UPDATED: Global Visions film fest offers something for all


The environment, politics, corporate greed, pollution and socialist ideology are just some of the topics addressed in films that make up Global Visions 2012.

The 30th anniversary event starts tomorrow, although some special screenings have already been held today. Programming director Guy Lavallee explains that there should be something for everyone to watch and be educated by before the end credits roll on Sunday evening.

“That’s the challenge for myself as program director … trying to find a real balance of films from different countries, different issues but also really, really trying to engage audiences. I want people to show up right from opening night and see the first film and say, ‘Wow! I need to come back all weekend to see as many films as I can see’. That, to me, is the ultimate goal.”

Here’s a summary review of a few of the 28 documentaries scheduled for screening at this year’s instalment of the Global Visions Film Festival.

Beauty Day

Directed by Jay Cheel
85 minutes
Screens at 11:15 p.m. Saturday at Metro Cinema

Cap’n Video? Who? That’s Ralph Zavadil, Canada’s precocious answer to Jackass and Tom Green.

The southern Ontario man spent five years of his life setting up and filming strange and often dangerous antics for his weekly low-budget TV show. Jumping off roofs into snowbanks? Yup. Diving from a ladder into half-empty swimming pools? Yup! Drinking eggs through his nostrils? Gross, and yup!

Cheel’s documentary about this offbeat attention-seeker is unsettling if you care about your children’s mental and physical well-being. If not, it’s as riveting as watching 90 minutes of America’s Funniest Home Videos where some guy falls on his face and gets a baseball bat to the private parts over and over again. If that’s your sort of thing, then this is the show for you.

Zavadil upset as many people as he amused but he was as original as they came in the world of local access television.

Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life

Directed by Werner Herzog
105 minutes
Screens at 7 p.m. Friday at the Art Gallery of Alberta

Master filmmaker and documentarian Werner Herzog (Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Grizzly Man) follows Michael Perry, a man on death row in the United States for killing a nurse in Texas. While the man denied responsibility, he accepted his fate with religious fervour.

This documentary is prompted by Perry’s final interviews that were recorded merely a week before his execution in the summer of 2010. His victim’s families and law enforcement officers, plus the attendant priest are interviewed.

The film chooses to avoid focusing on whether Perry is guilty or innocent, but rather deals with the matter at hand – he was convicted, and he was set for execution by the state.

Peace Out

Directed by Charles Wilkinson
80 minutes
Screens at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Metro Cinema

Are natural resources available just for us to fuel our energy needs or should we leave them alone?

Peace Out wonders aloud whether we are treating the world like a kid in a candy store or if it deserves more of our respect. It does a fair job of giving both environmentalists and industrialists the opportunity to make their cases, and leaves it up in the air for the audience to decide for itself.

The documentary is a little dry at times and certainly many of us are no strangers to popular debate about this subject. This is Alberta after all, a place where oil, trees and coal are economic drivers.

The film does a fine job of showing how our energy-hungry world is changing our precious and beautiful landscape far more rapidly than most of us probably realize.

The Loving Story

Directed by Nancy Buirski
77 minutes
Screens at 7 p.m. Sunday at Metro Cinema – closing night film

Racism is such a nasty thing, didn’t you know? This documentary about Richard and Mildred Loving takes place in the 1960s in Virginia during the era of massive civil rights upheaval in the United States.

The white man and the black woman fought the law for the dignity and respect to honour their love through marriage, despite the courts telling them that it was illegal. Miscegenation (a.k.a. interracial marriage) was a political hot topic and the Lovings took their case all the way to the Supreme Court to achieve the eventual social justice through a historic ruling that would prove to be a major game-changer for civil and human rights in our neighbour to the south.

It’s always odd to reflect that this occurred less than 50 years ago in a first world nation. This is a grand lesson for all to learn that the law is not always right and it is not always proper.

If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front

Directed by Marshall Curry
85 minutes
Screens at 9:15 p.m. Friday at Metro Cinema

Whispers of the Earth Liberation Front only wafted into public consciousness here and there, but the stories were just as potent and polarizing as those of animal activists who break into university scientific research labs to release its captives. Since it is so similar in nature and in action to the Animal Liberation Front, that comparison is apt.

Members of ELF used economic sabotage and guerrilla warfare to hinder and stop what they considered the exploitation and destruction of the environment. Fires were set. Property was damaged. No one was ever killed, but many of the activists were arrested and charged with crimes that could put them in jail for centuries.

If a Tree Falls is the story of ELF and how member Daniel McGowan along with 13 of his cohorts were found and arrested in 2005. They were branded as terrorists. Watching this, one wonders if filmmaker Curry is for or against the effort. Certainly what they did was extremist, but is it any worse than the ecological damage that industry and governments have inflicted and perpetrated against Mother Earth?

This film premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival and was a nominee for the 2011 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. It’s unevenly paced, boring at times and meanders around without strong direction, but the subject matter is very compelling. It poses many questions that we must all answer.

Paul Goodman Changed My Life

Directed by Jonathan Lee
89 minutes
Screens at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Art Gallery of Alberta

Novelist, playwright, poet, psychotherapist, social critic … Paul Goodman was all of those things and more. Outspoken and out of the closet bisexual in the 1940s, he co-founded Gestalt therapy at the same time that he was writing influential texts on culture and identity.

Filmmaker Lee explores the intellectual and humourous sides of Goodman with a lot of gusto. He was a weighty figure in the counterculture of the 1960s. He was a political radical, openly bisexual, outspoken and unafraid of a good verbal sparring match, even called the ‘guru of the New Left.’ It was his book, Growing Up Absurd, that would provide an early but seminal, decisive and insightful look at juvenile delinquency, the disaffected youth of contemporary western society.

This is a loving portrait, one that definitely made me want to learn more about this person who I never knew about previously.

The Whale

Directed by Suzanne Chisholm and Michael Parfit
85 minutes
Screens at noon on Sunday at the Art Gallery of Alberta

Ryan Reynolds narrates this charming, delightful true story of a killer whale named Luna. The young orca was alone in the wild. It somehow lost its family and just wanted to have a few friends so it approached the residents of Nootka Sound, a narrow stretch of sea between mountains in British Columbia.

This isn’t just a story about being social; it’s about the need for contact. Orcas who get separated usually perish.

The Whale isn’t necessarily a message movie, one that is meant to inspire you to warm, spiritual feelings; however, it does that easily. You could simply watch this movie and bathe in the sheer beauty of nature in all its splendour: the ocean, the wildlife and the world in general.


About Author

Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.