Tuesday 31 May 2011

Hot Docs 2011 - "Wiebo's War"

Typically, the best documentaries are the ones that make you look at something from a different angle, approach a situation or person in a way you never expected and even further educate you on a topic that you thought you already knew. For example, if you're Canadian, you may think you know the story of Wiebo Ludwig. If the name rings a bell or two, it is more than likely the warning kind that signals "crackpot". Director David York's current day look at the man, his closed community and the history of his battles with the oil companies drilling near his land may not completely change your view of Wiebo, but it might give you some insight into some of his actions.

Some background first...Ludwig was implicated in several oil pipeline bombings in Alberta and B.C. in the late 90s and involved in the shooting death of a young teenage girl on his property. He was charged and found guilty on several counts of vandalism that related to the explosions and served close to 2 years in prison before being released and allowed to return to his community's compound. The community is a devout Christian one that he has built up with several families and is mostly self-sufficient which allows them to stay insulated - apart from the occasional trip to town - from the rest of society. Of course, given that oil production is a big part of the economic engine in this region, many people weren't exactly happy with Wiebo's alleged involvement with those bombings and he and his family weren't overly welcomed in town. One night in 1999, a group of teenagers went joyriding on his property and before you could say "stupid prank gone wrong", a young girl was dead. As reported at the time, Wiebo came across as an eco-terrorist who had a borderline cult deep in the backwoods of Northern Alberta backing him up.

With a new series of bombings beginning in 2008, York brought his cameras into Ludwig's compound to attempt to get a better look at their secluded life and delve into both the new and old oil company issues. It doesn't appear that it will be a smooth ride at the outset, though, as York is questioned by Wiebo and his sons about his atheism: "What gives you the right to deny the existence of God?" asks one of them. This early going may not help change viewers' minds about Ludwig's apparent fundamentalist religious mindset, but as York seems to win their trust, religion recedes into the background during the rest of the film. Let me be clear: any intimations of Ludwig and his family being "crackpots" is NOT based on their specific religious views, but strictly on their reclusiveness combined with what was termed to be an extreme response to their fears of oil exploration.

Here's the thing though...Their fears end up being completely and wholly realized. Shortly after the initial drillings, sour gas leaks near their property were the likely causes of several illnesses in their families, dozens of miscarriages among the animals and 5 separate miscarriages by Wiebo's own daughters and daughters-in-law. In one absolutely devastating moment, home footage shows the family's funeral of a still born baby and the burial they give it. It is shocking, gruesome and deeply disturbing (I rarely turn away from images on the screen, but I couldn't handle this one for much more than a few seconds). Two days after that footage was shot several bombings (the ones Ludwig was eventually sentenced for) occurred at oil facilities. Though it could also be said that the footage exploits that particular tragedy, York has by this point put together (using current day footage as well as home documents from a decade previous) an interesting portrait of the community - the young women seem wonderfully sweet, they all provide for themselves and they appear to be quite happy. Combine this with numerous other facts about the case that never surfaced to the general population (e.g. the RCMP actually purposely staging an explosion as a means of accusing Ludwig to find out more information, etc.) and you begin to see why Ludwig is no big fan of oil drilling or the government. The news at the end of the film that new drilling is about to begin right near the community's water supply again is - especially as we hear Ludwig's tearful declaration to his family that they must endure - heartbreaking.

Nothing excuses many of Ludwig's actions. Whatever danger he and his family may have thought they were in from the joy riding teenagers, someone pulled that trigger and killed a young girl. As well, the bombings of private property were not only obviously illegal, but dangerous to many innocent people. After watching "Wiebo's War", I haven't changed my opinions on his actions or beliefs, but I'd like to think I've gained a better understanding of his point of view. Certainly the sign of a terrific documentary.

Monday 23 May 2011

Hot Docs 2011 - "The Guantanamo Trap"

"The Guantanamo Trap" signals early on (with some rather poorly intoned narration) that it has a bias to it. Hell, it's title alone gives that away. Fortunately it's strength is that it mostly tucks that bias away when the people are talking - in particular, when the person who wrote the "torture memo" (the letter that suggested many "enhanced interrogation techniques" should be used at Guantanamo) lays out her views.

Not that you need to be completely even-handed when discussing torture, but it's quite fascinating to hear Diane Beaver (appointed legal advisor to the camp command at Guantanamo in early 2002) talk about why she wrote that initial memo and why she does not believe that any of those techniques bordered on torture (by what she terms as "any definition" of the word you'd care to name). The film itself is quite careful to never explicitly state that any of these methods are actually torture, but it's hard to escape that conclusion when you hear people who have experienced it talk to the camera about it.

Murat Kurnaz is first up. Kurnaz, a German-born Turkish National, was picked up in 2002 and eventually fed into Guantanamo as he was under suspicion of being part of the worldwide al-Qaida network. He was left, without charges, in Guantanamo and suffered through 25 hour long interrogations, no food for days at a time, humiliation and other such tactics for a period of 5 years. Turns out there was no shred of real evidence against him. Rumours and speculation plus being in the wrong place at the wrong time (a trip to Pakistan to immerse himself in Islam) sealed his fate. One of the German al-Qaida cells had apparently been a major part of 9/11, so when they heard things like Kurnaz had condoned the attacks (he was "said to have" anyway), had always wanted to fight and had bought a combat suit and boots, he was a prime target (much of that information was learned from his mother). His blank expressionless face as he describes his lengthy stay speaks volumes - he had essentially given up life while incarcerated.

Michael Diaz was also at Guantanamo. In his case, they actually had him cold on his crime. He leaked the names of the prisoners at Guantanamo - information he knew because he was a judge advocate for the Navy and stationed at Guantanamo. His job at the facility was to ensure that another Abu Ghraib did not occur and that they treat the prisoners humanely. Clearly, he says, the people there were not the "worst of the worst" and that many were actually there because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time (including Kurnaz). He saw conditions he thought were wrong and against the law, but realized feeding it up the management chain would result in nothing. So, after seeing a plea from a human rights lawyer to find the names of these individuals, he decided to send them to her - he couldn't stand to see these conditions and knew this was his only chance to help. When this lawyer received the info, she turned it over to the military police...And thus Diaz was caught. Though he didn't go to Guantanamo, he served 6 months in jail and after being on the receiving end of similar tactics that were used at his old base, he realized that Guantanamo didn't invent these interrogation methods - they learned many of them directly from their country's own prisons.

And then there's the Spanish lawyer (Gonzalo Boye) who is trying to bring George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld to some form of justice. He believes that Kurnaz's testimony can help implicate Beaver who will then roll over on her bosses (in reality, not an insane plan - Beaver was indeed hung out to dry by her superiors). He has also done time in a jail where certain tactics were applied to him in order to coax out information. He spent almost 8 years in prison for a role in a terrorist kidnapping (which he denies) and was tortured by Spanish police. He's not the most trustworthy figure, seems to have his own personal agenda and doesn't even seem to notice the irony of bringing Kurnaz to a bullfight (the movie is not subtle about comparing Kurnaz to the bull being stabbed to death). His life, however, has been profoundly impacted by torture.

It's fascinating enough to listen to these people's accounts, but the film goes a step further by juxtaposing their comments with a set of interviews with Diane Beaver. Though she never seems to address any of the issues of innocent people being held in Guantanamo or how she can possibly consider the actual implementation of these interrogation techniques as not even being close to torture, she comes across as a truly honest and thoughtful person. She really feels that she did what she needed to do for her country - at the time there was concern over another imminent attack and that any details the prisoners had might be of use. Their standard line of questioning (plus sleep deprivation and solitude) wasn't as effective as they'd hoped, so the memo was created in order to provide her superiors with legal advice on what were acceptable (and much more "aggressive") methods. It was then out of her hands as to which methods they chose and how they actually implemented them (among the ones considered were: "positions of stress", use of individual phobias, removal of clothing and several other techniques), but she's positive that no one ever over-stepped their boundaries and that torture was not committed within the walls of Gitmo. She also seems pretty positive about the prisoners too - she views Kurnaz as a "bad guy" who was associated with some of the worst terrorists around. Wrong place at the wrong time? "That just doesn't wash" she says.

She's erudite, genuine and seems a pleasant sort, but there's additional back story to her life that certainly indicates a less than smooth journey for her. Her current struggles to get her own doggy daycare facility opened provide a complete picture of a woman determined to push through. There's little overt political talk in the film, but at one point she uses the old party talking point that the prisoners in Guantanamo received better health care than the citizens of the U.S. (her family members at her backyard BBQ nod and agree). That's an astounding statement coming from her...

The film shows you these 4 different people with widely different backgrounds who have all been, in one way or another, affected strongly by torture and possibly going through a variety of rationalizations for their actions in the past. Director Thomas Wallner is effective at using news reel and file footage of the camp as well as terrorist incidents (9/11 obviously, but also an astonishing moment captured during the terrorist bombings of trains in Madrid), but also captures some current day footage of these people's new surroundings (Diaz in Times Square, Beaver in her small community, Kurnaz riding is bike, Boye driving through Madrid, etc.) that opens the movie up and shows them trying to interact with the rest of the world.

It's a fascinating study of torture and its wide ranging effects. It never completely delves into black and white statements about the right and wrong of any of the characters' actions and thus becomes, even with its own biases, a healthy jumping off point for discussion.

Sunday 15 May 2011

Hot Docs 2011 - Short Cuts #4

Dragonslayer (2011 - Tristan Patterson) - Winner of this year's Best International feature at Hot Docs, Patterson's debut feature is in many ways a simple film - it follows skateboarder Skreech through several weeks of skating, hanging out, travelling and living a hand to mouth existence. It's much more than that though. The well deserved accolades the film is receiving (Sundance had praise for it too) come from the way it tells its story, which uses a fractured timeline and slides effortlessly between lovely cinematography and hand-held shakiness, as well as the full picture it gives of Skreech's life. Broken down into 11 different sections (each numbered), we follow the skatepunk through various empty backyard pools in California to numerous minor skateboard contests on the West Coast and all the way to Denmark while occasionally side stepping to spend time with his baby son, his new girlfriend and a lot of alcohol and weed. He's not the most sympathetic of main characters, but is still somewhat charming at times and you can't help but hope he finds his way. The sections focusing on Skreech and his girlfriend sometimes have a bit of a feel of a low-budget Indie film (though a well executed and shot one) and if they managed to capture and frame these shots "on the fly", it really is a remarkable achievement. The craft of the film really accentuates what must be a blurry day to day existence.

Mighty Jerome (2010 - Charles Officer) - Using a completely different set of aesthetic and story-telling choices (black and white cinematography, news footage, recreations, etc.), "Mighty Jerome" is equally as good as the prize winning "Dragonslayer" at conveying a sense of the life of its subject. In this case it's Harry Jerome, a Canadian track and field star from the 60s who held world records in the sprint and was a flawed yet fascinating individual. Though setting his first world record at 19, he seemed to battle negative press for the entirety of his career (even when he had suffered major injuries and staged an amazing comeback). He also ran into a variety of racism while at school in the U.S. and also back home in his native Canada (as the film points out, the more polite racism of Canada - ie. typically not as overt as what Jerome encountered south of the border - was sometimes much worse). The film meshes present day interviews with recreated scenes from his childhood and young adult life (when he met and wooed his caucasian wife) and loads of archival competition and interview footage. By keeping the B&W look to the entire film, Officer not only maintains a consistency across the narrative, but creates a superb looking documentary about a man who was certainly more than a sports hero (his name lives on in the form of awards and scholarships for outstanding black Canadian youth).

El Bulli: Cooking In Progress (2010 - Gereon Wetzel) - Ferran Adria is a controversial world-renowned chef known for creating odd combinations of foods and "deconstructing" the art of cooking. His famous restaurant "El Bulli" (a 5 time winner of Restaurant Magazine's best restaurant in the world award) provides more than just a meal to its patrons (who have to wait literally years for a booking), but a sensory experience. It's about more than just the taste, but the feel, the texture, the smell and the presentation. The film follows Adria and his chefs during one season, starting at the point when they have closed their restaurant for several months while they move everything into their lab. They spend months breaking down individual food items and combining them together to derive new sensations. After the experimenting comes the difficult task of building a new menu - a set of over 30 individual dishes that link from one to the other to provide the full journey. There are some great moments captured (particularly later in the film as they prepare for the opening night), but due to the numerous paths their experiments take them down, I would have preferred either some narration or separate interview segments to give us a fuller story of what they were attempting, what worked and what failed. I hate to ask for a conventional film to document a very unconventional chef and method of cooking, but since I actually wanted to know more about the subject itself, I needed something a bit different than straight observational documenting.

Saturday 14 May 2011

Hot Docs 2011 - Short Cuts #3

St-Henri The 26th Of August (2011 - Shannon Walsh) - As a kid growing up on the South Shore of Montreal, the only part of "the big city" I was familiar with was the downtown core which contained the big department stores. When I began attending post-secondary school in downtown Montreal, I used to get lifts into the city with my Dad and every day we would drive through the neighbourhood of St-Henri - an area that is surrounded by the Lachine Canal and expressways. I found it a fascinating and somewhat sad part of town - it seemed to be filled with huge abandoned factories (all with their windows smashed out), but had lovely bike paths along the canal and promises of condos, coffee shops and everything the young urban professional wanted. Watching Walsh's single day view of the area (filmed by 16 different filmmakers), I can see that certainly some of those promises were kept, but many more were broken. Cutting between several different subjects, the film gives us wide coverage of the spectrum of St-Henri - the nationalities, the age ranges, the working classes - and a feeling of what it might be like living in the community. It's not always pretty, but seeing so many slices in a mere 90 minutes (even though you never get a real strong attachment to any of the characters) reminded me how fascinating St-Henri was. The film is a tribute to the 1962 documentary (by Hubert Aquin) "St-Henri The 5th Of September".

45365 (2009 - Bill Ross IV, Turner Ross) - Staying on a similar tack as the above, the Ross brothers 2009 film covers about a 7 month time span within the confines of the 45365 zip code in Ohio. The brothers hometown of Sydney is within that virtual border and may explain the access they had to some of these people's lives since it's just so very intimate at times. Though filmed over a much longer time period, it shares with "St-Henri" the desire to cover the breadth of its subject - from top to bottom. "45365" pulls off something remarkable though - fully fledged characters that surprise you, disappoint you and engage you while simply going about their lives. And it's all done with some absolutely gorgeous camerawork. Shots are artfully framed whenever possible and stunning cinematography is pulled off seemingly with little effort. A truly wonderful film and little surprise that Roger Ebert picked it for his Ebertfest this year.

Abendland (2011 - Nikolaus Geyrhalter) - And if you haven't had enough cinema verite focusing on specific environments and the people who live in them, "Abendland" takes things one step further. Covering far more ground (and with much less specific focus), Geyrhalter's film segues through different parts of Europe at night. Border patrols in Spain, Oktoberfest revelers, a massive crowd of rave dancers, a crematorium and an old folks home all roll across the screen in this mesmerizing and beautiful film that, even though it sometimes seems to flow from one random scene to another, gives a strong sense that Europe after dark is a lonely place and quite disconnected. Geyrhalter uses every inch of the screen to create his visuals and you can't help but feel that he had many of them in mind before he even shot them. Filmed over a couple of years, "Abendland" brings you to some places that you either never thought you would see or didn't even know existed. If its overall message isn't completely sharp, it'll leave you with memorable images and the feeling that you need to go have a conversation with someone and connect.

Monday 9 May 2011

Hot Docs 2011 - Short Cuts #2

Matchmaking Mayor (2011 - Erika Hnikova) - Zemplinske Hamre is not atypical amongst its fellow Slovak villages - all are suffering from an elderly population that is dying off and a younger one that is slow to couple itself off in order to create new generations. What does make Zemplinske Hamre stand apart is a mayor who won't stay quiet about what he sees as upcoming negative population growth - so much so that he broadcasts over the village loudpseakers via his daily addresses that the town's singles need to shape up or their culture will be lost. He offers bonuses for those who procreate, but eventually decides to try to create a big party for all the singles where they can find their love connections. His singular focus is a bit off-putting for some villagers, but he manages to put on his party. But will anyone show up? Though occasionally funny and touching in spots, the film overall plays like an epitaph for the smaller Slovak towns and their lifestyle. Partially due to the nature of humans not being able to save themselves from themselves, but also because of the tough economic times and an overall lack of joy present in the villagers' lives. The filmmakers follow several different people in the days leading up to the party, but never quite get any in-depth profiles of these citizens and don't really get much chance to dig for the root of the issue. Still, it's more than little heart-breaking at times.

Battle For Barking (2010 - Laura Fairrie) - If you have any interest at all in British politics, you've likely heard of the BNP (British National Party) - a bunch of (IMO) racist opportunists looking to kick all immigrants out of "their" country by placing blame for pretty much all of the country's ills on everyone they don't consider to be true British people. Why study the specifics of complicated issues when you can scapegoat groups you don't understand and try to appeal to the masses' need for quick fix answers? Fairrie's cameras follow BNP leader Nick Griffin and a few of his cronies during their campaign to win a seat in the riding of Barking - a diverse multicultural part of London - while also tailing Labour candidate Margaret Hodge. It's not overly original in its approach (behind the scenes discussions about tactics, person on the street interviews, etc.), but it's very effective as we follow both sides through the slings and arrows of what amounts to a campaign these days. Hodge isn't a perfect representative for the area either (there's some disconnect between her wealth and the lower classes in the area), but she's not taking the BNP's crap lightly. If there was any doubt about the lack of thoughtful consideration the BNP puts into its ideas, you just have to listen to Griffin, his advisors or pretty much any of their backers speak for a few minutes off script. I've no doubt that many of these people have issues, but the scariest thing is to see how many of them are so quick to look for a fall guy that they drop all sense of logic or humanity.

Highway Gospel (2010 - Jaret Belliveau) - I used to be an avid skateboarder back in my teens (not a good one, but an avid one) and loved leafing through issues of Skateboarder magazine looking at all the insane aerials that the Stacy Peraltas and Tony Alvas in California were pulling. Occasionally you'd hear about the slalom dudes and - as you viewed them careening down hillside roads - wonder if they were even crazier than the guys flying out of backyard pools. It turns out they are. Belliveau's film traces two separate Canadian devotees of the sport who are past their prime, getting creaky in the bones and yet still love the speed and thrills of the sport. One manages what is considered the premiere slalom road course race in the world (though he's beyond the point where he can compete due to injuries) and the other manages his own skatepark in Ottawa while still training for a shot at the world championships as he slides past the half-century mark. The two stories never really come together to any great degree, but they both show the spirit of people intoxicated by their passions and willing to sacrifice for them (giving up health and wealth). It definitely made me want to reach for my old board - even if I risked pulling a muscle doing it.

Friday 6 May 2011

Hot Docs 2011 - Short Cuts #1

I'm running behind on my Hot Docs coverage...Considering they just announced the Award winners today, I'm going to try to catch up with some smaller capsule reviews of many of the films I've crammed in so far.

Superheroes (2011 - Michael Barnett) - The regular average-joe playing at superhero is a bit past its freshness date as a central plot point in fictional film at this point (four films in the past year or so made use of it), but what about in documentaries? You knew there had to be a few "crazies" running around in the dark with their homemade capes, so a feature length film about them sounds like a blast right? Well, yes and no. Barnett's "Superheroes" is at times a fascinating look at a good 20-30 different people who patrol their streets (almost always in a costume with a mask) from all over North America and can be a great deal of fun as we see the different approaches to crime fighting, weapon choices and costume design. It's more than just tinged with sadness, though, as we hear some of these people's back stories and find out why they feel compelled to help protect their neighbourhoods. I found there to be a few too many stories to get completely wrapped up in the individual characters, but there's enough in the film to still penetrate the most robust of defenses. Also, who knew that even superheroes weren't beyond the occasional bit of entrapment?

Hollywood Complex (2010 - Dylan Nelson, Dan Sturman) - No matter how often I have to remind myself that I shouldn't judge other parents in how they choose to raise their own children, occasionally I just can't help it. And "The Hollywood Complex" - which covers the better part of 8 months in an apartment complex for families looking to break their children into television stardom - had me handing down sentences like Judge Judy trying to clear the docket on a Friday afternoon. In many cases, one of the parents stays with the child in a small apartment for the entire period of "pilot season" (when the networks are looking to cast their new shows and regularly look for new faces) while the other stays far away at home. In one somewhat upsetting case, the mother and daughter had been living at the complex for 3 full years (not even going back home to the rest of their family during the summer months) hitting auditions, casting calls and the like - with nary a job to show for it. The film provides some interesting behind the scenes looks at the process, the different types of coaching and training the kids get and a diverse set of opinions by professionals. The most galling are the rah-rah coaches who feed the kids and parents' heads with dreams of fame and fortune when in reality the business is rather unforgiving. There's not a great deal special in the way the film is shot, but it does what it needs to do. The unfortunate thing is that films of this type really need their central characters to be not just people you root for, but ones you feel a connection to in some way. For the most part, all I felt was frustration and even disgust.

Open Secret (2011 - Steve Licktieg) - Director Licktieg turns the camera on himself and his family to tell the story of his upbringing and a little secret about his parents. Can you really call it a secret, though, when everyone knows it? Everyone except Licktieg that is - until his teenage years, he assumed his parents were his parents and he just happened to have been one of those "ooops" babies who popped out years after the couple thought they were finished having kids (hence the slew of much older siblings). Not only did Lickteig discover he was adopted, but that his real mother had been with him the whole time in the form of his "sister". There's some fascinating material to work with here - his real mother was more interested in getting away from the family than really helping raise her son while his grandmother was a controlling and cold caregiver - but unfortunately Licktieg is too close to the subject and as a first time filmmaker (coming from his job at NPR public radio), he never really explores some fundamental questions and occasionally drops into self-pity. It must be difficult to try to rebuild your own idea of who you are and I give him credit for attempting to use the film in that capacity, but "Open Secret" ultimately fails to provide much mystery, answers or sympathy.

Hot Docs 2011 - "The Future Is Now!"

There's something to be said for "talking head" movies. When intelligent people discuss interesting or novel ideas in passionate ways, you don't necessarily need an overall story arc, narrative thrust or cinematic quality to the proceedings - smart people saying smart things can be engaging enough. Certainly none of those other elements would hurt, though, and the addition of them can lead to fascinating viewing. So I had my hopes up for Gary Burns and Jim Brown's latest film "The Future Is Now!". It purported to have a bevy of experts (in fields of architecture, art, evolutionary science, etc.) talking about what the future might have in store for us and how our lives might change. To do this, the film wraps the fictional story of a disconnected cynical man being shown what humanity might achieve as he gets to interview these thought leaders. I bought into this rather odd concept and the claims of "a cinematic voyage through endless future possibilities" partially due to the directors' previous film - the fun and very sharp "Radiant City" - which combined wonderfully staged interviews of urban planners with the story of a suburban family trying to cope with the many pros and cons of living in their neighbourhood. So I expected "The Future Is Now!" to be filled with smart people, clever structural devices and superb filmmaking.

Though I can't blame them for trying something different, the only thing that works are the actual talking heads - and only when they are allowed to go off on their own tangents and aren't forced into answering specific questions. Had they but only filmed these curious thinkers chatting to a single static camera, the film would've been far more thought-provoking. The artificiality of the construct that a Woman Of Tomorrow (a TV news reporter) is able to line up all these people to convince this one cynical guy (dubbed the Man Of Today) that the world has hope finally sinks the film. That's not to say it doesn't occasionally induce a certain amount of percolation of ideas in your brain: the architect Shigeru Ban does pro bono relief work that has far reaching benefits, the author Rivka Galchen briefly mentions the concept of parallel universes spawned every time a decision point is reached, Richard Dawkins sees genetics as "a branch of information technology" and even Jean-Paul Sartre (as the ghost of yesterday) chimes in to point out the logical fallacy of seeing oneself as completely different from everyone else. Whatever inspiration evolves from these moments is constantly undermined by the framing story and its unfortunate proclamations.

The film opens with several person on the street interviews about what their greatest fear is. Most are poorly acted and immediately dilute the desire to really pay attention to what's being said (except for the guy who was concerned about "mystery moisture" - one of the better potential conspiracy theories I've heard of late). The reporter comes across a man who claims not to have any fears because he doesn't think about it much and really has no hope for the future. He simply wants to live out his life without causing too many problems. She's never met anyone like him and convinces him to attend a poetry reading that night to engage with intellectual pursuit and new ideas. He agrees and is brought from one new person to another (though sometimes, like with Ban and Dawkins, the interviews were done with other people and his questions are spliced in). The reporter, as the Woman Of Tomorrow, feels she must convince this man that there is always a future ahead and it holds, if not something better, at least something interesting.

I can't argue with that concept and quite like Galchen's later position that we should "take ludicrous ideas somewhat seriously" if only to find the kernels or truth or beauty contained within them. An example of this is the poet's idea that he wants to write a poem that will be converted to a genetic code for a protein which in turn when created will trigger a new protein in response and therefore "the organism becomes the living embodiment of my poetry". Not much practical benefit, but an interesting nugget to sit back and ponder. It's moments like that which frustrate me most about the film though - it could've followed so many of these flights of fancy down their paths, but always stops short in order to get back to the reporter's job of convincing the central character of the good in humanity. The conversation flow between the two of them just never feels honest and tends to kill any momentum the film had built up. It culminates in some heavy handed preaching by her complete with cuts to school children at play. Does the future not contain any subtlety?

"I have to fight sometimes to keep steering my emotions to the positive" says the Woman Of Tomorrow in her final sermon. A pretty good summation of my feelings about the film.