By Stanton Brasher One of DFW's longest-running festivals, The Thin Line Film and Music Festival, returns this month with a mouth-watering slate of international selections. From the Rangerettes of Kilgore, TX ("Sweethearts of the Gridiron") to the inner thoughts of children all over the world ("I am Eleven"), Thin Line aims to be an international showcase for diverse and interesting films. Being a member of the selection committee has its perks. Yes, I have seen every documentary submitted by filmmakers from all over the world. Some of them were amazing, while others were dreadful. Here are my five personal favorites and the ones that any documentary-hungry film nerd should put on their Thin Line itinerary.
The Immortalists How does one live forever, without being bitten by a vampire? No one knows, but Dr. Bill Andrews might be close to an answer. In The Immortalists, Andrews and his team of researchers discuss what our genes do when they age and what they are doing to reverse the process. As one of Andrew's partners puts it, "Your reward for not being stupid and getting yourself killed when you're young is to be slowly tortured to death. It's not right. So, we're going to fix that, Bill and I."
The science behind The Immortalists, however, is disputed among the mainstream scientific community. If people live forever, what will happen to the population and the planet? Is it even possible? Will they have it figured out in the next 25 years? While the debate behind The Immortalists is fascinating, the real story centers around the characters. One of the scientists has a beard that would put ZZ Top to shame and lives a polyamorous lifestyle; another is racing the clock to beat cancer. Andrews himself is trying to save his father from dementia. This film, which played to intrigued audiences at last year's SXSW, is a definite must-see. The Immortalists lives on at Thin Line at 4:15 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22.
A few years ago, I finally got around to watching the body building documentary masterpiece, Pumping Iron. As much as I loved the movie, it left me a little sore. Who knew Arnold Schwarzenegger could be such a narcissist?
When I saw the bulging biceps and hard bodies at the beginning of Gifted, I thought, "Can they really out do 'Pumping Iron?'" Thankfully, they didn't even try. Instead, they focus on the career of a much nicer person, Phil "The Gift" Heath, and his rise through the ranks of the body building elite. Heath, a four-time winner of the Mr. Olympia contest, likes to show off more than his triceps. In Gifted, we get a portrait of a down-to-earth guy with heart, drive and even a little bit of a sense of humor.
Gifted flexes its documentary muscles at Thin Line at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20. Heath will be there for a Q&A after the screening.
This film is a bittersweet kind of crazy.
Thomas Hartmann's father is an art enthusiast who, many years ago, fell in love with the art of Native American sculptor, Eddie Running Wolf. The two forged a friendship through Running Wolf's work. This friendship, however, ended after Running Wolf failed to complete a large, expensive marble statue for which Dr. Hartmann had already laid down some serious cash. Now, years later, Dr. Hartmann's son is a documentary filmmaker and he wants to give Running Wolf the chance to earn back his honor. Once they find him, they realize that life is not all chisels and paint for this purveyor of western themed art. The synopsis doesn't do the film justice, but giving away too much would ruin the shocking turn of events. Let's just say that by the end of the film, Running Wolf's personal life has been completely dismantled. Searching for Eddie Running Wolf fails to tell the story it was originally supposed to tell, but it works so well as a study of art, friendship and family. At moments, it is warm -- humorous even. Other times, it's so shocking that it leaves viewers wondering "is this real life?"
Audiences will get the chance to find Eddie Running Wolf during the film's world premiere at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21.
The Culture High A few years ago, Adam Scorgie and company brought us the award-winning documentary, The Union: the Business behind getting high. With The Culture High, he returns with another riveting documentary about the War on Drugs.
Featuring interviews with Snoop Dogg, Joe Rogan, Sir Richard Branson, Wiz Khalifa, Judge Jim Gray, law enforcement, journalists, doctors, professors and political advocates, The Culture High offers pretty much every aspect of the pro-legalization argument.
Equal parts drama and comedy, Snoop and Rogan make plenty of humorous observations about the hypocrisy of for-profit medicine, law enforcement and just how much weed it would take to kill someone. The film also shows us real life stories of people who benefit dramatically from legalization.
DFW NORML already gave The Culture High a Dallas area premiere in December at The Texas Theater, however, the audience was mainly populated with enthusiasts. Now, The Culture High gets to try its chances among partakers and non-partakers alike. Make sure to visit the concession stand before this one. The Culture High blows into Thin Line at 12 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 21.
What happens when you take a group of alcoholic rednecks and leave them half-naked and stranded?
Every year, 10 friends get together to go to a New Year's beach party in Mobile, AL. The annual "Polar Bear Dip" is a rite of passage for these man-children. One year, they get the idea to rent a limousine and party all the way to and from the beach. Only, things don't go as planned and they end up near naked, drunk and stuck in the middle of nowhere on a cold January morning. These moderately offensive, drunken idiots spend the rest of the evening just trying to survive and find shelter. Limo Ride is their hilarious story.
In terms of documentary film making, directors Gideon C. Kennedy and Marcus Rosentrater tried something different. While the film's subjects narrated the story, actors were hired to reenact the scenes. This approach might have been due to the fact that some members of the limo party will no longer associate with other members. The antics that take place in this movie are both funny and jaw-dropping, but it ain't for the faint of heart. This hard R docu-comedy involves curse words, sex, drugs, and balls -- lots of balls. Limo Ride will be making a pit stop in Denton at 10 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19.