Sunday, December 21, 2014

AIFF 2014: Their Bests And My Bests - Features

I've had posts like this - where I compare my picks to the festival picks - because I've had real disagreements with the festival picks.  This year, I'm not too much in disagreement with the festival picks, but there are some films I'd like to focus on a bit more.

In this one I'll go on past the table of picks to talk about the features and the made in Alaska categories.

Category Festival PicksSteve's Picks
Feature* Best: The Ambassador to Bern
Runner-Up: Come To My Voice
Honorable Mention: I Believe In Unicorns 
Ambassador to Bern
Come to My Voice
Rocks in My Pocket
Documentary Best:  White Earth
Runner-Up:  Coney Island: Dreams For Sale
Honorable Mention: Seeds of Time
White Earth
Shield and Spear
Mala Mala
Barefoot Artist
Made in Alaska*
Best: Detective Detective Detective 
Runner-Up: Tracing Roots 
Honorable Mention: The Empty Chair 
The Empty Chair
Best: Till Then [Bis Gleich] 
Runner-Up: What Cheer 
Honorable Mention: How Hipólito Vázquez 
Found Magic Where He Didn’t Expect It 
Universal Language*
One Armed Man
Bis Gleich
Reaching Home
Into the Silent Sea
Super Short
Best: Four Brothers. Or Three. Wait…Three 
Runner-Up: Full-Windsor 
Honorable Mention: Enfilade 
** didn't see Four Brothers
Best: 365 
Runner-Up: Wire Cutters 
Honorable Mention: Ronald Gottlieb 
Speed Dating
Ronald Gottlieb and Moving Out


Not too much difference in our picks here.  There were not as many really good features this year as in the past.


Ambassador to Bern - Most everything worked in this intelligent drama about two Hungarian immigrants who break into the Hungarian embassy in Bern not long after the Russian invasion of Hungary and the execution of the former prime minister Nagy in 1958.  The characters are all real, three dimensional (except maybe Vermes), the light and pace and decency of everyone all reflect a different time and place.   Overall, a very satisfactory film.  All the people I talked to after the film (there's a video of audience reaction here) enjoyed it, called it intense, though they weren't all sure of the historical context.

Come To My Voice-  This Turkish film focuses on the personal burdens on Kurdish villagers in Turkey.  We see the grandmother and granddaughter as they struggle to get their son/father released from the Turkish soldiers.  The situations are very mundane yet tell a very big story with the dramatic mountain scenery almost a character in the movie.

Rocks In My Pocket - Was the wild, sardonic, extravagant, and brilliant tour of the mind of a  Latvian-American woman, exploring the history of her mental illness (depression) in her family in gorgeous animation.  Each frame is a piece of art.  The reactions I heard were all strong - people loved it or hated it. I'm in the former category.  It was a long involved story which interwove the history of Latvia in the 20th Century, the condition of women, and the migration of depression from generation to generation via the women in her family.  Was it too long as many complained?  I'm sure it could have been edited, but I couldn't tell you where.  Tying all the various threads together was one of the important parts of the film and that took time.  It just wasn't packaged like a typical Hollywood movie.  It requires people to go into a different mental and temporal space, the break loose from our cultural expectations of how a film is supposed to be paced.  Even if someone thought the story got too entangled or long (I didn't) you could just sit back and enjoy the rich imagery of the animation.

The other films I saw (all those in competition, but not all the features at the festival) were at a different level of overall quality.  To my surprise, I liked I Believe in Unicorns.  There was a certain amount of playing with the film images that could have been tacky, but worked.  The film told the story of a young girl and her first love.  The short affair was an escape from taking care of her disabled mom and her choice of boys was not the best.  It felt real and believable.
I also liked Appropriate Behavior and Listening.

One other feature I'd mention is the Mexican Consulate's offering - The Zebra.  It offered us a view of the Mexican revolution through the eyes of two young men who were headed north and looking to join one of the revolutionary groups, though their reason for joining one over the other had little to do with political ideology.   I suspect there is a lot of symbolism I missed.  Certainly the zebra of the title - not a painted horse, not a donkey with stripes, not a Yankee horse, or an African horse (as it was variously described in the film) - symbolized something about knowing what different revolutionary groups.  The theme of every man for himself also must have had more meaning than I understood.  Unfortunately I didn't think of any of these questions when the director was in Anchorage and I could ask him.

Made In Alaska

I only saw two films in this category - The Empty Chair and Kaltag, Alaska - which played together.  (I just checked and I did wee one more - WildLike which I discussed briefly elsewhere.)

So I can't judge how good the other films were.  But I can say that The Empty Chair was a very important film.  Greg Chaney, the film maker, was able to use his own interviews of still living members of the Juneau community who were around in the late 1930s and early 1940's - including some who were sent to internment camps in WWII for being Japanese-Americans - as well as archival footage and home movies from the time to capture an important historical event - the internment of Japanese-American citizens of Juneau in WW II and how the community reacted.  I've written more about what I liked about this film in an earlier post.   Without having seen more than a clip of Detective, Detective, Detective  , but having talked to people who did see it, I would wager a significant amount that in 10 years The Empty Chair will still be an important film - maybe even more so because the some of the people in might no longer be alive - but the others will have been long forgotten.  I would rank The Empty Chair in among the best documentaries in the festival.

OK, I've gotten that off my chest.

I'll do one or two more posts like this that cover documentaries, shorts, super shorts, and animation.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

On Finding A New Presdient After University President Gamble Retires In June: "you shall seek all day ere you find them, and when you have them they are not worth the search.'

 The Alaska Dispatch reported this week:
FAIRBANKS—University of Alaska President Pat Gamble plans to step down next summer after five years on the job, triggering a move by the UA Board of Regents to begin looking for a new leader at a retreat in January.
"President Gamble's commitment to the university and its students is a deep and genuine one. It capstones a lifetime of serving our country and our state. He deserves the time that retirement will allow to enjoy family and explore personal interests," said UA Regents Chairwoman Jo Heckman of Fairbanks.
Gamble told the regents Friday he plans to retire June 1. He began the job June 1, 2010.

I don't have any further information on this, but think it is important to note, given the drama of the Board of Regents offering him a a longevity bonus earlier this year and then rescinding it after considerable protest around the state.  The bonus might have kept him one more year.  Looks like we saved more than $360K. 

Rather than dwell on the past, it's time to think seriously about finding a new president who will serve the university and the state well.

Replacing university presidents, is a long affair and is almost always a nationwide or even international search.  The American Council on Education (ACE) writes in a 2012 report:

The Presidential Search Process  The presidential search and hiring processes for presidents appointed since 2007 are very different than those used for presidents hired between 1969 and 1983. For example, only 12 percent of presidential searches between the late 1960s and early 1980s employed a search consultant. The share of searches between 2007 and 2011 that used a search consultant was 80 percent. Likewise, only 31 percent of presidents hired between 1969 and 1983 received a written contract, compared with 61 percent of presidents hired between 2007 and 2011.
Presidents do not take lightly the acceptance of a presidential position. As such, most presidents sought advice from a trusted source before making a decision about their current position. The overwhelming choice of counsel for a majority of presidents was colleagues in the field, or family members. Nearly 30 percent of presidents sought no advice prior to accepting their current position.
While a majority of presidents reported having a clear understanding of the job when they accepted it, a sizeable minority expressed confusion or a lack of knowledge over some aspect of the job. For example, at least one out of five presidents stated they were not made fully aware of all institutional challenges, the institution's financial condition, or the expectation of the president during the search process.
Given the academic calendar, searches are usually begun nine months to a year before the position is to be filled.  Starting later than that means many good candidates have already accepted positions for the following academic year.

The timing of this announcement puts the University of Alaska at a distinct disadvantage.  For instance, the University of Nebraska announced four finalists for their presidential search in November.  Their president resigned in January 2014 and they have an interim president for this year.  I'd note they also identified these criteria for their president:
  • A deep understanding of higher education and proven success leading a major organization.
  • Passion for the key role the University of Nebraska plays in ensuring the state’s overall success through teaching, research and service.
  • Willingness to serve as president for at least five years, perhaps up to 10.
  • Credentials sufficient for appointment as a tenured university professor, including an earned Ph.D. or other relevant terminal degree, teaching experience and a personal record of research and scholarship.
This wouldn't be a bad model for Alaska's search.  The second point has to be adapted to Alaska, of course, and experience with Alaska is crucial.  We need someone who knows the state and isn't going to pack up when the temperature drops below 0˚ and the sun goes into semi-hibernation. 

The ACE report cited above also describes the characteristics of university presidents:

In 1986, the first year of ACE’s college president study, the demographic profile of the typical campus leader was a white male in his 50s. He was married with children, Protestant, held a doctorate in education, and had served in his current position for six years.
Twenty-five years later, with few exceptions, the profile has not changed.
Two decades ago, the average age of college and university presidents was 52. Today, it is 61. In fact, in 1986 just 13 percent of presidents were over the age of 60. In 2011, 58 percent of presidents are over 60. One possible reason for this aging of the presidency is the increasing complexity of leading a postsecondary institution. As colleges and universities face a growing number of internal and external challenges, governing boards and search committees are likely looking for more experienced leaders. This tenet is supported by the fact that 54 percent of current presidents in 2011 were presidents in their last position. In 1986, only 40 percent of sitting presidents held a presidency in their previous role.
While college campuses have diversified the racial and ethnic makeup of their student bodies, the racial and ethnic composition of college and university presidents has changed very little. Between 1990 and 2009, the share of college students that were racial and ethnic minorities increased from 20 percent to 34 percent. Between 1986 and 2011, the racial makeup of college presidents only increased from 8 percent to 13 percent. Moreover, when comparing data from the two most recent president studies, racial diversity declined from 14 percent in 2006 to 13 percent in 2011.
A 2008 ACE study1 suggested a possible reason for the continued lack of diversity in the presidency: a lack of racial diversity among the positions that are typically recruiting grounds for college presidencies, senior campus officials. In 2008 only 16 percent of senior administrators were people of color including just 10 percent of chief academic officers (CAO).
Although racial and ethnic diversification of the college presidency has lagged, there has been some headway in gender diversity. In 1986 just 10 percent of college presidents were women. Today, 26 percent of institutional leaders are female. Twenty-five years ago bachelor’s institutions had the greatest share of female presidents. This is not surprising given that most all-female postsecondary institutions were bachelor’s institutions. However in 2011, associate colleges had the largest share of women leaders. One reason for this shift is likely the closing of a large number of all female institutions over the past two decades.  [emphasis added]
The job of university president has evolved and fundraising is now often the major focus.  It's not an easy job.  The Nation had an article last year on the lack leadership and boldness from university presidents these days.  Here's are some quotes they gathered about presidents over the years:
The university president, Upton Sinclair wrote in The Goose-Step [1923], was “the most universal faker and the most variegated prevaricator that has yet appeared in the civilized world.” William Honan, writing in The New York Times in 1994, wondered why college presidents no longer “cut striking figures on the public stage.” “Small Men on Campus: The Shrinking College President” was the headline of a New Republic cover story in 1998. In their 2010 book Higher Education?, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus declared, “Once upon a time, university leaders were seen as sculptors of society.” Now they “are chiefly technocrats, agile climbers who reach the top without making too many enemies or mistakes.”
The whole article would be useful for the search committee to read and ponder as they begin their task.  

So would Milton Greenberg's article in the Chronicle of Higher Education - the one I got the quote in the title from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.   He finds  no evidence that search firms  perform any better than the older, cheaper ways universities have found presidents.  He writes, in part,
Now, many years into retirement, I continue to smile at the increasingly convoluted drama of hiring for presidents—and now just about every leadership position. The entire process, managed by a horde of costly "search consultants," has developed partly out of legal and policy requirements regarding inclusiveness, but mainly out of the all-too-human perception that out there somewhere, someone superior to anyone already on campus awaits the call of greatness. These mysterious people are thought to be known to search firms that have rooms full of Rolodexes and computers full of databases chockablock with the names of reluctant candidates whose ambitions just need a nudge.

Yet there is no evidence that the use of a search firm improves the quality or longevity of administrative leaders compared with those chosen the old-fashioned way, by an internal committee, the board of trustees, or the appointing officer based on crony politics. The same lack of evidence applies to the promotion of inside candidates. David Riesman suggested that people tend to undervalue insiders that they know, and to longingly await the brilliant, good-looking stranger who captures the room by storm.

Since 1921, according to the University of Alaska website, we have had 14 presidents.  Two were interim, short term appointments, and one seems to have fled the state when he discovered all the dirty laundry he'd inherited.

The table below is adapted from a similar table at the University of Alaska website.  It, however, left out a picture of Wendy Redman.  I thought it was because she only served as interim president, but another, male, interim president did have his picture up.  So I decided to add her to my chart.  Each name links to short bio of the president.

Our last two presidents have been generals - one army and one air force.  Mark Hamilton championed hard and strong and increased the University's budget.  Patrick Gamble acted as the MBA he is and managed cut back strategies rather than advocating for the university.  I  feel it is important to get back to a president who comes from an academic background.  The next years will be full of turmoil given that the financial doomsday forecasts appear finally to be coming true.   The new president will have to be an articulate and passionate advocate for the university as well as a person with understanding of the underlying purpose of a university, its role in society, and how to fulfill that purpose in the modern era of changing economic and technological times. 

Do we have good candidates who are already in Alaska?  One who comes to mind is Fran Ulmer who served as Chancellor of UAA.  I'm sure there are others, including some with prior Alaska experience who have since moved out of state. 

Pondering these past presidents should be part of the search process.  Where have we been and where are we going?  Which of these presidents moved us forward, backward, or just held us in place?  How can that knowledge help in finding a new president?

1921-1949 Charles Bunnell

1973-1977 Robert W. Hiatt
 1984-1998Donald D. O'Dowd            
1949-1953 Terris Moore

1977-1977 Charles O. Ferguson
1990-1998 Jerome Komisar
1953-1960 Ernest Patty

1977-1977 Neil D. Humphrey
1998-1998 Wendy Redman
1960-1973 William Wood
1977-1979 Foster F. Diebold
1998-2010 Mark R. Hamilton

1979 - 1984 Jay Barton
2010-2015 Patrick K Gamble

It's easy to sit at home and write about this task.  I have no illusions about the difficulties the new search committee will face.  Most likely, the Regents will follow the national trend cited in the ACE report and hire an academic search firm.  Academic 360 lists about 70 firms that would be happy to do the search for UA.  That could easily cost the $360,000 bonus the president didn't get.  (Ohio State paid $610,000 for their President search)
Over the course of a six month presidential search, OSU used “unrestricted funds” to pay a private search firm, a private business jet rental company and other various restaurants and businesses in the Columbus area, expenses that one OSU professor said don’t seem extreme.
Personally, I would like a president who would be appalled that the Board of Regents were spending that kind of money on the search.  I want a president who wants to lead a great university, not one who needs to be pampered.  

The search committee will have to work hard not to be intimidated by the search firm.  I wish them, and us - the people of Alaska - good luck along with the diligence they'll need to find a great president for the University of Alaska.  in searching for a new president. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

AIFF 2014: Reflections On This Year's Festival From Jim Parker and From Me

The festival activities are now over (well, as I write this there are still people in the Alaska Experience Theater watching the last movie in Best of the Fest).  Let me take a first stab at some of my reactions to this festival.  But first, here's Jim Parker, Director of Film Programming, talking on Dec. 13, about how the festival was going for him.

Jim has been really great to work with as a blogger trying to get information about the festival this year and in previous years.  So I'm not at all happy with the news that he's moving to North Carolina, but he did say he hopes to be up for the festival next year.

Now, my thoughts:

1.  Technical Issues

I experienced fewer technical glitches and I didn't hear about them from others.  There were a couple of times when the wrong film began to play, but it  was quickly fixed.  I don't know about any showings that had to be canceled because the the film was in a format that particular theater couldn't play or other technical problems.

I'm still hoping they'll have a way to play movies without the audience seeing the computer screen as the projectionist (can we still use that term?) goes through the list of films and then clicks the right one.  (And while part of me likes the transparency of that, another part would like the film to just come on without us seeing under the hood.)

2.  The Festival Trailer

We've had good ones in the past, but no matter how good they were, after seeing them about four or five times (they're played before each film), they tended to get tiresome.  This year's trailer incorporated clips from about 20 different films in the festival and had music that I enjoyed hearing each time it played. I never got bored watching this one and I watched it a lot of times. And I enjoyed the care with which the clips were edited and how the music worked with the video - especially as it went to the clip from Taking My Parents To Burning Man.  Each time, I could identify a clip from one more movie I'd seen.

2014 Anchorage International Film Festival Teaser from Anchorage Int'l Film Festival on Vimeo.

3.  The Venues

The Museum and the Alaska Experience Theater are a five minute walk from each other.  That was good.  The Bear Tooth had no films the second weekend this year.  I never made it to the library or the Alaska Community Works.  Perhaps a ride share boards could be put up in the venues for people looking for a ride to get to another showing.  For the most part, the volunteers seemed to be good at getting rides for visiting film makers, but others could have used some help too.  The Bear Tooth had good lighting for film makers doing Q&A after the films.  In the past, I've had to settle for sound only because the stage was too dark for video.  The sound had an echo up front, but when I moved back and to the middle it was better.  Mike at the Bear Tooth was great, and the Alaska Experience Theater staff was doing a lot more too - like food and drinks.  They also had a scanner for pass holders which made getting tickets much faster.  And they had 'real' tickets.

4.  The Films

Overall, I thought we've had stronger fields in the past.  There were plenty of good films.  Animation and Narrative Shorts were strong, but there was only one program of animated films.  There were a lot more Alaska films and they got audiences.  I only got to see two - but one, The Empty Chair, was really, really good.  The films offered a very diverse set of experiences and points of view.  And as much as I complain about not being able to see everything, that's not really a bad thing.  I'll talk more about the films I liked in a later post.  One word that came to me throughout, and I heard from others, was "editing."  A lot of films seemed to go on too long.  It's hard to cut up your baby, but it often makes a better film.

5.  Scheduling

With so many films shown in different locations, it's impossible to make a perfect schedule. But I'd like it to be not only possible, but relatively easy, to see all the films in competition in any one category.  Animation:  no problem.  They were all in one program.  Narrative Shorts?  Much harder.  Thursday had all three programs playing.  You could watch the Love and Pain program and then the Mixed Bag program.  But the Global Village overlapped the other two.  And the Mixed Bag program only played once.  You had to carefully read the program in advance to see that the only way to see all the Narrative Shorts was to go to the first Global Village program the first weekend.

I wasn't able to see all the documentaries in competition, but I think I could have, if I sacrificed seeing those of another category.

A little more attention to timing would have helped a couple of times.  One night there was an hour gap between films at the Bear Tooth.  The next night the gap was 75 minutes.  They could have put in most of a shorts program in the gap.  Or had some film discussions for the audience members who were staying for the next film.

6.  Visiting Film Makers

There were lots of them and it was great hearing them after their films and talking to them in between films.  It would be nice if they had badges that labeled them as film makers so that audience members could know more easily.

Those are just some off the top of my head thoughts that I wanted to get down before I forget them.

And Bye Jim, we're going to miss you.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cuba and Marijuana - Strong Emotion And Political Power Have Too Long Trumped Reason

"President Obama on Wednesday ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba and the opening of an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century as he vowed to “cut loose the shackles of the past” and sweep aside one of the last vestiges of the Cold War."  (NY Times)
When Nixon, in 1970, announced he was going to China to reestablish diplomatic ties, it was 21 years after the Communists defeated the Kuomintang.

It's taken almost 65 years since Castro took over Cuba in January 1959, for the US to finally begin to reestablish diplomatic ties with Cuba.

Havana was both prosperous and corrupt before the revolution, and there was a huge economic gap between the cities and the rural areas. From PBS:
Between 1952 and 1958, Cubans from all walks of life -- students, businessmen, mothers, politicians -- united in opposition against Batista. Author Carlos Alberto Montaner describes the mood: "the talk was about democracy, freedom and respect for human rights; the... objective was to restore the rule of law that had been swept aside by Batista."
Cuba had been a Spanish colony and then, after the Spanish-American War essentially became a colony of the US.  Again from PBS:
Since achieving independence in 1902, Cuba had suffered what simply could be called bad government. A bloody and costly struggle to achieve independence from Spain had devastated Cuba's economy. The insurgent leaders, known as the  had been decimated. José Martí, Cuba's , was killed in battle in 1895. On May 20, 1902, the birth date of the first Cuban republic, no leader had the power to harness the passions and ambitions unleashed by independence. The U.S. Congress passed the Platt Amendment, granting the U.S. the right to intervene militarily in Cuba to protect its interests there. The U.S. position further undermined the legitimacy of the government, as it placed the United States at the center of Cuban affairs. Invoking the Platt Amendment, the United States would occupy Cuba between 1906 and 1909, and continue to intervene in later years.
If we hadn't been so consumed by the Cold War and still being lapped by the ripples of the McCarthy era, and had not been so blindly supportive of American business interests in Cuba, we might have worked with Castro from the beginning.  But CIA chief Allen Dulles and others were hostile.  His (and his brothers') strong support for US business interests can be seen in this discussion of the Dulles brothers and Nixon in 1948.  By 1959, John Foster Dulles was dead, but Allen was CIA chief. but they were still around in 1959, presumably with the same interests of protecting US corporations. Castro's flirting with communism was a big problem for them.  Castro versus the Eisenhower Administration gives a sense of the competing interests and policies.

We don't know how all the wealthy, who fled Cuba for Miami, made their fortunes in Havana, but in many cases, I suspect they would not want their true stories exposed.  Other people had more legitimate gripes.  But the Cuban-Americans, bolstered by the US loss of face by having a Communist country 90 miles from its borders, have been able to hold the Castro regime and the people of Cuba hostage to US embargo for over 50 years.  Whatever evils Castro has committed, and he clearly did not live up to the revolution's promises of democracy, they aren't worse than other countries we have diplomatic relations with - China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, our WW II enemies Germany and Japan, and various South American dictatorships over the years.  The difference is an emotional difference fired up by an active Cuban refugee community.  Even the sting of losing a war to Vietnam only lasted 20 years before we had full diplomatic relations again.

In the same way, marijuana was emotionally linked with the hippies and  the anti-war movement of the 60's and 70's.  And a huge illegal drug smuggling business whose wealth is able to corrupt law enforcement officials, legislators, and private companies.   

In both the cases of Cuba and marijuana, US policy was twisted from reasonable and humane by strong, negative emotional reactions and the power of those with a vested interest in the status quo.  For many, marijuana represents lawlessness and the anti-government protests of the Vietnam war.

Cuba has had and continuous to have serious issues.  Moving toward normal diplomatic relations with Cuba ends a 65 year grudge.  It doesn't solve all the issues, but it's a step forward.

Legalizing marijuana also moves us to more reasonable and sensible approaches for dealing with the side effects of marijuana use.  It doesn't mean we'll adopt good policies.  Certainly the new Alaska law legalizing marijuana, is imperfect.  It gives away too much power and incentive to private sector businesses  to sell as much grass as they can.  The state needs to craft regulations to most sensibly implement the legalization, such as requiring more consumer protection in terms of quality of the products and labeling and limiting advertising.

But at long last we can stop the costly, ineffective wars against Cuba and marijuana users, and move on to more positive and productive relationships.

Just as Nixon's trip to China is seen as his greatest legacy, I'm sure that Obama's reopening our relationship with Cuba will be a big part of his legacy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Coney Island, Venice Beach, Santa Monica Airport, And LA Rain

We flew down to LA right after the film festival ended and slept most of Monday. But I did get in a bike ride down to Venice beach. There was some sun, but mostly clouds.

There were some, but not too many, boardwalk vendors.  I'd been thinking about the Venice Boardwalk after seeing the film Coney Island:  Dreams for Sale at the festival.  It was about a developer who bought up a huge chunk of Coney Island real estate and was planning to build some big hotels and a mall.  Local folks rose up in protest, but were only modestly successful in their efforts to scale the development back.  The area wasn't zoned for large scale residential, but people in the film speculated that a hotel could and would be converted to condos eventually and the development would destroy the quirky kinds of shops and the unique community at Coney Island.

Venice Beach has, at least superficially, the same kind of quirky shops and community, and it's also right at a beach.  It doesn't have an amusement park, but there is a small one on the Santa Monica pier about a mile north.

The movie, which, by the way, was the runner up in the documentary category, got me thinking about whether the Venice Boardwalk was a likely target for developers like Coney Island and what protection there was for this strip along the beach.  I guess the people in the area need to be alert for people buying up property - making sure they aren't fronts for some giant developer.  This is one part of the southern California beach that is still wide open to anyone.

It also got me to thinking about what happened in the November election in Santa Monica where there were two ballot initiatives.  One, from the jet owners and airport interests to require a vote of the people of Santa Monica before the airport could be curtailed or closed down.  The other, in response, was to require a vote only if there were plans to develop the airport, but not to put in park or recreational activities.

It turns out the private jet and airplane folks' initiative (D) lost (58.8% to 42.8% and the park initiative (LC) won (60.2% to 39.8%.)  There were only 24,053 people who voted for Measure D and 500 more who voted for LC.  I'm not sure how many registered voters Santa Monica has, but in 2005 there were 60,000.

Over night it rained somewhat.  California still needs lots more rain to make up for the long period of drought and more is scheduled tonight.  Here's one of my mom's epidendrums after the rain - the red flower, not the leaf.  This is two pictures photoshopped together, with some playing around with the leaf.  But not too radically.

The epidendrums are tiny (about the size of a quarter) orchids that bloom in a bunch of ten or fifteen.

Monday, December 15, 2014

"My job description is to enlighten minds, open hearts and create world peace."

". . .  his actual title is "Jolly Good Fellow."
Chade-Meng Tan: Which nobody can deny.
Anderson Cooper: So, what does a Jolly Good Fellow do?
Chade-Meng Tan: My job description is to enlighten minds, open hearts and create world peace."
(Chade-Mend Tan works at Google.)

This is from an Anderson Cooper segment on 60 Minutes on Mindfulness.  There are several points in this report where Cooper asks someone things like
"I can imagine some people rolling their eyes and saying, "Oh, come on  , , "    
"To some people though this may sound like kind of New Age gobbledygook?"
When he does, the person he's talking to cites research that documents the positive benefits of meditation and mindfulness.

"Judson Brewer: This is just the next generation of exercise. We've got the physical, you know, exercise components down. And now it's about working out how can we actually train our minds."
The Western world has mastered a way of knowing the world called science, which enables humans to manipulate the natural world in many powerful ways, that often have negative side effects for human beings.  Such as the stress that causes people and, according to this report, many corporations, to turn to mindfulness.   Meanwhile the Eastern world has worked on mastering oneself, focusing on one's own body and learning to control it.

To me, there is something wrong when humans work to find technologies to create more efficient and effective ways to literally kill other human beings as well as technology that slowly kills what it means to be human.  

You can see the whole video (and text) here.
At the film festival, I had to remind myself to enjoy the movie I was watching and not worry about the ones I was missing.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

AIFF 2014: Awards Update - Alaska Films, Features

I'm at the Organic Oasis.  People are eating.  I'll just add to this post rather than a bunch of posts.  So keep checking.  [I've changed my mind, I'll just be putting up new posts, and add to them.  The did the docs first because one of the winners was heading to the airport.  See doc winners below.]

Starting 6:48pm

#3  I Believe in Unicorns
#2  Come To My Voice
#1  Ambassador To Bern

Made in Alaska
#3  Empty Chair
#2  Tracing Roots
#1  Detective, Detective, Detective

Added starting 6:33pm

Special Award - Founders Award - Film and Film Makers in the Spirit of the Festival

Universal Language

#3   How Hipólito Vázquez Found Magic Where He Didn’t Expect It
#2  What Cheer?
#1  Bis Gleich

Super Shorts
#3  Enfilade   (see wikipedia)
#2  Full Windsor
#1  Four Brothers, or Three, Wait . . .

Animation Awards
#3  Ronald Gottlieb
#2  Wire Cutters
#1  365

Reading a poem about the oosik, which are the awards for the festival.  I have a picture of the oosik awards in an earlier post tonight.

6:32pm Thanking all the sponsors now.

She's thanking lots and lots of people who were involved in various activities like the library discussion on homelessness, the QuikFreeze people, Frost and the drive in movie,

I'm missing people.  I should have gotten her list before hand.  I'll try to update this later.

This is in reverse order - most recent first.
Charlie  - who did the trailer (which was really good - probably the best ever, because it included clips from some of the films and had great music (that could be listened to over and over again.)

Animation - Jonathan, Rachel

Docs - Will and Jim Parker

Shorts Programmers - Rich Curtner and George

Features Programmers Kelly Walters, Gita, Natalie Eleftheriadis

Volunteer Coordinator - Rebecca.  Has been volunteer at Sundance for many years.

Tony Sheppard - Founder of the festival and hospitality left this morning.

Christie - applied for several grants for us and got one from the Atwood foundation for film maker travel.  Liaison at the library too.

Rich Curtner - the board president, and shorts programmer along with George
all the technical stuff on the website, and all the media, finances.  We owe him a lot.

Thanking key people - Jim Parker first - who's leaving for North Carolina.

Best Docs:

#3:  Seeds of Time
#2:  Coney Island
#1: White Earth

AIFF 2014: Pictures from Award Gala

I was going to add names, but this is going way too fast.  These are pictures of folks eating and now they are giving out the awards.  They are recognizing Jim  Parker, the director of film programming who is moving to North Carolina after this festival.  

AIFF 2014: Sean McCarthy On 'Moving Out' And The Kurdish Film 'Come To My Voice'

We saw the animation program last night and it was probably the overall strongest program.  Every film was good and a number were better than that.  I also knew nothing about what I was going to see - except for Ronald Gottlieb - which meant everything was a total surprise.

One of the film makers there was Sean McCarthy with a 6 minute video that he and many, many friends have been working on for several years.  It was quite elaborate with the key character going into different picture frames in a gallery and interacting with the pictures.   Here's Sean briefly talking about it after the showing last night.  But this is the kind of thing you can't talk about very helpfully, you have to just see it.  I tried to link it in the video, but I couldn't figure out how to link it to something outside of YouTube.

Here's a link to the video on his website. I had trouble getting it to work. I'm crediting that to my slow internet connection.

And for the record, we saw Come To My Voice this morning.  A strong feature about a Kurdish village where an informer has said they had guns.  But the Turkish soldiers can't find any.  So they take the men and tell the women and the mayor that when they turn in the guns, they'll release the men.  The film focuses on the mother of one of the men and her granddaughter as they go about trying to free their son/father.  This is the kind of pictures we should see more of, to give a sense of words we hear on the news all the time, like 'Kurds.'  By the way, the mountain scenery was beautiful.  

[For people interested in the technical stuff - there are black borders on this video because the new iMovie has a wider screen for the videos and since I'm pretty close to my subjects, it cuts too much out.  So I need to see if I can adjust my camera to to use a different aspect ratio.]

AIFF 2014: Sunday. The Last Day. Turkey, China, Florida, Then Awards

This is the last day of the festival.  Sort of.  Tuesday and Wednesday will have Best of the Fest, where they will show some of the winning films again for those who missed them or want to see them again.

So here's Sunday:

I've heard good things about Come To My Voice from different folks, so that's where I'm headed first.  It's a film that focuses on a Kurdish family in Turkey.  I suspect I'll then go see the Chinese films.  Husband, Wife, and the Other Man, then the shorts.  They are sponsored by the Confucius Institute at UAA and should be good.  Though, they will have been approved by the Chinese government.    I saw Last Stop, Flamingo.  It's a quirky little film that had lots of nice touches about the director's road trip to Florida.  (Quirky isn't a put down.  I mean here that it creates its own conventions and doesn't worry about how a film is supposed to be.)

The Awards Galas I've attended in past years have been very casual events with good food and a chance to talk with the different film makers.