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Film #1: “Better This World”


Film#2: “Stories we Tell”


Regina Guzman Are half-stars valid?  If so, I give this a 4.5. I really like this film! This was my second time watching it and the editing really stood out to me this second time around. I kept thinking about how this film could have been so many different things, given different editing. And I suppose this is true of all films but I think this one is edited with a particularly specific vision/purpose. I liked how all the characters were introduced at the beginning of the film, even before we know how they all weave into the story. I thought the film had good pace as well. It felt very even-toned and because there are constant revelations being made -instead of there being this one big ‘aha’ moment- it kept my interest throughout. I was consistently engaged with what each storyteller was adding to the greater narrative and I think that’s largely due to how Polley makes it all come together (post-production).

Daria Marchenko 4: visually compelling, with great narrative pace. I liked watching it and enjoy thinking about it. I guess the fact that some of the film characters were actually professional actors (or people of show business) was of a great help for Sarah Polley and contributed a lot to the elegant and intelligent spontaneity of the interviews.

Alice Tong 4.5. I really like it! And I think it’s so wonderful that you can interpret it in different ways. Firstly, I think it’s a documentary about families. How do people become families? Share the same DNA? Or keep company with each other for a long time? (There is another great Japanese fiction film focusing on this question- Like Father, Like Son) Secondly, it’s also a film about narration and memory. How do people recount things happened in their lives? Even they narrate the same event or people, we get different versions. And the contradictions of different version are the most interesting parts to me. I believe almost everyone modify his or her memory to keep life going. Lastly, it’s also a documentary about Sarah’s mother- a dead mysterious woman. We can only know her and her life from the narrations of different persons.

Kei Tam 4: i like the story she thought her “father” to tell people. This gave me a very complicated feeling and very impressive. At the beginning it looks like a normal documentary of someone family’s story but at the half of the firm it talking she looking for her biological father. There are one part i really like, when her “father”talking about her mother and biological father relationship. He really peaceful, feel like he ready forgive his wife. This part its extremely peaceful or its too peaceful doesn’t match the true issue.

Vi Do I give it a 4. It’s a self-portrait in a selfless way to me. Firstly Michael starts off his memoir by talking about him as a special person. We follow his path as a grownup, till the day he met Diane and introduced themselves as a family. It goes like a normal married couple story then something started questioning inside me: Why does Sarah needs to have a lot of people like this if it is just a story about her parents’ relationship? Then another layer started to peel off when Diane’s pregnancy came into scene, and then, her death. I began to realise this is the story of a filmmaker’s identity. Of how she was close to not being born, to how she has a different feature than her parents.
I give it a 4 for a lot of reasons (mostly bias). First off, storytelling. I think everyone’s already mentioned it. I agree with them all. And besides, I like the way she tells story in a conventional way. Simple but effective. Her father as a narrator explains to me how important he is in her life and career. The way other members of the family act when they talk to her gives me the feeling they love her as a little sister, and she respects them for who they are. The story goes from introduction – turning points- crisis – climax – and resolution, classic but attractive. I think it is honest and elegant.
Secondly, I think Sarah is very brave. Some people make films about macro matter, about the world but to make a film about their family, about themselves? they dont know where/how to start (without making it it as a selfie-film). I think as a human, being honest with oneself, facing our own problem is a must.
Next, I like the supporting elements, such as: super8 B-rolls, music, colour, etc…
Last but not least (this is absolutely personal and bias, I am sorry): support for Canadian!! ^^

Mao Zekun: I will give 5 stars to this documentary. As a matter of fact, I don’t think there is any dislikes about this documentary. I love it.

I am fascinated about the idea of telling story in our own. Everyday, we might experience the same thing; we might talk about the same thing; but when we tell it out, we tell it in our own way with our own opinion. The same story became different.

Besides, I appreciate the honesty of this director. I appreciate that she showed us how she design and shoot the “history” at the end of the documentary. I don’t mind of faking some of the scenes in a documentary on purpose, but I do mind of faking some scenes without telling the audiences, which made me feel like the director is fooling around.

After all, I like this story. Love is a complicated thing. People always say that there is no right or wrong within love. But when something wrong does happens, seldom people could realize that it is just love. I like what Michael said,”I don’t think it changes anything, you are still my daughter.”


 Film #3: “Senna”

  • Tarr Kálmán !!4!!!! This film had a big emotional impact on me. From a distance they could build a very sensitive story, what is a bit too emotional. Good work with only archive footage, and some storyteller. Very hard work to put all the different type of archive material together and make it not to look too different. It could be a very big challenge but it works and its beautiful. I don’t like that the characters were to “black n white”. Kind of bad and good. Really like the music and the rhythm of the film, its really makes emotion get stronger while watching.
  • Regina Guzman I love this film too! I give it a 5. It’s so riveting and so emotional. I think it’s amazing how the director managed to give us such a personal take on Senna with just found footage. You would think that looking through old formula 1 video archives would be repetitive and impersonal, but instead it comes together in a really gripping way. The use of the voice overs was really effective in adding context and I also like how the narrative is set up in an almost fiction-like way as we follow Senna’s rise to fame and all the subsequent tension… up to that heartbreaking ending.
  • Alice Tong I really like this film but I am not sure if it is a great documentary, as it’s so emotional and subjective. I like the narrative of this film: it doesn’t tell you who this person is at the beginning and just tell the story as he is a common person. However, it’s a film about legend and destiny, so this great contrast, actually is very efficient! Especially to people like me, who have no idea about Senna. By watching this film, it seems like I was growing with this guy, from a young man to the greatest racing driver in the world, getting to know him little by little and going through happiness and pain, success and failure. Then it came to his sudden and heartbreaking death. However, I felt something unusual when it came to the last match. Because the editing is so different and there is no music at all. I like this film partly because I am always fascinated by stories about legend and destiny, from which I feel a sense of fatalism. Just like a Chinese proverb said: the hero must die in order to be a hero.
  • Daria Marchenko 5. The more I think about the film, the more I am amazed by its complexity. Talking about very personal issues (ambitions, goals, death) of a public person must be challenging since many other people and institutes (formula 1, family, colleagues) are involved. It’s a balance between political and ethical constraints. According to IMDb, it seems that Senna is “the first film about Ayrton Senna that had the approval and support of his family and also the organization of Formula One Management, which gave unprecedented images of Senna. Upon being hired, the director Asif Kapadia knew little about the life of Ayrton Senna and Formula 1. This was the intention of the producers, so he had a fair look at the film material “. So, apparently, the emotional accuracy and visual quality of the film is a result of many decisions made by different members of the project, combining their specific sensibilities toward the subject. It also rises a question about the personality of a director, here we are almost talking about the psychological compatibility between the director and the subject of the film. Why Asif Kapadia instead of somebody who is more familiar with Formula 1? Here we can think about the role of the producer who combined fresh vision of the director with the exclusive archives and collaboration of Senna’s family.

Film #4: The Petition

  • Alice Tong Actually, I don’t know what happen in recent years. When I went to Beijing for study(September,2007), lots of old communities had been demolished to make a way for parks or sports centers because of Olympics. I think this make it more difficult for people like them to live in Beijing. But there are three or four times when I walked on the street of Beijing, I saw petitioners with banners in their hands telling their stories to other people.
  • Alice Tong It’s my first time to watch this documentary and am shocked by some shots. Sometimes it’s really hard to believe so much unfair and miserable stories happened in my country. To me, the most touching also ironic shot in this film is those petitioners sit outside in front of a broken Television watching Spring Festival gala and smiling. In such cold winter, in such unfortunate and miserable situation, they still enjoy a TV program which delivers strong messages of patriotism and harmonious society. But in fact, they are abandoned by such “harmonious” society and lose the chance to enjoy a happy family time forever.
  • Regina Guzman It’s hard for me to rate this film because objectively I think it’s a good film, but it was very hard to watch. I thought it was a really great documentary in the sense that it really pulls you into the reality it’s documenting but at the same time the characters were not compelling for me. While I recognized the incredibly tough and unjust situation, there was a barrier of some sort that didn’t let me get pasted the chaos of the situation to connect with the petitioners. More broadly though, I thought the film is kind of remarkably ambitious and you can tell how invested/dedicated the filmmaker was through the closeness he developed with his protagonists.

Film #5: Golden Gate Girls

Film #6: “5 Broken Cameras”


3 thoughts on “Reviews”

  1. About 5 broken cameras :

    I give it a 4. I was deeply moved by this documentary. Being jewish and having family in Israel has brought lot of contradictions to my minds, especially during the last events of this summer. You always feel some kind of pressure backing the Israelian state, and you often end up being in some way schizophrenic about the conflict.I went on YouTube to have more informations about the directors of the film and ended up on a video where they show it to young israelis, and I noticed that they felt exactly the same way as I do.
    This documentary depicts greatly what “daily” violence is about, especially thanks to the well scripted chronological progression that interweaves a personal timeline (the birthdays of Djeebril) and a common one (the weekly protests).
    The movie succeeded in showing characters inside the group, which of course integrate emotionnally the viewer to the struggle of the village. It instantly feels closer and more concerned, in addition with the voice off and the first person narration.
    I think however that some moment felt a bit scripted (with the kids, he’s son first word is “the wall” or with her wife).
    Beside that I think that it was overall a great movie that does not give a full understanding of the Israelian-Palestinian conflict but shares a personal vision and experience on life under war and occupation. It gives voices to humans and not political discourses.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. About 5 broken cameras :

      I give this documentary 5 points. Before watching this documentary, I have never realized that a camera is not just a kind of simple recording machine. Now I believe that a camera can be a weapon that could thereat powerful people and authorities; I think a camera can be a protection that save people’s lives from death, also from evils.

      I am deeply touched and moved by this incredible documentary. I always knew that there are many unfairness happening outside. However, I have never paid attention to them, and I have never participated in any of them. This documentary really taught me cruel this world this. When I saw people being shot by soldiers, I was really shocked. But, when I saw the filmmaker’s camera being destroyed by bullets, I as if felt death. It was breathtaking when the camera turned black.

      On the contrary, when I see people continuing them protests no matter what happened, I really felt their power, their faith, and their courage. Even though many people injured or died during the protests, nothing could change their decision of continuing their protests. I finally realized that freedom is really important. People always say that they care about their freedom. However, unless we lose our freedom, we will never understand the importance of freedom. Moreover, seeing people fighting for their freedom, I am moved. Now, I understand the meaning of never giving up fighting for freedom.


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School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong SM2229, Sem A 2014 Professor Shannon Walsh

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