documentary short

Redemption (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Redemption (2013)
85th Academy Awards 2013
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Documentary Short Subject (Jon Alpert, Matthew O’Neill).
Watched June 30, 2014.

Redemption is a unique view of life in New York.  On the very doorstep of nice homes and large buildings, condominiums and the Empire State Building itself, the impoverished of the city spend endless hours, day in and day out, collecting bottles and cans from trashcans in order to redeem them for five cents a piece.

This documentary short follows a basic premise to tell a sad story.  It follows different people, from veterans and the elderly, to immigrants and single mothers.  Some of them live on the streets and band together from a mutual need of safety.  Others live in a one room apartment with at least six other people.  Some New Yorkers help the collectors, while others turn a blind eye.

The one bedroom apartment is like a scene from hoarders.  It makes the situation more real and brings the message of the film home.  It doesn’t matter where you come from.  There is a woman who worked for Microsoft for years, but now her Social Security benefits don’t cover everything and she has to can all day, fighting with an angry and overly competitive Chinese woman who will steal your cans right from under you.  Each person has a story.

The film is very transparent.  It doesn’t seek to hide its message or motives under artistic camera work or in-studio interview footage.  It is all on the streets.  There is little to no symbolism.  It is simple.  This probably makes it more powerful, and yet from an artistic standpoint it is very blah and unimpressive.  It transitions from character to character well, and it tells their stories even better, but there is nothing else to it.  Perhaps its length limited it, but its rawness was a negative for me.

The documentary is less than half an hour long.  If the story sounds interesting to you, then I would definitely recommend it.  I am a lover of documentaries and don’t consider my time wasted by viewing it.  It did open my eyes a bit more to the poverty around us, which is probably the biggest goal of the film, and therefore it did its job.  However, in my opinion, a film should exceed the bounds of just “doing its job” in order to deserve an Oscar nomination.

Inocente (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Inocente (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award, which it won.
Won Best Documentary, Short Subject (Sean Fine, Andrea Nix Fine).
Watched January 21, 2014.


Inocente is definitely an Academy type documentary, and I can see by their standards how it stood out.  I haven’t watched any of the other shorts yet from this year so I’m not sure how they compare.  However, I’m not sure that Inocente would have won in my book, and here is why.


I thought it was fairly average.  The story had power and the colors and symbolism were there, but I felt that its stillness and quiet moments were a large weak point.  As a fan of photography and cinematography alike, I understand and can appreciate how just one frame or photograph can speak volumes.  In Inocente, those frames were so repetitive that the forty minute short felt like seventy.


Inocente Izucar is a 15 year old living in San Diego, California.  For all intents and purposes, she is homeless.  She has never lived one place more than three months at a time and knows most, if not all of the shelters in and around her county.  None of her friends from school know.  She has found healing in art, so much so that she can’t even keep it off her face.  She paints her face every morning, dons her bright red converse, and is off.  She enjoys being alone and does not spend a lot of time with her family, but instead at ARTS (A Reason To Survive) where she paints bright scenes from her dreams.


Inocente is chosen by the director of ARTS to be one of two chosen to host their own art show.  She creates thirty pieces in a couple months, and then sells them for twelve thousand dollars towards the program and her college fund.  The documentary follows her artistic journey and uses the art pieces as background as she narrates over the top, sharing stories of the past.  She and her family are living illegally in the United States, and Inocente feels like it is her fault that they are homeless and running scared.  Her abusive father was deported years ago, and Inocente feels directly responsible.  At only eleven years old, her mother pleaded with her that they should both jump off the Coronado bridge.  Inocente had to talk her down.


Despite the power in her words and story, I felt like the story telling was weak.  The people were all respectfully represented, but there was little shown of the difficulty of their life.  There was so much time spent in the art studio and so much less on just her life that although Inocente shared many stories and many things, very few things stood out as emotionally grabbing.  The colors and camera work were well done, as far as MTV goes, but I am surprised that the film gained an Oscar from the Academy.


Inocente’s story seems like it would be fascinating, and her way of telling it is raw and real.  She feels awkward at first, not knowing how to start.  Her art is a central focus, and perhaps that was the goal.  Perhaps she and the Fines wished her art to tell her story more than her words.  They wanted it to be brighter and more positive.  I can understand that, but I guess it just was not my cup of tea.


If the story I relayed for you sounds interesting, I would recommend the film to you.  Obviously a lot of other people really enjoyed it, I was just more indifferent to it than they were.  I will say this, though–the colors were absolutely beautiful, as was Inocente.  I wish her the very best.

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Documentary Short (Robin Fryday, Gail Dolgin).
Watched November 7, 2012.

Out of all the films I have been seeing lately, I am ecstatic to begin watching the documentaries.  My genre, my niche, my love.  The Barber of Birmingham was a fairly good way to start off.  If anyone is curious, it is currently available for viewing on the PBS website and is less than thirty minutes in length.


No matter your political affiliation, this was certainly a touching film.  It features James Armstrong, an 85 year old man who lives in Birmingham, Alabama.  He is a hero, by our standards–one of the many foot soldiers of the civil rights movement.  A man who once stood at the court house steps to argue with the sherif about his voting rights and was one of the first to integrate his children into white schools, the film shows his awe, joy, and pride as Obama becomes the first black President of the United States.


There is a little bit of story telling through dialogue, but also a lot through stillness and reflection.  There are a few other interviews featured, but it is primarily about Mr. Armstrong.  He is a barber.  One of his most impactful stories was about how many times he had been arrested in his life, or his wife, or even his daughter when she was only thirteen years old.  He also recalls the Bloody Sunday march for voting rights, and walks the bridge every year in remembrance.  After living a life like his, and then going on to witness the inauguration of our nation’s first black President, he is almost speechless with joy and pride.


I enjoyed The Barber of Birmingham.  It was very touching and I feel as if it communicated well through its simplicity and quietness.  It had a big message but didn’t push an agenda–it just was.


Sources: IMDBPaste MagazineThe Independent CriticIndie Wire