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These films represent a broad section of new documentaries by American independent filmmakers. From examinations of the American political system and the country’s use of natural resources to explorations of cultural development and intimate portraits of legendary artists, these films represent a thematic and artistic variety. This year’s 16 films were selected from a record 953 submissions. Each film is a world premiere.

The films screening in Documentary Competition are:

AN AMERICAN SOLDIER (Director and Screenwriter: Edet Belzberg)—Uncle Sam really wants you! A compelling exploration of army recruitment in the United States told through the story of Louisiana Sergeant, First Class Clay Usie, one of the most successful recruiters in the history of the U.S. Army. World Premiere

AMERICAN TEEN (Director and Screenwriter: Nanette Burstein)— This irreverent cinema vérité chronicles four seniors at an Indiana high school and yields a surprising snapshot of Midwestern life. World Premiere

BIGGER, STRONGER, FASTER* (Director: Christopher Bell; Screenwriters: Christopher Bell, Alexander Buono, Tamsin Rawady)—A filmmaker explores America’s win-at-all-cost culture by examining his two brothers’ steroids use…and his own. World Premiere

FIELDS OF FUEL (Director and Screenwriter: Josh Tickell)— America is addicted to oil and it is time for an intervention. Enter Josh Tickell, a man with a plan and a Veggie Van, who is taking on big oil, big government, and big soy to find solutions in places few people have looked. World Premiere

FLOW: FOR LOVE OF WATER (Director: Irena Salina)— Water is the very essence of life, sustaining every being on the planet. FLOW confronts the disturbing reality that our crucial resource is dwindling and greed just may be the cause. World Premiere

GONZO: THE LIFE AND WORK OF DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON (Director: Alex Gibney)—Fueled by a raging libido, Wild Turkey, and superhuman doses of drugs, Thompson was a true “free lance,” goring sacred cows with impunity, hilarity, and a steel-eyed conviction for writing wrongs. Focusing on the good doctor’s heyday, 1965 to 1975, the film includes clips of never-before-seen (nor heard) home movies, audiotapes, and passages from unpublished manuscripts. World Premiere

THE GREATEST SILENCE: RAPE IN THE CONGO (Director and Screenwriter: Lisa F. Jackson)— Jackson travels to remote villages in the war zones of the Congo to meet rape survivors, providing a piercing, intimate look into the struggle of their lives. World Premiere

I.O.U.S.A. (Director: Patrick Creadon)—Few are aware that America may be on the brink of a financial meltdown. I.O.U.S.A. explores the country’s shocking current fiscal condition and ways to avoid a national economic disaster. World Premiere

NERAKHOON (THE BETRAYAL) (Director: Ellen Kuras; Co-Director: Thavisouk Phrasavath; Screenwriters: Ellen Kuras, Thavisouk Phrasavath)— The epic story of a family forced to emigrate from Laos after the chaos of the secret air war waged by the U.S. during the Vietnam War. Kuras has spent the last 23 years chronicling the family’s extraordinary journey in this deeply personal, poetic, and emotional film. World Premiere

THE ORDER OF MYTHS (Director: Margaret Brown) — In 2007 Mobile, Alabama, Mardi Gras is celebrated…and complicated. Following a cast of characters, parades, and parties across an enduring color line, we see that beneath the surface of pageantry lies something else altogether. World Premiere

PATTI SMITH: DREAM OF LIFE (Director and Screenwriter: Steven Sebring)— An intimate portrait of music icon Patti Smith that mirrors the essence of the artist herself. World Premiere

ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED (Director: Marina Zenovich; Screenwriters: Marina Zenovich, Joe Bini, P.G. Morgan)— Marina Zenovich’s new documentary examines the public scandal and private tragedy which led to legendary director Roman Polanski’s sudden flight from the United States. World Premiere

SECRECY (Directors: Peter Galison, Robb Moss)— Amidst the American hunger for instantaneous news and up-to-date “facts,” this unflinching film uncovers the vast, invisible world of government secrecy. World Premiere

SLINGSHOT HIP HOP (Director: Jackie Reem Salloum)—The voice of a new generation rocks and rhymes as Palestinian rappers form alternative voices of resistance within the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. World Premiere

TRACES OF THE TRADE: A STORY FROM THE DEEP NORTH (Director: Katrina Browne; C0-Directors: Alla Kovgan, Jude Ray; Screenwriters: Katrina Browne, Alla Kovgan)—History finally gets rewritten as descendants of the largest slave-trading family in early America face their past, and present, as they explore their violent heritage across oceans and continents. World Premiere

TROUBLE THE WATER (Directors: Tia Lessin, Carl Deal)— An aspiring rap artist and her streetwise husband, armed with a video camera, show what survival is all about when they are trapped in New Orleans by deadly floodwaters, and seize a chance for a new beginning. World Premiere


By Eddie Glenn
November 12, 2006

It’s not hard to understand why some viewers of “Okie Noodling” might think it more akin to reality TV than film documentation.

Every time I watch director Bradley Beesley’s 2001 documentary in the company of non-Okies, I hear comments like, “This can’t be real!,” and “There’s no way!” Of course, I have to forgive their skepticism, because what they’re watching really doesn’t seem to make sense. Why would grown men stick their hands under ledges and rocks in murky water, wriggle their fingers to entice an already-paranoid catfish, wait for that special moment when the fish clamps down on said fingers/bait, grab a handful of fish innards, and pull?

There are, after all, much less painful methods of catching a catfish. But noodlers, as simple as they may appear to some viewers of this film, aren’t completely stupid. They know about Zebco, Trilene, stinkbait, trotlines, and all that other paraphernalia used by their less adventurous catfish-catching brethren. They just don’t give a flying rat’s ass about that stuff.

They’re not mere fishermen.

They’re noodlers, and the two are no more similar than professional bull-riders and the kids on the mechanical pony out in front of Wal-Mart.

(There’s an Okie analogy for ya.)

Noodling, or hand-fishing, is prohibited in most states. But in Oklahoma (where my grandfather and great-uncles kept the family fed during the Great Depression on noodled catfish) it’s a legal means of landing only one species of catfish – the channel cat. Noodling season usually coincides with the month of June, but it can spill over into July if the weather’s a little off. That’s when the female catfish have laid their eggs, taken a well-deserved post-partum vacation, and left the fellas to guard the eggs. Then along come the fingers of a noodler, threatening the spawn-shack, and the fight is on. The catfish attacks, and both parties to the contention attempt to pull one another into less-than-hospitable environs. The process, as the videography in Beesley’s film illustrates very well, is downright atavistic, with lots of heavy breathing, grunting, occasional yelling, and, of course, splashing. The language, the glimpses of noodlers’ everyday lives, and the interviews of Okie non-noodlers (the comments by the significant others of noodlers is absolutely priceless! I was laughing so hard, I had to go back over it a couple of times), make “Okie Noodling” a documentary of culture as much as sport.

The denouement of the film – the first-ever Okie noodling competition – is downright heartbreaking, as these heavily accented, beer-swilling, red-necked, fish-baby-killing good ol’ boys (but they’re kin, and I still love ‘em!) actually show a vulnerable side that anyone, noodler or no, who’s ever dived down deep and come up short can understand.

Little pockets of folk culture like the noodling scene of southern Oklahoma exist all over the United States, but they rarely get fair treatment by film documentarians. Beesley’s “Okie Noodling” presents the sport — as bare, basic, and honest as its participants — without any judgment, and offers up a great soundtrack by fellow-Okies the Flaming Lips to boot. The interview of Lips lead signer Wayne Coyne on the DVD version is a must-see, as his explanation of the inspiration for the tunes will leave one wondering, “Just how sexual can wrestling with a catfish really be?”


By Bryan Newbury
November 2, 2007

Okinawa. Guadalcanal. Attu. Normandy.

If it seems that something in that list is rather amiss, you might consider making time to view Red White Black & Blue. In a war that has been substantially documented, that has no doubt been the subject of more popular American books and films than any other, the seeming absence of the Aleutian campaign has been crying for correction.

There are a number of reasons contributing to this deficiency. First off, the battle on Attu was a secret operation from the beginning. As Red White Black & Blue points out, the soldiers engaged in the fighting were themselves kept in the dark until the last available minute. Their training occurred in the desert. Many of the infantrymen who would soon perish on the most distant island in the Aleutian chain were under the impression that they would be fighting in North Africa or Germany… until their ship was pitching in the unforgiving North Pacific off of Russia. The secrecy went so far that the proper winter supplies, such as boots, heavy coats and gloves, were withheld so that the word of the counter-invasion wouldn’t leak.

It is difficult to blame the United States military for an interest in keeping the operation clandestine. Imagine the panic that could set in were the American public to find out that a foreign power had, as of June 1942, taken American soil, which might serve as a staging ground for a mainstream attack.

“Where’s Attu?”

“I’m… not… sure.”

“Is it near San Diego?”

“I – I think so!”

Not pretty. From a strategic point of view, it would be unwise to telegraph to the Japanese that U.S. troops were on the way. The profile in tight lips was key to retaking Attu, 19 days, 4,000 men and a few hundred cases of frostbite later. Read the rest of this entry »