PCFF WINNER 2021 Audience Choice Award: Best Feature Documentary
When filmmaker Suzanne Crocker suggests that her family spend a year eating only locally sourced food, her husband and three teenagers are skeptical. What complicates this experiment is that the family lives in a remote Yukon town, less than 300 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle—not exactly an easy place to access fresh-grown food all year round. First We Eat follows Suzanne and her family as they hunt, forage, fish, grow and raise their own food, struggling along the way to create a meal plan with variety and flavor. In perhaps the most bizarre effort to inject some seasoning into her cooking, Suzanne even dries human blood to use as salt. Filmed primarily by the director herself, this challenging look at food security and sustainability is also an intimate study of a family in the midst of a tough but rewarding experiment.
“T-Rex” is an intimate, true coming-of-age story about a new kind of American heroine. in 2012, women’s boxing debuted at the 2012 Olympics. Fighting for gold from the USA is Claressa “T-Rex” Shields, just 17 years old and by far the youngest competitor. From the hard knock streets of Flint, Mich., Claressa is undefeated and utterly confident. Her fierceness extends beyond the ring as he protects her family at any cost, even when their instability and addictions threaten to derail her dream. Claressa does have one stable force in her life. Coach Jason Crutchfield has trained her since she was just a scrawny 11-year-old hanging out at his gym. Jason always wanted a champion, but never thought it’d be a girl. Her relationships with her coach and her family grow tense as she gets closer to her dream, but Claressa is determined. She desperately wants to take her family to a better, safer place and winning a gold medal could be her only chance.
Tenth-grade filmmaker Bailey Webber is on a mission that starts when her school district, in a misguided attempt to address childhood obesity, forces its schools to perform Body Mass Index (BMI) tests on selected students. After a sixth grader voices her protest against the “fat letters,” Webber recognizes the injustice of telling children they are fat if they don’t fall within a narrowly accepted range. Her keen inquiry includes a relentless chase after the bureaucrat who sponsored the law. Whether staging a vigil at the state house or interviewing health experts, Bailey never loses her cool, pursuing with poise and charm. Her dogged pursuit is always done with poise and immense charm. THE STUDENT BODY is a sophisticated, smart, steadfast, sensitive and often humorous chronicle of two brave girls who expose the hypocrisy of grownups who think they are safeguarding youth.
No classroom for these kindergarteners: In Switzerland’s Langnau am Albis, a suburb of Zurich, children four to seven years of age go to kindergarten in the woods every day, no matter what the weatherman says. The filmmakers follow the forest kindergarten through the seasons of one school year to make their documentary film “School’s Out: Lessons from a Forest Kindergarten.” This eye-opening film looks into the important question of what it is that children need at that age. There is laughter, beauty and amazement in the process of finding out.
Sometimes a carefully placed kiss on the cheek can stay with you longer than a clumsy vampire’s bite to the neck. This first feature starring Zoe Kazan (“It’s Complicated,” “Revolutionary Road”) is on one level a very simple story: a look at the quiet emotional crises of a 20-year-old college student on spring break. But it has been crafted with such a skilled, subtle hand that it holds our interest without noticing how it’s done.
“The Exploding Girl” confronts the mysteries of everyday life by focusing not on life’s dramatic moments but on the low-key spaces in between. With all of the awkwardness that never makes it into a Hollywood film, this is a great film for teens coming of age to see with Mom or Dad.
“This quietly poetic little gem contains many beautiful things, not least of which is leading lady Zoe Kazan, who lets every scene billow and swirl around her effortlessly.” Joe Neumaier – New York Daily News
“The Exploding Girl” is a lovely, languorous film that does much with little and leaves you feeling like you’ve witnessed some minor miracle. Kazan’s done some good work in supporting roles, but this should put her on the map as the real deal.” Laura Clifford – Reeling Reviews
“No matter what we do, is it really going to make a difference?” This corrosive statement becomes the core of “ReGENERATION,” a documentary that succeeds as a lightning rod for social change through thought and action. Strongly calling out the apathy of the current generation of youth and young adults, the film, narrated by Ryan Gosling, presents a cross-section of perspectives from a society fed more through corporate media than by truth. Unique commentary on the problems facing our society are explored through an inspired collective of musicians (STS9), a 20-something conservative family and a group of five suburban high school students looking for their place in the world. As the powerful evidence of our reliance on technology, disconnection with nature, excessive consumption and loss of history add up, leading scholars from around the world (including Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky), journalists (Amy Goodman) and media personalities, Mos Def and Talib Kweli) stimulate the discussion with their wisdom and personal reflections. As engaging as it is insightful, ReGENERATION stands to be heard and energizes audiences to join its march to a world of passionate action.
Over the course of a year, this witty documentary follows two urban, multiracial 11-year-olds as they explore their place in the food chain. Sadie and Safiyah talk to storekeepers, farmers, food activists, farmers to learn more about the origin of the food they eat, how it’s cultivated and how far it travels from farm to fork. The girls formulate sophisticated and compassionate opinions about urban sustainability, and by doing so inspire hope and active engagement.
Parkour – a movement discipline based on French military obstacle-course training – might be considered controversial, but seeing it is not. Cedric Dahl’s documentary follows five American parkour practitioners who share this passion for movement. Characterized as a physical “type of freedom,” “kind of expression,” and “state of mind,” parkour has influenced the stunts in action films from Bond to Bourne. But there’s much more to it than chasing the bad guy with acrobatic moves. As one practitioner comments, “If you listen to the movement it teaches us to touch the world and interact instead of being sheltered by it.”
Three countries. One passion. Three hundred bodies — climbing, reaching the sky to build a human tower.
In Mumbai, India, a team of men attempt to break the Indian record for biggest human tower at the one-day Dahi Handi Festival. In Vilafranca del Penedès, Spain, a group of castellers ( climbers) formed by men, women and children share their passion with the world following a tradition that goes back 400 years. A legendary coach takes his passion to Santiago, Chile, hoping to empower and help the local groups to improve their performances while unifying them as a community.
The film cuts between the three countries, leading to a major climatic scene that will take your breath away and keep you on the edge of your seat. All it takes is one shaky foot and the human tower falls, sending hundreds of bodies tumbling in the rain or into the mud or onto the crumbling pavement of a forgotten neighborhood. A passion beyond race, borders, and ages. A global story of fearless skills heart-pounding suspense and also of human connection.
Why Make Human Towers? Human towers are medicine for the soul. You risk your life for a moment of sublime camaraderie and community. Trust is paramount. All it takes is one shaky foot and the entire tower falls, sending you and hundreds of others tumbling into the air, onto each other and then onto the pavement. Building human towers is more than a quirky attraction, more than an international sport and more than a refuge for lost youth. It’s more even than a thirst for the glory of winning. A human tower, when done right, represents an unparalleled passion for human connection that goes beyond race, borders and ages. In this sense, the world’s best human tower builders represent all of us — all people, all communities, all nations — in our hope for a better future.
This powerful documentary tackles the hot-button issue of the devastating effects of head injuries in sports. With the lens focused on hockey, women’s soccer and, most disturbingly, teenage football leagues, “Head Games” makes the powerful argument that repeated blows to the head, once considered something to simply shrug off, can have fateful, long-term consequences. Academy Award-nominated director Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) delivers compelling evidence in interviews with numerous scientists and doctors as well as athletes.
“Part of the romance of sports lies in the thrill of controlled, heroic brutality. Modern athletes are often likened to warriors: they sacrifice, put their bodies on the line and take punishment in pursuit of a noble cause. The rest of us — couch potatoes, season-ticket holders, parents on the sidelines — cheer for the toughest players and the hardest hits. Steve James’s troubling new documentary, Head Games, reckons some of the terrible costs of modern American sports culture.…Head Games is alternately sobering and terrifying. It is painful to watch a grown man struggle to recite the months of the year, and to hear about the shockingly high number of suicides among N.F.L. veterans with C.T.E. It is also chilling to watch youngsters heading out onto the field or the ice accompanied by the usual exhortations from parents and coaches to play hard.
Mr. James, whose Hoop Dreams may be the best sports documentary ever made, is motivated by a fan’s devotion as well as a journalist’s skepticism. Head Games gains credibility and power from compassion for athletes and respect for their accomplishments. But it also tries to open the eyes of sports lovers to dangers that have too often been minimized and too seldom fully understood.” – A.O. Scott, The NEW YORK TIMES (9/12)