Category Archives: Documentary

Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film

PCF posted about this some time back, but yesterday YouTube user  BentoJoaoAntonio uploaded the 13th and final episode of Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film. I’ve known about this series for some time, but had never had the opportunity to see it. It has never been released on DVD, only on VHS and laserdisc.. You can occasionally find the VHS set for sale (I’m not sure what kind of contraption plays those things) and sellers often sell laserdisc to dvd-r transfers on places like Ebay. But thanks to BentoJoaoAnotoio, the entire series is available to watch at your leisure. It’s been delightful to watch this series and silent film fans, or film fans in general, should definitely carve out about 13 hours to give it a watch.

Click on through to see the episode list with links to the vids. Happy viewing and  hats off to BentoJoaoAntonio for posting it for all to enjoy! Read the rest of this entry

Review of The Last Dogs of Winter (2011)

The Last Dogs of Winter poster - Costa BotesThe Last Dogs of Winter explores Brian Ladoon’s struggle to preserve the Canadian Eskimo dog, or Qimmiq, the rarest registered breed of dog in the world, from extinction. Assisted by an adventurous New Zealander, Caleb Ross, Ladoon breeds Eskimo dogs against the harsh backdrop of Churchill, Manitoba and fights off polar bears to do it. As a documentary, The Last Dogs of Winter is bit uneven in focus, but the subject matter is engaging, and Ladoon is, shall we say, a character.

I suppose there is a lot to be said about the Inuit and the relationship they had with their dogs. This documentary does touch the topic, and presumes that this is a given. Not being Canadian, but having seen Nanook of the North, I get it. To lose these dogs would be a tragedy and they exist today only through the efforts of Ladoon and organizations like the Eskimo Dog Research Foundation. I would have liked for The Last Dogs of Winter to explore the topic a bit more, but it wasn’t the ultimate focus of the doc.

Brian Ladoon - The Last Dogs of Winter - Costa BotesWhat I would like to have know more about is the relationship between Brian Ladoon and his Churchill neighbors. Mention is made that he’s a divisive figure in the community and that many people do not agree with him, but it’s all expository and never really depicted. There is also mention made that people feel Ladoon is cruel to the dogs because he keeps the outdoors, at the mercy of the elements and the polar bears. Ladoon offers cogent explanations for both complaints. First, the dogs are made to withstand the harsh Canadian winter. Second, the dogs aren’t afraid of the bears. In fact, we are treated to much footage of dogs frolicking with bears. It’s riveting.

The Last Dogs of Winter also never addresses the question of why or for what the dogs are worth saving. It takes as a fact in evidence that they are worth saving and never addresses the issue of work. Brian Ladoon works very hard to maintain the integrity of the gene pool of Canadian Eskimo dogs, but they remain purposeless in the contemporary society. One suspects that Ladoon had something bigger and better in mind for his dogs (mention is made of running teams of dogs) but got bogged down along the way in the persnickety details of finances and resources.

The Last Dogs of Winter

It’s no surprise that a fiercely independent, abrasive, and obstinate character like Brian Ladoon would have both the gall and perseverance to save an entire breed of dogs. In the end, he strikes me as the human equivalent of his Eskimo dogs –  beautiful example of a breed teetering on the brink of extinction and already tumbling in the abyss of purposelessness. If The Last Dogs of Winter winds its way to your area, be sure to see it. Just expect to feel a little sad afterwards.

Watch The Last Dogs of Winter Trailer:

The Last Dogs of Winter director, Costa Botes, wrote a detailed blog entry on the making of the film.

Mindful/Playful | The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold PosterMorgan Spurlock, the king of documentary self-sacrifice, strikes again. Often, Spurlock brings smirking good humor to dangerous, perilous, and crucially important social issues. (He almost killed his liver for Supersize Me, for goodness sakes!) This time out, Spurlock brings that smirking good humor to a pervasive, if decidedly less directly dangerous, issue. In The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Spurlock turns his insight to the world of advertising, marketing, and product placement. Spurlock starts with a clever conceit, and executes it cleverly – in short, he courts corporate sponsors to fund his documentary through brand partnerships and product placements, all the while demonstrating how this all works. Read the rest of this entry

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