[Documentary time!]

Prodigal Sons, one of the more popular documentaries at SIFF 2009, returned for a week’s run at SIFF Cinema this winter. Filmed by Kimberly Reed, it’s a documentary that one thought it was going to be about her class reunion after her gender transition, and turned out to be quite different, recording the strain on her family as her (adoptive) brother went through some identity issues of his own. In fact, her appearance at the reunion is easily the least-tense thing about the entire feature. Reed has transitioned away from the man her brother always wished he was. Utterly compelling, but with potentially triggering scenes of family violence.

As probably all of you know, I’m a big fan of street art, so I was pretty stoked to score a pass for Exit Through the Gift Shop, aka the Banksy movie. It purportedly is a street art documentary filmed in part by a French shop keeper named Thierry Guetta, and I’m in the camp who thinks it’s really a Banksy performance piece. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, it’s pretty brilliant. It’s tremendously entertaining, including heist-like sequences and even an origin story (though superhero or supervillain we have yet to see), Guetta is a character in all meanings of the word, both Banksy and Shepard Fairey come off well in it, and Banksy’s a hell of a filmmaker. And all of those things are true regardless of if the film itself is true.

Finally, on a totally unrelated note, Babies was proof positive that I was born without a biological clock. The kids were all freakin’ adorable, but I still have no desire for one of my own. The documentary is beautifully shot & very straightforward: it follows four babies (in Mongolia, Namibia, San Francisco, & Tokyo) for the first year of their life. There’s no narration (which I think is a strength), and very little speaking in general. The (non-subtitled) conversations adults have are not the point; it’s all about the babies learning to interact with their very different worlds in very similar ways. Is there more to it than that? No, not really. Which was totally fine with me.

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