Oh my goodness. DAY FIVE. This post is long overdue but I can tell you now – every single movie I have seen I have watched with a smile on my face because I’m just happy to be here. Day five is particularly special to me because I saw three films that I’m still thinking about today.
Two US documentaries Medora about a small town Indiana high-school B-ball team… Notorious for losing; Alex Winter’s award-winning Downloaded chronicling the rise and fall of Napster and Argentinian production A Thesis to a Homicide a thriller starring Ricardo Darín (Nine Queens), as a university lecturer who sets out to prove that one of his students has committed murder.
CLICK ‘READ MORE’ TO SEE THE FULL REVIEW FOR THE ALL FILMS.
After a series of back-to-back dramas, comedies and thrillers I sat down to watch my very first documentary film at Raindance and I am so glad I saw this one. Medora is a must see for anyone who just loves a good story about people, community and human perseverance even when the odds are quite literally stacked against you… and your teammates.
The film follows a small town Indiana high school basketball team as they journey through the season, game to game. It’s like an idea pulled straight out of a television show, Friday Night Lights comes to mind for its execution and heart – except unlike the beautiful people from the small town texas American Football show… these guys really aren’t very good. In fact they’re losing nearly every single game and it’s kind of embarrassing. That’s only part of the story though because at the heart of any school sports team in America, as you may have noticed, is the staunch support of the local people.
Once a town booming with working factories and local business Medora, like many small towns in the US and indeed the world over, is suffering from the recession and a change in times. Schools are being forced to consolidate and as a result towns are losing their identities and community values. Plagued by drugs, alcohol and unemployment, hope in these small towns are dwindling and comradre looks sparse – in Medora the danger of consolidating their school mean is all too possible, so the flailing Medora Hornets is the only symbol of community that they have left to be proud of.
We’re introduced to the endearing teammates with names like Rusty, Dylan and Chaz and they’re ubiquitous girlfriends Kayliee, Kaitlin and Kia; it’s a place where the team coaches are also local cops and pastors. Through these young men we learn a little bit more about Medora’s history and in every contributor there is the common hope and ambition to make their town proud win or lose. When I watched it, I cried. I also shouted in frustration amidst a room full of cinema-goers during the blindsiding games that played out on-screen.
Impressively this film is executive produced by the likes of Steve Buscemi and Stanley Tucci – and as Tucci stated it’s a “Vital”. Medora is just one of those films that is over almost too soon – because it’s just that good.
“Downloaded is a documentary that has allowed each participant to tell this tale,. Not just Napster’s extraordinary rise and fall, but the wider story of how we got from Winamp to Wikileaks. And the great disruptions caused by new technologies that are far from being resolved.” – Alex Winter
Remember Limewire ? I do. Well before that there was Napster, and lo this was the beginning of the end for the music industry dictating how the consumers purchased and accessed music. Whichever side you were/are on after Napster broke the proverbial mould by bringing music to the masses and creating the foundation to allow people to share it for free – it’s a seminal moment in time that sent ripples still felt almost fifteen years later.
Forget what you think you know about co-founders and intimidatingly smart wiz kids Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker, their intentions for Napster were almost utopian and inspiring. However this is not a pro-Napster film, and aims to explore how their naivety and ambition angered everyone from University lecturers to Government officials and musicians but was also accepted and welcomed as the dawn of a new music sharing era by others in the industry and those affected by it at the time. Remember the Metallica (and Nas) Vs Napster court case ? Whether you do or not its documented in there because it was the case that exploited the weak link in Napster’s otherwise admirable and over-zealous purpose. This is where the story takes a messy but thrilling turn, looking at the blurred lines in building a business at the infringement of others in order to chase a ‘better’ cause.
In the wake of major record company buyouts and the closures of record shops – this film couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s ironic just how precise Parker’s prophecy (in the film) about consumer to music access would be, it’s also extremely captivating to see just how this naivety played on both sides, becoming the downfall not only of Napster but for the corporations unwilling to adhere and adapt.
Alex Winter has brought an important film to our attention with Downloaded. It’s a smart, informative and important film that allows the people who were influential in building the digital file sharing site and those intent on shutting it down to share their sides of the story. Packed with so many “did that actually happen?” moments Downloaded is a David and Goliath story (where David also wears backward baseball caps and is actually not prepped for a fight at all). It’s also interesting to see where the core Napster creators and employees have ended up after all these years, and if they’re bitter about how they were torn apart…
Ok that last part was unnecessary.
Thesis on a Homicide
Have you ever seen ROPE? I know, sacrilege to open with the title of another film, let alone a Hitchcock one. However this is what came to mind when I sat down to watch Homicide a quarter or so of the way in. In the former James Stewart plays a detective trying to outsmart two novice killers just minutes after they’ve committed the crime.
In Thesis on a Homicide Roberto Bermudez (Darin) is a former lawyer, now lecturing at a University, and there’s been a murder on his campus. His suspicions point to the odd and arrogant son of an old friend, Gonzalez Cordera, but he has to prove it.
What follows are a series of twists and turns that lead to nowhere; unlike Rope we know from the start who the killers are, they know James Stewart’s detective knows, and a thrilling game cat on cat ensues – but in Homicide what we see of Cordera committing the murder is never clearer than a manifestation in Bermudez’s mind. Ok. That’s fine, except Bermudez is obsessed with pinning the blame on Cordera and his actions will leave you little room to sympathise let alone empathise with him. He tampers with evidence, manipulates innocent friends to suit his endeavours, and a misguided attraction to the murdered victims sister makes him seem – well creepy. His unfounded nemesis is equally confusing. Cordera is a smart, eager to please and elusive young man – all the tell-tale attributes of a psychopath; but aside from a few challenging remarks towards Bermudez’s classroom theories, he’s just a kid who doesn’t agree with his teacher. Not much else is divulged about his past save a half hashed out oedipus complex (towards a mother we never get to meet) and a habit for looking just a little too long at Bermudez – you know, the way serial killers / romantic leads look at their victims/ potential love interest.
The ambiguous nature of this film is intriguing at first, but is frustrating by the end – especially when it doesn’t really resolve or theorise anything. Then again – isn’t that what a thesis is?