FIRE IN PARADISE: Questioning the New Normal

by C.J. Hirschfield

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The new Netflix documentary Fire in Paradise was planned for release near the one-year anniversary of the Camp Fire in Butte County, the country’s deadliest wildfire in over a century. The fire killed 85 people in the town of Paradise. As the film’s November 1st release date approached, Oakland-based co-director Drea Cooper recalls feeling good that the 2019 fire season was not as bad as last year. But by the time the actual date arrived, the entire state of California had endured three weeks of flames, and causing millions of people to be without power–including Drea and his family. “Surreal,” is how he puts it. Surreal, but as the film suggests, also the new normal.

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WHY SURREALISM MATTERS TO ANIMATORS 

by Karl Cohen

For over a quarter of a century I’ve been asking my cinema students on the first day of class “what is surrealism and why is it important to animators?”   Even though most are cinema majors, I generally ask that question again before a brave student will risk raising a hand.  Often the first answers deal with vague thoughts about dreams and nightmares.  Eventuality the discussion leads them to realize surrealism comes from our creative imaginations and that for over a hundred years it has provided a good deal of the imagery for films.

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Thru The Mirror (1936)  (courtesy of BookMice)

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THE CAVE: HOPE SHINES IN THE DARKEST PLACES

by C.J. Hirschfield

In October, 2019 it was announced that while America may be pulling its troops out of Syria, we are nonetheless sending armored vehicles to protect oil fields. Our president’s philosophy about the people who have lived there with war for eight years? “They’ve got a lot of sand over there. So there’s a lot of sand there that they can play with.” In effect, saying who cares? It’s just sand.

But it’s not just sand. It’s besieged civilians– seniors, parents, children and infants– who want nothing more than to survive, and to stay in their homes. They’ve lived with war for years. And their stories must be told, as hard as they are to see and comprehend.

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SECRET HORRORS OF THE CASTRO THEATRE: A True Story

by Julie Lindow

One would never expect such real-life horror to happen at the gorgeous, historic Castro Theatre in San Francisco. That fateful night, I was slinging candy and popcorn. The air was thick with that hot buttery scent as I salted the last bag of popcorn and patrons scurried into the theater. The manager clunked the heavy double doors closed. The calm after the storm. It was also the calm before the storm of Hallows’ Eve that was a few nights off.

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A SERENDIPITOUS MERGING OF ART AND HEART

By C.J. Hirschfield

A number of documentaries that feature the work and process of artists have gone on to reach and captivate large audiences. RIVERS AND TIDES featuring Andy Goldsworthy, and the more recent FACES PLACES with Agnes Varda and JR are good examples.

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And now we have SERENDIPITY, a deeply personal film that opens us up to the life and creations of multidisciplinary French artist Prune Nourry, even as she finds herself challenged by the reality of her own breast cancer diagnosis. Executive-produced by Angelina Jolie (herself a breast cancer survivor), its deft merging of heart and art is bound to attract a wide following.

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WHERE’S MY ROY COHN?

By C.J. Hirschfield

Although the filmmakers never reference the quote that serves as their title, it actually was uttered by our current president following the January, 2018 fallout from the report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections, when he needed an attack dog of an attorney to unleash. Roy Cohn had served as Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer decades ago in New York, and the film doesn’t have to try very hard to point out the similarities in the characteristics the two share: that it’s all about winning, and whatever that takes.

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