Tag Archives: short documentary


Defining Gravity

Defining Gravity

When you hear the word parkour your mind might leap to that hilarious skit in “The Office”, or the insane building jumps in any Bond-cum-Bourne type film. But put your preconceptions aside for a moment and consider what it might be like for a woman to participate in this most macho of extreme activities.

Enter Jo, Mandy and Christie. Three women who push themselves to their physical and psychological limits – and learn just where those limits lie.


Les Enfants de L’enfer – A Story of Haitian Orphans

Again, I return to the short, journalistic documentary. This time, the story of Haitian orphans – both true orphans and children abandoned by parents that can no longer provide for them after the earthquake.

There are thousands of videos about the Haiti disaster out there, but this one stands out – it is informative, emotionally gripping, and tells the story of several characters from the orphanage director, to a teenage orphan in charge of her younger siblings, to American adoption agents.

Finally, it brings up the ethical questions that surround fast-tracked international adoptions but leaves these questions up to to the viewer. There is a huge story told here in a tight, 7 1/2 minute package.

Watch Swiss-produced “Les Enfants de L’enfer” (Children of Hell) online here.

Digital Dumping Grounds

The shadowy market of the global e-waste trade is growing out of control. This is of concern to all of us, for obvious and not so obvious environmental, health and economic reasons. No matter how developed our nation may be, we are complicit in where our old computers, cell phones and printer cartridges go to die and how they are returned to us as new products. 

This short journalistic documentary is reported by Peter Klein, former senior producer of Witness – that seminal journalistic documentary program which asked videojournalists to spend months in the field to cover stories.  I watched this doc after reading this cbc.ca feature that was written about it. The article focuses on a hard drive some of Klein’s graduate students bought in Ghana that contained un-deleted information about U.S. defence contracts.

But the documentary also tells a much larger story – that of hazardous work being done by scavengers in developing nations, of a hopeful Indian entrepreneur who has developed a high-tech salvaging plant, and of underground networks of bandits who aim to steal your personal information and drain your bank account.

Watch this short doc on the Frontline/World website here.

I.O.U.S.A.: Byte-Sized

Imagine your debt is 64% of your salary, plus you don’t have any savings, insufficient health benefits and barely a pension to mention.

Where do you go from here?

I.O.U.S.A. the 30 minute byte-sized version is a good introduction to the U.S. Federal debt and what it means for the future of that country. Currently the debt stands at $8.7……. trillion. And rises every minute. What is truly fascinating about this documentary is the United States’ addiction to debt – no, not individual’s addiction – but the nation’s itself. The country has been operating in the red for almost its entire history.

How much debt is too much?

Watch the film here for free.

Allan King Film Festival on TVO

Starting today, you can watch 3 short films on the TVO website and vote for your favourite. The subject matter is Canadian social commentary – what filmmaker Alan King did best, hence the festival is named after him.

Take a look at all 3, they are only a couple of minutes long. My friend and former colleague Adrianna Capozzi has an entry.

The winner will be announced April 10th, and starting on the 26th, TVO will begin a retrospective of King’s work including the critically acclaimed “Empz 4 Life,” “Warrendale” and “Dying at Grace.”

I haven’t see either and I will be sure to PVR them.  I am particularly interested in Warrendale, the CBC-commissioned film that was so upsetting it was shelved for many years. Since I work with CBC commissioning editors, I am interested in learning more about the history of the commissioning process. The film is about disturbed youth living in a facility called Warrendale. I have close friends who have worked with troubled youth and I am always compelled to watch films about this topic.

I also have a personal interest in Dying at Grace because my mother was a geriatric nurse for ten years and I know the particualar challenges that are associated with that work and would like to see how it was translated to film.

Difficult subjects documented with compassion – King’s goal and the goal of the filmmakers whose short films are available for your two cents worth.

Oscar’s Short Documentary Category

The first short documentary to ever win an Academy Award was in 1941 and it was a Canadian film produced by the NFB on WWII called “Churchill’s Island.”  It’s a propaganda film for sure, but if you can get past that, you’ll see  some pretty exciting footage from aerial fights, to submarines, and torpedo boats.

For this year’s Oscars Short Doc category , I’ve linked clips for the nominees:

The Conscience of Nhem En

The Final Inch

Smile Pinki

The Witness – from the Balcony of Room 306

My prediction is that The Witness will win on the coattails of President Obama’s victory.  The others are commendable, “important” documentaries that so often fail to garner an excited audience.