Iditarod...A Far Distant Place

Iditarod… A Far Distant Place
reviewed by Chris Cooke

Far too often, films about extreme adventure-treks
up Mount Everest and the like-focus more on the physical difficulties
of the journey than on the people taking it. Not so with Alice
Dungan Bouvrie’s Iditarod. A Far Distant Place, which documents
a 1,100-mile Alaskan dogsled race on the Iditarod trail running
from Anchorage to Nome. In less than two weeks, mushers drive
their team of 16 huskies over the Alaska Range, across the remote
interior, 150 miles down the frozen Yukon River and up the blizzard-prone
coast of the Bering Sea. The way is tiring and treacherous. Many
dogs succumb to injuries and must be flown home from one of the
many pitstops along the way. Lose too many dogs and a musher will
have to scratch him- or herself from the race.

Bouvrie focuses on three of the 63 mushers: Nike
Nosko, a third-time musher who hopes to place high after making
great strides on each previous run; sixth-timer Linda Plettner,
one of nine women in the race, initiating a group of young dogs
she hopes will be a strong team when they mature; and Yup’ik Eskimo,
mental health counselor and former alcohol abuser Mike Williams,
known throughout the state as the Sobriety Musher. Each hopes to
place in the top 20, but, as one of them says in a moment of frustration,
running the Iditarod is a lesson in learning how to lose.

Bouvrie skillfully explores the mushers’ relationships
with their dogs, family and community, detailing their many setbacks
and their eventual triumphs and failures. It’s a fascinating and
emotionally compelling film, a wonderful reminder that adventure
and competition are about more than just prizes and scenery.

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Making a Killing

Making a Killing: Philip Morris, Kraft and Global
Tobacco Addiction

reviewed by Michele Meek

New York City prohibits smoking in many restaurants.
The LA airport bans it even outside except for a special
area. But if you thought the battle was won, the documentary Making
a Killing: Philip Morris, Kraft and Global Tobacco Addiction
proves we shouldn’t underestimate the brute force of the tobacco

Produced by award-winning moviemakers Kelly Anderson
and Tami Gold, Making a Killing exposes the evil tactics
that Philip Morris, the world’s largest tobacco corporation, uses
to hook kids on cigarettes around the globe-especially in Eastern
Europe and Asia. No matter how lowdown, they’ve done it-from hiring
skimpily-clad girls to handing out free smokes to young boys to
using its subsidiary, Kraft Foods, to gain political leverage
and influence media coverage.

As a combination of activism and indie moviemaking, Making a Killing is an excellent film. The moviemakers
clearly have their bias, but their agenda is no secret. The film
pushes the boundaries of a documentary by promoting a strong call
to action-stop buying Kraft products until Philip Morris agrees
to stop marketing cigarettes to kids. Whether or not you boycott,
you’ll leave this film with an education in the ethical (or lack
thereof) practices of a corporation whose products we all buy.

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Alzira: A Matriarch Tells Her Story

Alzira: A Matriarch Tells Her Story (a.k.a.
Alzira’s Story)

reviewed by Chris Cooke

Alzira de Jesus Soares immigrated to America when
she was only 16, sent by her family, who stayed behind in Portugal.
Years later, her grandson Christian de Rezendes has made a documentary
of her life, Alzira: A Matriarch Tells Her Story. De Rezendes
combines footage of a family trip back to the stone village where
she grew up, scenes of family life and interviews with Alzira
herself into a complex and evocative portrait.

She shows great resilience in guiding her marriage,
supporting the many family members who came over in her wake and
coordinating a family reunion almost 30 years after her departure.
The scenes from contemporary life make clear the striking contrast
between the life she left behind and the life her grandchildren
now lead. The entire family lived in a small stone hut in bleak
poverty, and now each of her children owns a house of his or her
own in the New England suburbs. It’s a bit disorienting to be
thrust into family dinners, filled with arguments and non-sequiturs,
and I wanted a family tree and guidebook to help me keep track
of everyone. But this is beside the point: Alzira is the focus
here, not the many other family members who flit in and out of
the film, and she is a tough and charming character. Alzira is an interesting look at the struggles immigrants have in not
only getting to America, but those that continue once they arrive.

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Nice Guys Sleep Alone
Reviewed by Jennifer Wood

If there were one genre of film that has saturated
the market in the past decade, it would have to be the romantic
comedy. But more frustrating than the fact that there are far
too many of them made is the fact that there are far too few that
actually mix humor and romance in a pleasing and, more importantly,
unique way. Stu Pollard’s Nice Guys Sleep Alone might just
be one of the few films that succeeds in adding something fresh
to the genre. 

Carter (Sean O’Bryan) is a high school teacher searching
for love in Kentucky. Date after date, his dreams of love are
constantly thwarted when the lady du jour tells him ‘I’d just
like to be friends.’ Fed up with the rejection, Carter decides
to change his repertoire when he meets Maggie, a veterinarian
at a local horse farm. Determining that this is a woman he wants
to impress–and someone he wants to be more than just friends
with–Carter skips the flowers, arrives at her doorstep a half-hour
late and takes her out for a burger at a local pub. The ending
of the film can be predicted simply because of its genre classification,
but there’s enough intelligent and thoughtful dialogue, humor
and well-developed characters to keep the audience intrigued–and
cheering Carter on. 

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