Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sundance Monday, January 23

Best day yet. I saw 4 movies today.

Slavery by Another Name - When did slavery end in America? If you think it ended with the Emancipation Proclomation, you are wrong. The 13th ammendment included words about how slavery is outlawed except in cases where someone has committed a crime. This put a lot of wiggle room in, and the south exploited it for over 70 years.

One method of slavery was for states to lease prisoners to corporations or individuals. These prisoners were worked almost to death. During slavery, owners had some incentive to keep their slaves healthy, as they were valuable property to them. But once they were prisoners to be leased out for work, there was no incentive to keep them healthy. They were only temporary workers. The states made tons of money leasing these people out to companies including U.S. Steel.

And the charges people were arrested on were ludicrous. Someone could be arrested for vagrancy, which could be nothing more than standing around doing nothing. Thousands of innocent people were arrested for nothing more than being there when the state needed more prisoners.

Another way people were kept in slavery was peonism. A wealthy white man said a black man owed him money. The black man was arrested and given to the white man to work off the debt. There was no proof of debt, and the man could be held as long as the white man wanted.

There was an effort to stop this in 1903, but the federal government turned a blind eye and allowed it to continue. Between the 1860s and the 1900s, there was a real danger of the country overturning the Emancipation Proclomation. There was an attitude that maybe it was a mistake to grant black people their freedom. This was not just in the south - the north was slowly starting to adopt the attitudes of the south.

Slavery didn't really end until 1941 when the US entered World War II. FDR was responsible for making sure all these cases ended and the perpetrators were brought to justice. But think about that. As late as the 1930s, there were black people in the south being held as slaves. They weren't called slaves, but it was the same.

This is a very important documentary. Like many people, I thought slavery ended after the civil war. Most of what I know about civil rights are from the 1950s on. This movie should be included in every American's history education.

Nobody Walks - Martine (Olivia Thirlby) is a 23 year old artist from New York. She moves to LA to stay with Peter (John Krasinski) and his family. Peter is a sound mixer, and Martine wants him to help her with the sound editing.

There isn't much story here. I was kind of bored. Things get a little interesting when Martine and Peter sleep together. Will this destroy Peter's marriage? Will his wife find out? As the movie went on, I really didn't care. Skip this one.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry - This is a documentary about Ai Weiwei, an artist living in China. He isn't afraid to speak out against the government. The movie is as much about his art as it is about China's social injustice. This sounds like a great subject for a documentary, but it kind of left me cold. I guess I felt like I learned everything this movie had to tell me in the first 10 minutes.

Yound and Wild - Daniela is a 17 year old girl living in Santiago, Chile. She writes a blog called Young and Wild where she talks about two things - sex and religion. She is very horny all the time, attracted to men and women, but she is also an evangelical christian.

The movie wasn't written very well. It is basically a bunch of different scenes thrown together. There is no narrative through line. You could walk out and miss 20 minutes of the movie and you wouldn't even notice it. It also isn't edited very well. There are a lot of cuts that just seem awkward.

The movie is based on a true story, and the real life blogger was there at the screening. When she was asked about her relationship with her mother today, she said that her mother just found out about the movie and was not happy about it.

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