Thursday, December 17, 2009

American Documentary Showcase schedule

At American Documentary Showcase

At American Documentary Showcase


A film series titled “American Documentary Showcase" is being presented at Chiang Mai University during December. The series, which began last Wednesday (December 9) continues with three more screenings, at “American Corner’s Mini Theatre,” 3rd floor, Chiang Mai University’s Library Center, at noon. FREE admission to this series!


At Chiang Mai University’s Library Center


At “American Corner’s Mini Theatre,” 3rd floor, Chiang Mai University’s Library Center, at noon.


Thursday, December 17 (today), at 12 pm noon:  Miss Navajo (2007) by Billy Luther– 60 mins –US, Documentary


News Blaze, Prairie Miller: Miss Navajo is filmmaker Billy Luther's reverential tribute to his mom, a former winner of the annual Miss Navajo beauty pageant in Table Mesa, New Mexico, and a celebration of the collective womanhood of the Navajo Nation. Don't expect the usual bosomy bathing suit runway stiletto strutting, aspiring girl goddess because the Miss Navajo pageant is strictly about female pride, and being smart, creative and immersed in the wisdom and continuity of traditions and tribal roots.


The Navajo Nation is the largest tribe in this country, that is, of what remains of the surviving oppressed indigenous peoples subjected to historical ethnic cleansings and genocide. As one contestant describes the pageant, it's in part a proud gesture 'to tell the dominant culture that we're Native Americans, and here we are, we're alive.'


Right: Filmmaker Billy Luther, who was touring Thailand for five days last

month with Miss Navajo for the American Embassy.


Women are traditionally respected leaders in this farming community, and so the primary values considered in the competition have nothing to do with sex appeal or conventional notions of glamour. Females of all sorts of shapes and sizes come together to impress the enthusiastic audience and judges with their creative skills in designing art projects, Native costumes, communicating in the original Navajo tongue once banned by the dominant culture, and even the killing and shearing of sheep. One contestant is understandably so overwhelmed by the latter, that she has to be taken away in an ambulance and later drops out of the contest entirely.


A welcome antidote to the dominant society's soulless spectacle of the female sex object glamour girl gladiators scrutinized so brutally in the feature film Little Miss Sunshine, Miss Navajo has much to enlighten and convey to American women about self-respect, gender consciousness, honoring historical memory, and collective unity versus ruthless competition.


Sundance Film Festival Official Website:Crystal Frazier, a twenty-one year old Navajo, lives on the reservation in Table Mesa, New Mexico. A tom-boy and former high school basketball champ, the beauty pageant presents a new set of challenges for Crystal as well as the responsibilities that come with the crown. Miss Navajo Nation is a fifty-four year old pageant that celebrates traditional values and language. Contestants must compete in rounds in which the women must showcase their skills as Navajo women, skills they were taught by their mothers and grandmothers, skills that are crucial to Navajo daily life: sheep butchering, fry bread making, and rug weaving, are just some of the challenges. Crystal experienced the typical life of a Navajo girl growing up. She understands that the lessons and beliefs taught to her are very important to her and her family’s future. For Crystal, the pageant presents an opportunity for her to complete her college education and to continue to pursue her dream of becoming a mechanical engineer. Crystal has rarely faced challenges she cannot win. Crystal will compete in the five-day pageant and will be mentored by her mother and sisters, who will be with her every step of the way. Embarking on this journey with her family she learns more about her culture to prepare for the competition. She is experienced with the ritual of sheep butchering, but requires instruction to fine tune her technique for the judges. When it comes to making the best fry bread in the world, she’s more used to eating her grandmothers than preparing her own. Crystal’s biggest weakness is her grasp of the Navajo language that her father vows to practice with her in the mornings. Through Crystal’s journey leading up to the competition, former Miss Navajos from the past half-century will share their memories of the pageant. Each crowned queen experienced life on the reservation and also faced the challenges of leadership in the preservation of their society. In sharing their memories of growing up Navajo, each will provide a different perspective on what the pageant meant to them. These stories will be intercut and woven together to provide invaluable background and context for Crystal’s story. Miss Navajo is a celebration of women and tradition in Dine (Navajo) culture explored through one young woman's quest for the Navajo Nation Crown.


FREE admission! Miss Navajo has Thai subtitles.


Monday, December 21, at 12 pm noon:  A Man Named Pearl (2006) by Scott Galloway and Brent Pierson– 78 mins – US, Documentary. Tells the inspiring story of self-taught topiary artist Pearl Fryar. It is a subtle and intriguing film that is certain to open hearts and minds. It offers an upbeat message that speaks to respect for both self and others, and shows what one person can achieve when he allows himself to share the full expression of his humanity. Generally favorable reviews: 63/67 out of 100.

TV Guide's Movie Guide, Maitland McDonagh: [This] irresistible documentary about self-taught topiary artist Pearl Fryar is a portrait of a polite, church-going, thoroughly decent man who found his bliss training and trimming discarded plants into fantastical things of beauty.


Salon, Andrew O'Hehir: Motivated by a racist comment that African-Americans don't maintain their yards, Fryar set out to win "Yard of the Month" from Bishopville, S.C.'s leading garden club. He became the first black person to do so, and along the way conceived a passion for abstract topiary, a craft in which he had no formal training. In fact, Fryar is a self-taught abstract sculptor whose medium is discarded boxwoods and other hedge shrubbery, trained lovingly into microbial blobs, galactic swirls, soaring fishbone structures and other organic forms. His three-acre yard is pretty much the only reason anybody ever visits Bishopville, and much of the fascination in Scott Galloway and Brent Pierson's documentary emerges from how this still-segregated Southern town is dealing with (and endeavoring to exploit) its homegrown genius.


NY Times, Jeannette Catsoulis: With no training other than a three-minute demonstration from a local hardware store, Mr. Fryar rescued discarded plants from the town nursery and painstakingly molded them into mind-boggling configurations. Neighbors doubted his sanity and nicknamed him Edward Scissorhands, but this modest and supremely patient son of a sharecropper persisted with his fantastical sculptures. Nowadays his work draws thousands of visitors a year and he even has a day named after him: quite a step up from his original goal to win Yard of the Month.


Assembled without frills or fuss, A Man Named Pearl is as much a portrait of a small Southern town as of an unassuming black folk artist. Aided by Fred Story’s jazzy score, the directors, Scott Galloway and Brent Pierson, keep things moving with appreciative comments from the financial and spiritual beneficiaries of Mr. Fryar’s talents (and from the female admirers who find his lithe, 68-year-old body every bit as interesting as his foliage). Those white families who, decades ago, rejected him as a neighbor because “black people don’t keep up their yards” must be weeping into their seed catalogs.


Thursday, December 24, at 12 pm noon:  Made in L.A. (2007) by Almudena Carracedo– 70 mins – US, Documentary. Made in L.A. follows the remarkable story of three Latina immigrants working in Los Angeles garment sweatshops as they embark on a three-year odyssey to win basic labor protections from a mega-trendy clothing retailer. In intimate verité style, Made in L.A. reveals the impact of the struggle on each woman's life as they are gradually transformed by the experience. Compelling, humorous, deeply human, Made in L.A. is a story about immigration, the power of unity, and the courage it takes to find your voice.


Variety, Ronnie Scheib: AlmudenaCarracedo's debut documentary relates a rousing true story of solidarity, perseverance, and triumph, following garment workers over a four-year period as they unite to demand minimum wage and decent working conditions in L.A. sweat-shops. Deftly interweaving legal battles, national boycotts, group dynamics and individual empowerment, the film offers a personalized history lesson in class struggle.


The women gather at L.A.'sGarment Worker Center, where they air their grievances and receive a rundown of their rights, supplied in Spanish by the largely Asian-American staff. This pooling of experience also leads to the discovery that the worst sweatshops mass-produce clothing for nationwide retailer Forever 21.


While lawyers pursue a precedent-setting suit that would hold retailers responsible for the conditions under which their product was manufactured, the GWC's organizers help the garment workers mount a boycott against Forever 21, picketing and chanting slogans outside stores.


Chicago Reader, Andrea Gronvall: Undocumented garment workers in Los Angeles made international news with their 2001 boycott against Korean fashion retailer Don Chang and his highly profitable chain Forever 21, which sells knockoffs of designer apparel. Seamstresses from Mexico and El Salvador, who were putting in 12-hour days for $200 a week, picketed malls and took their case to court over a period of three years, advised by a legal team of mostly Asian-American attorneys. In finding their voice, some workers also mustered up the courage to change their lives: one left her alcoholic husband and another became a globe-trotting labor activist.



There is FREE admission to all showings. Thai subtitles for Miss Navajo.



About American Documentary Showcase


The American Documentary Showcase is an opportunity to watch contemporary documentaries, rare documentaries, documentaries for social change, and documentaries from various film festivals. It’s a chance to see America from different (camera) angles. These films are not Hollywood!


Showcase is a curated program of contemporary documentaries that is offered to US Embassies for screening worldwide. The American Documentary Showcase aims to offer a broad, diversified look at life in the U.S. and the values of a democratic society as seen by American documentary filmmakers. The Showcase is intended to demonstrate the role documentary plays in fostering understanding and cooperation.


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