Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Two Documentaries

Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles
Documentaries can be so wonderful because there about real things and often tell stories that if they were fictional, no one would believe it. This is so true of Resurrect Dead. This movie tells the story of tiles, tiles that a mysteriously show up throughout the Eastern United States and South America.

(see a picture of one here) They show up on busy roads, smack dab in the middle of the road. Not only is this the story of cryptic tiles, but also it is the story of those who seek to solve the mystery of the tiles, in particular one man named Justin Duerr. While getting the answers to the mystery are worth watching this movie for, the portrayal of Duerr is another compelling part of the movie. He becomes obsessed in this kind of low key way. If an obsessed person can be low key, that is. I think this movie tells us something about the nature of obsession and what makes people pursue an endeavor that to others seems pointless. Suspense builds as Duerr and his companions get closer and closer to the answers of the tiles and while the answer may or may not be everything we hope for, we realize that the journey was pretty cool.

Project Nim
Project Nim is the story of one cute, sad, and abused little chimpanzee and the freaky folks who took turns trying to care for him. Nim starts out as a test subject in one university doctor’s effort to teach a chimp sign language. Nim’s first host family is a 7Os hippy mother who goes as far as to try to breast feed Nim but not discipline at all and Nim rules her strange household. The Doc in charge, who by the way previously had an affair with hippy mom, decides Nim needs a new home and finds a secluded mansion that he stocks with eager graduate students ready to teach Nim sign language. The egotistical doc has an affair with one of the students. Meanwhile Nim grows up gets violent and unruly. Finally, unable to care for him, the doc moves him again abandoning his language project. This time Nim is sent to a crazy place that houses chimps and does experiments on them. There’s more to Nim’s story and while I won’t give away the ending, it does end in a satisfying way, sort of. The movie is full of real people, most who turn out to be shmucks (from the documentarian’s perspective, of course) but a few turn out to be heroic in their small way.

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