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Two films, both documentaries, to call to your attention.

tbn_3a6709bc4a5de636Stories We Tell ****1/2, a documentary currently showing in the DC area at the Landmark E Street Cinema, the AFI Silver Theatre in MD, and at Loews Shirlington 7 in VA.

I’ve always been fascinated by how each of us can see things so differently from how others see what appears to be the same ‘truth’. Particularly, this phenomenon interests me when the subject has to do with family, with stories about our lives and how each of us can see and experience family history differently.

From the first time I saw Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, I’ve been intrigued by how we believe our particular experience is how something actually occurred and how we each want ‘our story’ to be the ‘truth’. I was reminded of this again the other day when I saw Arena Stage’s wonderful production of Other Desert Cities (now closed, sadly) where each of the five characters vies for the audiences’ understanding and favor as this family drama unfolds.

Today I saw a film, appropriately titled Stories We Tell, where there is exploration of this exact theme. Director Sarah Polley explores how different members of her own family (and some friends too) see and remember her mother, Diane Polley.

The less you know about the details of this film, the more I think you will enjoy watching it unfold, with its secrets, surprises, and various ‘truths’.

In many ways, this film is similar to Other Desert Cities as a young woman explores the history of her family, the ‘truth’ about her family. Only this time film, rather than a stage play, is used as the medium for the exploration.

We all tell stories about our families, our pasts, our histories, and how often are these different from the same stories our parents, our siblings, our children know and tell? (My sister, as an example, was just telling me this week of a conversation she had years ago with one of my daughters who once, exasperated by my sister’s defense of me, observed, “I don’t think my father and your brother are the same people.”)

If this general topic of how we see events and specifically the stories we tell about them interests you, be sure to seek out Stories We Tell.

It’s a good one.


Elemental, a documentary film, opening May 31 at the West End Cinema

A friend who has spent much of her life in the environmental movement led me to a CD of this documentary, a story of three individuals committed to making changes in their parts of the world where their lives and those of people around them are being affected by various forms of environmental problems.

These are three individual stories, focusing as much on the individuals and their personalities and how they proceed with their activism and their dreams of making changes in their world as the documentary does on the specific problem each individual is trying to overcome.

One of the three is Rajendra Singh, a (former?) Indian government official who sets a goal of bringing the dying Ganges River back to life.

The second is Eriel Deranger, a young Candian woman and a native Dene, who “mounts her own “David and Goliath” struggle against the world’s largest industrial development, the Tar Sands, an oil deposit larger than the state of Florida…and its proposed 2,000-mile Keystone XL Pipeline, which are destroying Indigenous communities and threatening an entire continent.”

The third individual portrayed is an Australian inventor and entrepreneur, Jay Harman, who believes that from his studies of nature, he has some clues and some solutions to our one of our most serious ecological problems, global warming.

What makes Elemental different from other environmental documentaries is the focus on the individuals, their personalities, how each proceeds with his/her fight, and the difficulties they encounter.

Additionally, the photography is superb, particularly those parts that have to do with the Ganges River.

If you spend much of your life fighting for a particular goal or if you are committed to making change in a world that seems hostile to what you believe, you might find the focus on these three individuals, on their commitments to their ideas, and on their struggles intriguing and thought-provoking.

(Elemental is opening this weekend in Washington and has openings around the country over the next weeks and months. I suspect you will have to look for the film and catch it in whatever brief showings it has in various cities.)