bird’s eye view

February 22, 2013


There has been a bit of a purge going on in the Snow-Myyear household recently. Some parties seem to believe where we live is too small, but others believe we have too many physical belongings.

Either way, this series of photos documenting how some of the 100,000 Hong Kong-ites who live in less than 4 square metres do it, and calls for improved living conditions for them. I hope this family keeps the newspaper tablecloth even so.


Congratulations to Yulene Olaizola, who won the IDFA Student Award on Sunday for her documentary, Intimacies of Shakespeare and Victor Hugo. I was lucky enough to catch it in Oslo. I loved the way she built her film up slowly, by interviewing her grandmother in Mexico City about her life and the house she lives in there, and in particular a curious lodger she had, who, as slowly becomes apparent, had many more shadowy identities than is at first obvious.

The dusky tone of the film and her grandmother’s vigorous reminiscing give it a vaguely unsettling feel, as if you’re not always sure what’s just around the corner. Together it all made for quietly addictive viewing.

all white in barking

November 26, 2008


All White in Barking gave me a mini-documentary shot when we watched it on tv during our cabin weekend. I realized only later that it was commissioned as part of the BBC’s White Season, which asks the question (with its controversial trailer), ‘Is white working class Britain becoming invisible?’

Compared to many others, director Marc Isaacs has no qualms in provoking and actively creating situations for his subjects in the London borough of Barking, which is rapidly changing its ethnic makeup. Isaacs first asks a white couple what they think of their Nigerian next-door neighbour. After capturing all their preconceptions on video, he sets them up to have a meal together next door, and tapes that too, and the debriefing afterwards. Holocaust survivor Monty has a live-in carer and companion in Betty from Uganda.

It was interesting to watch residents be candid to the camera, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on what point Isaacs wanted to make. Perhaps the point was just to make the film. If anything I felt Isaacs goaded the white residents a little too much, just to get a rise out of them, while no one else was challenged particularly.

This left me with a vaguely unsettled feeling, while a final, poignant take of the oddest-looking local pensioners made me feel sad for the miscommunication and incomprehension that can arise from fast-changing times.

oslo dokumentarkino

November 20, 2008


I’m definitely missing my annual documentary shot, living in the wrong country to attend the IDFA, the world’s foremost documentary film festival in Amsterdam which starts today. I have fond memories of spending days and sometimes full nights watching documentaries on subjects as diverse as a travelling circus in Africa post-World War II and remote Georgian villages to Israeli checkpoints and just how it is that our food is so cheap.

It’s taken me until now to figure out that there is a group working to show documentaries locally, Oslo Dokumentarkino. Most of the screenings are at Parkteateret in Grünerløkka, and the best way to keep informed is to sign up to their email list.

Next up is a human rights film festival, showing among others Darwin’s Nightmare (IDFA’s top documentary of the past 20 years) and China Blue, also a past IDFA winner.


I have a feeling the ‘film’ tag in my cloud is about to get a lot bigger. The Oslo Film Festival kicks off today. By international standards it’s small but in my limited (last year’s) experience can still throw up some gems. And on the plus side, it also means it’s no problem to get your hands on tickets (unlike Rotterdam or London). Privately, I have my fears that this bodes poorly for the festival’s future, but we’ll worry about that when we get to it.

On my shortlist this year after scanning the funky pencilled-in thumbnails on the website:

Ballast (US family drama, won Cinematography and the Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival this year)

Hunger (IRA hunger strike in the Maze Prison of Northern Ireland)

Intimacies of Shakespeare and Victor Hugo (documentary on several oddball inhabitants of Mexico City)

La Rabia (Argentinian pampas drama)

Man on Wire (docu on Phillipe Petit’s 1974 WTC tight rope walk, have had my eye on this one for a while now)

Worlds Apart (Danish girl questions her Johevah’s Witness faith)

Up the Yangtze (just to scratch my China itch)

Who’s coming with me?


November 3, 2008

I’m not the biggest Sigur Rós fan around, at a push preferring the big orchestral sound end of their music spectrum to the plinky ethereal end. But when Icelandair’s fabulous inflight entertainment system offered up the film about their free homecoming tour that Mrs. Cap’n had waxed lyrical to me about, it was too good a chance to miss.

After having toured the world, the band returned to Iceland and performed a series of free, unpublicised concerts in a string of small towns and villages. When so many of us live in man-built environments, the concerts and the footage of the surrounding nature showed a people who live very much according to the whims of nature’s forces. Their reactions to the music – sometimes bemused, sometimes delighted – were itself a delight to watch.

Starting out slowly, the film steadily draws you in. The concerts it showed were said to unite Iceland in a common experience, and the film certainly reinforces the impression of a very special people in a very special place that seems almost other worldly in its remoteness. I’ve even (almost) developed an appreciation for the plinkiness of the music. Anyone who can make a xylophone from bits of slat or dried up rhubarb branches must be a genius.

stop, mr. miura!

September 18, 2008

Despite the absence of a whole screen, not to mention information, we got to see a fair few films at the Festival. The good were:

Panta Rei (Alt Flyter): on an artist in the Lofoten islands in Northern Norway, and his project to recreate some of the solar system with globes on the islands around him. Project itself not so interesting, the artist a little more so, the narrative very much so, but all outshone by the natural beauty of the surroundings there, and the beautiful filming.

Dimensions: snow-kiting film that showed how to make a great stunt movie: snappy editing, thumping music, minimal chat from the riders and maximal action!

The bad:

Out There: Teton Gravity’s new surf film did just the opposite, showed how NOT to make a stunt movie good. Amazing big wave surfing, but tedious, banal philisophizing by surfers on how to save the world (but mainly the surf).

Steep: traces the birth and development of extreme skiing. Cool Chamonix footage from the 70’s, but yet another victim of pontifying proponents.

The amazing: By far the best film we saw was almost 30 years old. The Man Who Skied Down Everest tells the story of Yuichiro Miura’s attempt to ski down almost from the peak of Everest. Only when I started to look into it did I find out that the film won the Academy Award for the best documentary in 1975.

This was Everest old-school style, before commercial expeditions, hence the requirement for 800 (!) porters and 40 days. Senstive, observant excerpts from Miura’s diary from this period make up the film’s monologue. Which made it even harder to understand his completely mad approach to skiing down (and presumably wanting to stop before the massive crevasse). Muira didn’t seem to believe much in controlled skiing, rather relying on a parachute (!) to slow him down, oh, and some snowploughing when he got to it.

The final scenes of the ski descent were absolutely heart-stopping, exciting fiml-making the likes of which I have not seen for a long time. Spoiler up next, so don’t click on if you want to watch it for yourself, which I strongly recommend! Read the rest of this entry »

Lisa F Jackson
On a mission… Lisa F Jackson. Photograph: Bryan Bedder/Getty

Not at all an easy read but a worthwhile one. Taken from the Guardian, Friday May 9, 2008.

Filmmaker Lisa F Jackson survived a terrifying sexual assault in Washington. But she was still shocked by the tales women told her when she made a documentary about rape in the Congo. She talks to Kira Cochrane.

In a long conversation, the only time that Lisa F Jackson falls quiet is when I ask which moment most affected her in the making of her film The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo. Was it meeting a teenager, Immakilee, raped by soldiers and left pregnant at 15, who, as Jackson says, “has eyes that look like the world has abandoned her”? Or hearing the story of 42-year-old Marie Jeanne, whose husband was beaten and killed and, as she explains in the film, cut “into three parts, the head, the chest, and the bottom part … then they raped me and abandoned me there. I passed out next to my husband’s legs”?

Read the rest of this entry »