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Documentary Renaissance at HIFF Spring Showcase 2012

As I wrote in my previous HIFF Spring Showcase 2012 blog entry, we are living through a Documentary Renaissance. With the advent of the digital age, “film” making has democratized the medium, allowing people to pick up a camera and start documenting life with aplomb and frequency.

This year’s Spring Showcase documentaries are a broad cross section of docs from all walks of life — from recent Sundance hits, to social awareness and relevatory film essays of our time, to personal and human interest stories that will tug at your heartstrings. Check out these highlights after the jump….

FIRST POSITION (Pictured above) is GLEE meets SPELLBOUND on Ballet steroids. Never missing a beat, this inspirational doc  follows six gifted ballet students from disparate social, regional, economic and ethnic backgrounds as they prepare for the Youth America Grand Prix, a prestigious competition where the world’s top dance companies and schools prospect for new talent. Capturing the hopes and dreams, ups and downs of these gifted young dancers, you are going to be racked to choose who to root for. If you’re going to see FIRST POSITION, and you should, make sure to bring tissues to the screening, because you’re going to need them.

On April 22, 2010 the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig run by BP sunk into the Gulf of Mexico creating the worst oil spill in history. Until the oil well was killed on September 19, 779,037,744 liters of crude oil and over 7,000,000 liters of chemical dispersant spread into the sea. By exposing the root causes of the spill filmmakers Josh and Rebecca Tickell uncover a vast network of corruption. THE BIG FIX is a damning indictment of a system of government led by a powerful and secretive oligarchy that puts the pursuit of profit over all other human and environmental needs.

Straight out of Sundance, INDIE GAME: THE MOVIE is for made for every video game nerd out there. The film follows the dramatic journeys of indie game developers as they create games and release those works, and themselves, to the world. With the twenty-first century comes a new breed of struggling independent artist: the indie game designer. Refusing to toil for major developers, these innovators independently conceive, design, and program their distinctly personal games in the hope that they, too, may find success. We follow several of these game developers, as they go through the wear and tear of the industry, hoping to make an impact in perhaps the most powerful medium today.

THE INVISIBLE WAR shook me to my core, when I saw its world premiere at Sundance this January. An estimated 30 percent of servicewomen and at least 1 percent of servicemen are sexually assaulted during their enlistment. Not by the enemy, but at the hands of fellow soldiers. This film reveals this hidden epidemic that the military has skirted under the rug for many years. With compelling, heart-wrenching interviews of ex-service women who were silenced and shunned, THE INVISIBLE WAR chronicles the male-dominant culture of the military, and shows that progress is still incredibly slow, even in this day and age.

THE POWER OF TWO offers an intimate portrayal of the bond between half-Japanese twin sisters Anabel Stenzel and Isabel Stenzel Byrnes, their lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis, their survival through miraculous double lung transplants and their improbable emergence as authors, athletes and global advocates for organ donation. Playing in over a hundred film festivals, HIFF is honored to bring this film to our audiences, bringing a true tale of inspiration and human perseverance, triumph and spunk.

SURVIVING PROGRESS is one of those heady, visionary docs that really asks the hard hitting questions when it comes to the entire course of humanity, questions posed to problems of a grand scale. Humanity’s ascent is often measured by the speed of progress. But what if progress is actually spiraling us downwards, towards collapse? Ronald Wright, whose best-seller, A Short History Of Progress inspired this documentary, shows how past civilizations were destroyed by “progress traps”—alluring technologies and belief systems that serve immediate needs, but ransom the future.

I’ve already written about THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES in my last blog entry, and we’re honored to have this film be the Co-Closing Night Film of the Spring Showcase. Another one of the “Straight of the Sundance” trend we have at this year’s Showcase, it just goes to show that docs were simply amazing that were unspooled in Park City this past January. If I had my druthers, I’d program the Showcase with all documentaries. They were simply that good.

And I said before, it just goes to show how powerful the documentary format is nowadays. I encourage the HIFF audience to check these out at the Spring Showcase. You won’t be disappointed!

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