The Planet in Focus festival this year has had good films. They’ve been showing documentaries that highlight the threats that animals and humans living on earth, as usual. They started out this year by showing movies that had the macro approach. Meanwhile, they close the festival showing the micro effects of human intervention. Maybe it’s my own taste but I like the bigger picture ones over the personal works, although these two films can’t be more different from each other. One feels like an out of control Maysles ripoff while the other is too poppy for its own damn good.
The story in Richard Miron’s For the Birds spirals and is unwieldy. Kathy Murphy, a bird hoarder, needs a lawyer to file a lawsuit against the animal conservation groups who she claims ‘lied to her’ about only taking her ducks temporarily. The scenes with her and the lawyer aims to show the tight knit community where she lives. Before the complaint against her, she’s established enough connections to support her when she needs them. She even lays out necessary paperwork for him. But watching two people who are out their minds still feels upsetting, and there’s a permanence to all this.
In Ground War, director and producer Andrew Nisker talks to advocates about how they’ve pushed back on pesticides in sporting areas like golf courses and baseball fields. He’s an advocate himself, fighting the pesticides since they killed his otherwise healthy father. The intentions are good here but his speaking voice is too slow to be conversational. He also over-saturates some shots, which supposedly has the effect of making exteriors look sickly, but it ends up making his doc look amateurish. Not to mention the montages. But he interviews his subjects well and he’ll make better docs than this.