I think I may be trailing Michael Moore around Traverse City. That, or the man has a successful human cloning lab running that he hasn’t told anyone about. Aside from introducing Big Fan Wednesday night, Moore was at two of the three events I attended today (July 30): the “Palestine and Vine” panel and the screening of Rachel a Gaza-set documentary that immediately followed it.
The week’s panels, at the Opera House, are a fun amalgam of film related topics, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to call this one of the most interesting. You will be able to read more about it in our coverage of the event, but in my brief opinion, it was a valuable hour and a half.
The time shed light on life and filmmaking in a part of the world that many of us (and I include myself) don’t know very well, despite news coverage by the truckload. And questions from some of the more activist-minded audience members spurred a discussion on the panel that delved into whether ideology should take a front or a backseat role to art in filmmaking.
Stories from Annemarie Jacir and her producer, who worked on Salt of this Sea were jaw-dropping. Most American film crews don’t know what its like to be in physical danger, from the government no less, because of the movie you’re working on. That the film was completed (without the blessing and apparently with obstruction from the Israeli government) is remarkable.
Seeing Rachel helped me take the concepts of the panel: continuing conflict in Palestine, art as a locus of change, and immediately apply them in the concrete film playing out before me. The film is the story of Rachel Corrie, a young American activist who was killed by a bulldozer while standing between Palestinian homes in Gaza and the Israeli demolition teams come to knock them down. The documentary functioned as the thorough investigation into her death that never really took place, and provided insight into the issue. In short, I think it did what a serious, topical documentary should.
After Rachel, I was in the interesting position of walking out of a movie that ended at 2:15 p.m. and knowing I had to be at work at 3 p.m. So, after booking it cross town and working for eight hours (it’s unimportant, no need to include the shelf-stocking details) I made my way back to Traverse City for the midnight screening of Winnebago Man.
Which was hilarious. A lot of the humor in the movie depends on the fact that over the top anger and excessive profanity are funny, but they are, so it all works. Director Ben Steinbauer manages to find a human story in the midst of his look into the phenomenon of viral videos, especially online, and that humanity comes to dominate the movie more than anything else.