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Doc Challenge 2009

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Typecast Releasing, 3131 Western Ave., Suite 514, Seattle, WA 09121; 206-322-0882
Produced by Various
Directed by Various
DVD, color, 88 min.



Sr. High - Adult
Drama, Film Studies, Social Science

Date Entered: 06/08/2009

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Launched in 2006 the International Document Challenge is an annual competitive event designed to encourage and support the creation of short and innovative documentary films. Teams of filmmakers from around the world are given general theme and genre ideas and a five-day period in which to film and edit, with the additional requirements that the films must be no more than 8 minutes in length and submitted by a deadline date in early March of each year. Winners of the competition, which annually draws hundreds of entries, are announced at Toronto’s Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in late spring. In this first “Best of the Doc Challenge” collection, seventeen of the top short documentaries made by independent and student filmmakers during the past three years are presented.

Under the sub-heading of “Real life, filmed real fast,” each of films on this compilation is a small but noteworthy gem. While each documentary is unique, all combine creative story lines, outstanding production values and innovative use of a genre and theme. Some of the shorts are humorous; others thought-provoking; some use experimental film and edit techniques while others stick with more traditional documentary formats. Although films from Asia, the Middle East and Europe are included in this set, the majority of the entries are North American and in English or have English subtitles. The films are: Unfettering the Falcons (2007) Genre: Sports; Theme: Faith. A light-hearted look at ornithology, gender identity and the Atlanta Falcons football team.

In Your Faith (2007) Genre: Character Study or Biography; Theme: Faith. The challenges of an interfaith marriage in modern-day Japan.

I=me2 (2008) Genre: Experimental; Theme: Change. Split screen technique follows twins through a typical day.

Begging for Grace (2007) Genre: Social or Political Issues; Theme: Faith. A sketch of a freeway exit ramp panhandler’s life and work.

My Small Piece of Land (2006) Genre: Narrative; Theme: Freedom. Life for a Palestinian goatherd in an Israeli-occupied village.

Jetty (2008) Genre: Social or Political Issues; Theme: Change. The small and big business of crabbing in Tillamook County, Oregon.

Bend and Bow (2008) Genre: Experimental; Theme: Change. Features a woman who plays a wood saw in the New York subway system.

Red Light Blues (2008) Genre: Social or Political Issues; Theme: Change. One man’s view of Amsterdam’s Red Light District.

Ars Magna (2008) Genre: Character Study or Biography; Theme: Change. The peculiar gift of anagram master, Cory Calhoun.

Lao Shan Lao Yin (2008) Genre: Experimental; Theme: Freedom. A rural village in China and the old people who inhabit it.

Outside the Box (2007) Genre: Sports; Theme: Faith. A female Olympic boxing hopeful and her coach are profiled.

Click Whoosh (2008) Genre: Historical; Theme: Change. The sound a Polaroid camera makes.

Relatively Free (2006) Genre: Social or Political Issues; Theme: Freedom. A drive across reunified Berlin.

Pennywise (2008) Genre: Social or Political Issues; Theme: Change. Literally, a consideration of the one cent American coin.

Beholder (2008) Genre: First Person; Theme: Change. One photographer’s view of New York City through a camera lens.

Portraits of Hope (2007) Genre: Art; Theme: Faith. A portrait of Seattle children’s photographer Lynette Huffman Johnson.

Star Spangled Blues (2006) Genre: First Person; Theme: Freedom. A personal essay asking why good people have to go to war.

Bonus features on the DVD include Every Second Counts, a 24 minute discussion with one of the Doc Challenge filmmakers; a trailer for this DVD and short trailers for other films distributed by Typecast Releasing. A classroom discussion guide is available. Film study students and general audiences alike will enjoy or find something thought-provoking in this collection. Highly recommended.