Blancanieves (Dir. Pablo Berger) – 5/5
Blancanieves is a modern silent film adapting the Snow White story to early-1900s Spain shot in stark black and white and set in the world of bullfighting. If that doesn't sound like something you want to see, then I fear for you. Director Pablo Berger proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that black and white can produce some of the most stunning images in the medium, and the decision to shy away from not only synchronous sound but also color was appropriate for a fairy tale world, where something unknown lurks around every corner and characters are either Good or Bad, with little room in between.
Snow White's father is a famous bullfighter who is paralyzed in the ring on the same day her mother dies in childbirth. The girl is raised by her grandmother until she dies, and then by her heartless stepmother, who in this version is into a little S&M with the chauffeur. The scenes where Snow White as a child creeps around the upper wings of the house searching for the father she hasn't ever seen are stunning, and the demise of the stepmother provides one of the most memorable of such scenes I've ever encountered—all aided by the boldness of the black and white.
Blancanieves certainly benefits from being viewed in a theater, but you can also rent it right now on Amazon Instant, and you should do so.
Remote Area Medical (Dir. Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman) – 4/5
Remote Area Medical addresses a timely issue from a new angle by looking at an organization that creates free pop-up medical clinics in areas where healthcare may be out of reach geographically every bit as much as financially. Created in 1985 by Stan Brock in response to having lived in areas of the Amazon that were nearly a month's journey by foot to the nearest hospital, the organization provides relief all over the world—however, as the film states up front, an exceeding percentage of their time is being spent in the U.S.
One of the primary strengths of the documentary is that it avoids getting too overtly political—the people interviewed talk about a lack of insurance as well as concerns over insurance that they can't afford being mandated, but the filmmakers don't push an opinion on such issues either way. Instead we get a closer look into the lives of several individuals attending a weekend clinic in Bristol, TN. One woman can barely see and has never had glasses; several people have entire rows of teeth pulled that have decayed down to nubs and abscesses—much of the help provided involves vision and dental care.
Remote Area Medical serves above all to document how the healthcare crisis in the U.S. is not as simple as who can afford insurance. The fact that an organization created to provide aid to areas of the world many times unreachable by even basic dirt roads now has to act as the only hope of care for so many within our own borders may be eye-opening, and directors Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman illustrate the problem by showing us those affected the most.
Next Update (Wednesday, Oct. 9) – Jafar Panahi's Closed Curtain!