This year I'm seeing a few films at my local independent film festival. The Oscar nominated documentaries are so fantastic.
The first of the three Oscar nominated docs shown was Circles of Confusion, about a film makers suicide after Hurricane Katrina - but really it's about how human beings cannnot endure too much futility without much hope. I found it a bit confusing - but it really stayed with me, I mentally chewed it for a day or two and ultimately felt I digested it well. It wouldn't hurt to see this 11 minute film twice, though.
The second film shown was Smile, Pinki - a masterpiece really. It actually won the Oscar. It was about a hospital in India that surgically repairs cleft pallette in children for free. It was about everything though, family, life, fear, hope. At first India seemed really foreign, but as the story develops it seems anyone anywhere could relate to the families and health care workers depicted in the film.
The third film we saw was The Final Inch. It was sort of unfortunate that two of the three films chosen were about illness in India. It would have been better balanced had the AIFF committee chosen another film. That said, though, The Final Inch was a very good movie. It documented healthcare workers efforts to immunize all the children in a certain Indian state with the Polio Vaccine. Polio is a serious problem there, compounded by dirty drinking water (some scenes were very disturbing - baby bottles with brown water and sludge at the bottom), superstition, distrust by the Indian Muslim community of the ruling Hindi community, distrust of anything seeming to come from America. While I never thought much about it, this movie explains that polio is a terrible crippling and life threatening disease that was once rampant in the US. Children could go from being happy and healthy to irreversibly crippled or dead in a few days. Polio can return to threaten people as it once did if the majority of the population are not immunized. It was an appropriete movie choice for this town of Ashland Oregon because - I'm quoting from memory, probably inaccurately - Ashland has one of the highest rates of unimmunized children in the nation. People who don't want to immunize their children do so because of fears of autism - I think - and the health care community does warn you there are extremely rare but very serious side affects. When people are making their decisions about childhood vaccines, they could take information from this movie into consideration - the benefits sure seem to outweigh the risks in the case of the polio vaccine.