th, 2014 — 11:48pm
Facing Fear-sp We doubt very much that most of the readers of this blog will see this short documentary film (20 minutes) that has been nominated for an Academy Award. However, when it turns up on TV you should take the time to see it and if you are involved with educating people about bullying, overcoming prejudice and similar issues, you will want a copy of this DVD when it comes out.
As a 13 year-old, Mathew Boger was literally thrown out of his house when he told his mother that he was gay. He ended up spending most of the next few years living in the street of Los Angeles. Tim Zale grew up part of neo-Nazi Skinhead gang with a large tomahawk hair cut on his mostly shaven head. He and his buddies would cruise the streets of Los Angeles getting into fights and bullying some of the homeless people they encountered. This was to be the case late one night in front of a well- known LA hamburger place where Zale and his pals encountered Boger alone in the street. They beat him up and while he was on the ground Zale delivered kicks to head and face with a boot that had a razor in the toe. They left him believing he was dead.
Boger survived, but the hate and persistent anger at his attackers was part of his fantasy life for many years. Both young men moved on with their lives. Zale went to school, ultimately received a Masters Degree and had a family. His thinking began to change when he saw some of his hate and prejudice towards various groups being verbalized by his own son. Boger established a long-term relationship and eventually got a job as an administrator in charge of tours at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. By coincidence, Zale began to volunteer to give tours and lectures to the public at this iconic museum, which is best known for graphic depiction and personal stories of the horrors caused by Nazis during the Holocaust. During his time there Zale would share how his thinking had evolved over the years. One day they both were lecturing a group together and by the details Zale was describing of his youth, Boger realized that Zale was part of the group that almost killed him. They began to have private discussions and both immediately knew that it was Zale who delivered the nearly fatal blow to his new colleague at the museum and left him for dead twenty-five years before.
Director and Producer Jason Cohen very skillfully weaved the narrative told by both men with very effective images of the streets of Los Angeles. There were some photographs of Zale and his buddies in their earlier days as skin-heads but there were no photos available of Bogart as the homeless street kid. Miraculously, Bogart’s sister had some old films of him as an infant and a small child with his very attractive mother. Credit should also be give to Director of Photography Svetlana Cvetko, who won an Academy Award for Inside Job and veteran Editor and Co-Producer Tom Christopher who has worked in the past with George Lucas and others.
The tremendous value of this film is to watch up close the ruminations of Bogart and Zale as they examine their feelings about each other and what happened in the past. Bogart’s incredible journey to forgive not only Zale but also his mother is quite remarkable. Zale’s task to face Boger and ask for forgiveness and then also to forgive himself is also quite dramatic as well.
We cannot think of a better teaching tool to show to students as well as victims and perpetrators of prejudice. It can only be a wonderful instrument to stimulate discussion, self-reflection and insight. The filmmakers, having received this unexpected recognition of an Academy Award nomination, plan to have their work available to those who want to see it and use it for these purposes. For more information about the film you can go to their website: http://www.facingfearmovie.com/ (2014)
Comment » | 5 Stars, Documentary
March 23rd, 2012 — 4:21pm
Bully- sp The film makers Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen have tackled a very difficult and important subject as they take on bullying in schools and its consequences. The value of this documentary and its message actually supercedes the quality of the production, which at times is uneven, drawn out, and does not always paint a clear story of each of its subjects. The movie does tell the story of several cases of bullying in school, which in some instances has led to tragic suicides. The movie shows children being bullied at school and on school buses. It captures some of the discussions at home between parents and children who are being bullied. The viewer follows some particular parents as they visit the school officials and in some cases sees them being told, “Children will be children etc.” The filmmakers have recorded an intimate portrait of families who have lost a child to suicide after being bullied. It shows their grief and how it is being transformed into a nationwide movement to address this issue. We are inspired as we see their determination to make a difference and save children so they don’t end up with such tragic consequences. We were quite touched, as was the audience with whom we screened this film. Much of the thrust of the film, which was restated by a family that was in the film and spoke at our screening, was that school authorities are not doing enough to stop and prevent bullying. Discussion from our audience brought out an example from India where school athletes are given the responsibility to speak out whenever they see bullying occurring in their school and another example from a local California school where every freshman in high school is given a big buddy or mentor of a senior who looks out for them. Part of the great value of this movie would be if it could be shown to the high school kids themselves who would see and appreciate the destructive nature of bullying. However, it is ironic that the movie is given an R rating because of a few “f words” heard in the background” which means that it can only be seen by those 18 years and older. There is a campaign to get the Rating Board to change the rating. This movement is getting the film quite a bit of publicity, which may be why the producers have not chosen to edit out those few words. (2012)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary
July 21st, 2011 — 7:36am
Terri-rm- Terri (Jacob Wysocki)is a very obese 15 year old who lives with his demented uncle( Creed Bratton)and is bullied inschool. He develops a relationship with the empathic Assistant Principal Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly) who is trying to help him. There are two misfit friends, an attractive blond Heather (Olivia Crocicchia) and Chad (Bridger Zadina). The movie starts off very slowly and frequently drags on. We don’t know very much about the background of the teenagers and view them as your generic troubled high schoolers. Similarly, it is suggested that Mr. Fitzgerald has some problems but we only vaguely know about him. There are a number of potential comedic moments between him and Terri as well as a suggestion of some good chemistry but it never gets to the point where we are moved to laughter or anything close to tears. Reilly is the kind of actor who will grab your attention especially when he is going some place with his character which wasn’t the case here. Wysocki appears to be a talented actor who knows how to convey his feelings with few words. I am sure we are going to see him again in future efforts, hopefully in a more healthy size, and in a better movie . (2011)
Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama
February 24th, 2011 — 8:36am
In A Better World- sp – We saw this film four days before the evening of the Academy awards and we do believe that this Danish film could give Biutiful from Mexico a run for the money for the best Foreign Language Film. (We must confess that these two outstanding films were the only ones in this category that we have seen.) Director Susanne Bier who was guest speaker at our screening collaborated with Screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen to bring forth a magnificent story and movie which examines the issues of revenge, bullying, family relationships as well as a friendship between two pre-adolescent boys that is forged in their own painful circumstances. Biers effectively shifts between scenes in Africa where Anton (Mikael Persbrandt), the father of one of the boys is a physician who makes regular trips to a medical outpost and Denmark where his son Elias is being jerked around by some classmates who are bullying him. The other boy Christian (perhaps an ironic choice of a name ) has just moved back from London with his father to live with his grandmother in Denmark after his mother died of cancer. The main characters find themselves in situations where they can choose to act in a manner that may be wrong and immoral or which could also be considered by some to be justified. The presentation of moral ambiguities in characters that we can understand and identify with makes a stimulating and very riveting film. The scenery in Africa is beautiful and the people living in the refugee camp where they were casted are very genuine since most are non-actors. On the other hand the two child stars who were chosen from 120 auditions essentially carry the film as their characters make decisions which will keep you on the edge of your seat for nearly the same number of minutes. It is all helped along by an appropriate musical background. We will give the edge to Biutiful but would not be surprised to see the Danes take first prize in this category.(2010) Addendum: It won the Oscar for best foreign film ! )
Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama
September 30th, 2010 — 5:54pm
Let Me In- sp You probably don’t want to see this movie unless you like Vampire films with all the blood, gore and death, so they can live another day. But if you like this genre you will get a lot more than just the horror show. It is a very touching story of the coming of age of two 12 years old kids (even if one is 250 years old in a 12 year old’s body) which beautifully shows the innocence of adolescent awakening. There is a very vivid and painful depiction of bullying by young people which reminds us of the dread that a kid who is the victim of it will feel every day. When there is revenge for this type of treatment, you can imagine what a Vampire. can do. The audience also experiences a palpitating anticipation, which is served up in this type of a movie and greatly helped by a music score with appropriate sound effects which reverberates through your body. This is all the work of Matt Reeves, who wrote the screenplay based on the novel Let The Right One In and a Swedish movie by the same name. Reeves who made Cloverfield, was a guest speaker at our screening of this film. He was very clear on what he wanted to achieve, apparently keeping true to parts of the novel, paralleling the European film and writing from some of his own childhood experiences. He used two excellent child actors, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace-Moretz and allowed them to teach him what a 12 year old might feel in these unusual situations (of course this required them to rev up their imaginations to the fullest). They really did an outstanding job as did Richard Jenkins who was put in the role of a most evil person and yet the audience almost wanted him succeed in his grim tasks. Be aware that about 20 % of our screening audience which probably didn’t know what the subject matter was going to be, walked out on the movie during the first 15-20 minutes. There certainly was no one under 40 in those walkers. If they had stayed until the end they might have appreciated the thoughtful writing, excellent acting and a top notch Vampire film.(2010)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Horror, Romance, Thriller