Sunday, March 11, 2012


POWFest comes to a close on Sunday evening with a classic screening of Nora Ephron's 1993 hit Sleepless in Seattle; a quasi-remake of Leo McCarey's (Make Way for Tomorrow) An Affair to Remember.  Before that final film runs, there's still several films remaining on Sunday's schedule, including a triad of documentaries on athletes (and, yes, I consider dancers to be athletes--don't you?), most of whom are female.

A still from The 90th Minute

Jun Stinson's short documentary about Women's Professional Soccer (WPS), The 90th Minute, focuses on a Bay Area team, FC Gold Pride.  Despite having won the WPS championship in the 2010 season, the team finds themselves on the verge of folding due a lack of funding.

The 90th Minute is only partly concerned with the fate of FC Gold Pride, though.  Much of the film is devoted to dialogue on how few opportunities there are for women athletes to compete in professional arena.  Stinson traces how the progressive, gender equality provisions of Title IX paved the way for women to play sports in high schools and colleges, eventually leading to the establishment of professional leagues.  

It's a solid piece that makes a strong case for the necessity of institutions like WPS; an interview with a mother who feels her daughter has a much wider range of role models to choose from post-exposure to FC Gold Pride is particularly moving.

A still from Nerves of Steel: A Year With the Portland Ballet 

Nerves of Steel: A Year With the Portland Ballet is, to be blunt, not a film for newcomers to dance or films on the subject.  Having recently seen Pina; a film where absolutely no prior study of dance was necessary to have a deep connection with it, I did hope that Susan Hess Logeals' piece would similarly hook the neophyte as well as those who live and breathe their enthusiasm for balletic form.  I may have simply been asking too much of the film.

 A still from Nerves of Steel: A Year With the Portland Ballet

What I do know, despite my lack of knowledge on ballet, is that Nerves of Steel comes off more like an advertisement for Portland Ballet than a film about it.  For instance, there's a seven-plus minute sequence where Portland Ballet's Nancy Davis and Jim Lane rattle off an inordinately long list of faculty names, flatly describing the talents of each instructor and what it is they provide to their students.

Part of the problem is that the film devotes almost all of its weight to the perspective of the administrators and faculty.  Other than a short chunk devoted to asking the kids how long they've been dancing, we're kept at a distance from the very people who embody the subject of the film.

A still from The Eight Parallel

Without a doubt, the most beautiful looking film I've seen at POWFest this year is Darcy Turenne's The Eighth Parallel.  With a running time of under thirty minutes, the film is jam-packed with one impressive image after another, never letting up until the final credits roll.  The biggest shock: Turenne shot, directed and edited the film without the aid of a crew.  This is her debut film; I already want to see more from her.

A still from The Eight Parallel

I'm not usually a fan of films that fall into the extreme sports genre.  But The Eighth Parallel plays by a different set of rules than most movies within that category.  The film treks through Indonesia in search of women stepping outside of traditional female roles and into the world of extreme athleticism.  Turenne compartmentalizes the work into vignettes highlighting each of her interview subjects, inserting sociological and philosophical context between those sections via writings sourced from academic journals.

A still from The Eight Parallel

The Eighth Parallel is a film that succeeds on so many levels.  The images, pacing and stories are all combined with a strong sense of purpose.  And the aforementioned academic input elevates the work into the territories of the inspirational.  If I had a daughter, I'd want her to see The Eighth Parallel.

A still from The Eight Parallel

Festival passes can be acquired at this link and tickets for individual screenings can be purchased here.

The 90th Minute, Nerves of Steel: A Year With the Portland Ballet & The Eighth Parallel will screen together at POWFest on Sun., March 11th at 3pm at the Hollywood Theatre.

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