There were a lot of documentaries showing this year at the Inverness Film Festival – and naturally the two that I most wanted to see were showing during the only shift I was working over the festival and overlapping with each other. However, I did manage to see three feature-length documentaries over the festival. All of them on vastly different topics.
This is a film for hard-core film geeks. If you’re a film student, former film student or have secretly harboured a longing to be a film-student, then this is the film for you. If you’re not…well unless you really, really love Psycho then this is probably not the film for you.
So, presuming that you fall into the former category, it’s an excellent film. I described it to a friend I bumped into afterwards as like being in a seminar at uni – I did in fact have an lecture on Psycho at uni, although it was about score composing not editing – except instead of my classmates and lecturer, they were famous editors and actors opining on the subject. Due to the aforementioned previous lecture I didn’t actually learn all that much unexpected from it – except, embarrassingly, I’d never realised that Jamie Lee Curtis was Janet Leigh’s daughter – but it was a rather enjoyable ride all the same.
This is such a lovely bittersweet little documentary. It’s about the origins of what we now call roller dance or street skating, in Venice Beach, LA. However its also about friendship, music, ambition, loss and black culture in California. It takes the time to provide the cultural and historical background to the rise and fall of the scene. The continuity between cultural appropriation and gentrification in the loss of a community and a culture. It’s a beautiful film and it broke my heart a bit along the way, but mostly it made me want to get my skates on and dance.
What I found really fascinating was something that I’d noticed coming from a roller derby background, that this kind of skating has had a huge impact on how a lot of guys skate. Some of the guys in the documentary talk about it being something they could completely throw themselves into, and how they learned how to turn falling over into part of the act, to make their recoveries graceful and powerful. So many male derby skaters – certainly in the UK – who come from a skating or skateboarding background have some of that same masculine grace – that these guys took to an artform – to throw themselves into the movement and catch themselves as they fall. They’re part of a continuity in skating culture and I hope more people involved in the sport see it and come to appreciate what was lost along the way.
A Stitch in Time
A Stitch in Time is a local film and a very personal one. Although its not the director’s own story, it’s the narrator’s story. (And as such it includes footage that he shot himself at various stages in the story.) Well, more accurately it’s the story of the narrator’s family, specifically his father. If you’ve seen the play or read the book of The Tailor of Inverness this is the story of how Matthew Zajac came to write it.
It’s a strange and moving story about war and grief and re-making your identity. There are a lot of old wounds in this story, both on a personal level of his discovery of his father’s first wife and daughter, and on a wider front, discovering the scars that remain in both Poland and Ukraine from the Second World War and afterwards.
There are joys too though, in the way writing and performing the play have brought Zajac the younger to a greater understanding of his father and their family history and in the new and clearly mutually cherished sibling relationship he has formed with his step-sister Irina. If this documentary is mostly a story about the lies people tell to themselves and the people they love, its also a story of the restorative power of truth.