As usual, I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries. Here are some reviews:
51 Birch Street
I loved this film. At first, I wasn’t sure where it was going and debated turning it off and sending it back to Netflix unwatched. But, I kept watching and I’m so glad I did. Director Doug Block uncovers the secrets of his parents’ marriage after his mother’s sudden death. Sometimes it is hard to imagine that our parents have dreams, fears, feelings, expectations, and ideas – we see them as one item, our parents, and that they must be happy because they appear happy. But, as Block finds out, happiness – particularly in his parents’ generation – is often a facade, covering the true feelings of the individual.
I have always been interested in the Amish. My parents and I drove through Amish country in Pennsylvania one year and I was fascinated. If I could become Amish, I probably would. Anyway… about the documentary. So, when Amish children reach the age of sixteen, they are allowed a “rumpspringa” – a break from their lifestyle where they are free to do as they please. They can dress “English,” although many (particularly the girls) maintain their Amish attire. They can move out if they want, they can smoke, drink, curse, go to movies, drive cars, go to he mall…. they’re free to do as they please until they decide if they want to remain Amish or if they want to live in the English world, which can take up to five or six years. This whole experience is fascinating. Some of the kids go absolutely buckwild – dealing drugs, commiting crimes… while others simply “experiment” at parties and get trashed. It is interesting to see their lives and the choices they make when given freedom. Amazingly, though, the Amish have a very high retention rate – only a few elect to leave the Amish community.
I am aware that Michael Moore does not always tell the truth and that his documentaries are just as much about entertainment as they are about delivering factual information. With that said, Sicko makes me want to move to France or Norway. The film depicts a very pretty picture of socialized healthcare and makes it sound ridiculous for us to have anything but socialized healthcare. It does not provide any negative views of socialized healthcare, which is frustrating. However, Moore does point the finger at some of America’s healthcare providers’ most disturbing practices. The film opens the doors for communication about our current healthcare system and how it can be better, but purely socialized healthcare is not the answer…. that’s my opinion, at least. 🙂
I don’t like George W. Bush. That’s no secret. I don’t like him even more after seeing this documentary. I don’t know if all the facts are accurate, but the part that shook me the most was not the allegations of ties between Bush and Osama bin Laden. The part that angered me the most was watching George W. Bush remain motionless for seven minutes after being informed that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center. What was he doing in those seven minutes? Waiting for someone else to do something? Who knows… anyway, this film made it even more confusing for me as to why we are actually fighting in Iraq. Maybe I am the only one in this country who doesn’t understand why we are there.
Bowling for Columbine
I am already against the “right to bear arms.” I just don’t think it’s necessary. So, watching this documentary only strengthened my opinion. I especially loved the comparisons between the USA and other “free world” countries. Moore points out that other countries have the same type of social issues – divorce, alienated youth, violent movies and video games, shock rockers, drugs, unemployment, etc. – but none of those countries offer the right to bear arms, which results in drastically fewer gun deaths. The US has over 10,000 a year while most of the other countries (Germany, Japan, Canada, the UK, Australia) have under 500. Birmingham alone probably has 500 a year (that’s an exaggeration)….
The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
This is a book, not a documentary. But, I loved in nonetheless! Jacobs, an Agnostic Jew (…exactly…), spends a year of his life following all the laws of the Bible, spending most of his time in the Old Testament. It is both hilarious and enlightening. He completes some of the Bible’s most complexing laws – avoiding “unclean women” (women who are either currently in or have recently completed their menstral cycle), stoning an adulterer, separating linen and wool, and some other crazy laws that make very little sense. But, what (I think) Jacobs realizes is that the rules were not meant as a way for God to boss people around – they were created and enforced to create a constant reminder to followers that they are not like the world. Jacobs spent all of his energy focusing on these laws, which means that he was focusing all his energy on God.
That’s it for now… I have a couple more documentaries on the way, and then I’ll have to cancel my subscription to Netflix since I’m going back to school (which means I won’t have the extra money or time to watch quite as many documentaries!).