The Oxdox International Documentary Film Festival is one of the more exciting events I've taken part in since moving across the pond. 70 documentaries are being shown in just seven days, many of them accompanied by question & answer sessions with their directors, producers, and stars. Just halfway through the festival, I've already been lucky enough to catch two incredibly well-executed films, Solo and I.O.U.S.A.
Solo is the story of Andrew McAuley, an Australian adventurer, and his attempt to paddle a regular ol' kayak (solo) across the Tasman Sea, from Australia to New Zealand. I went into this film thinking it would be hugely inspirational to see a man, one who clearly had ten times the gall and strength than me, leave his family for a dream. I was moved, incredibly so, but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.
What I saw was one man's obituary. The great majority of Solo is comprised of two sources: a video journal McAuley kept while on his 30-day trip, and interviews with his wife, Vicki. And what these videos document is a man who pushed himself beyond the limits of what he even thought possible -- and lost.
The film opens with McAuley's distress signal, sent to the New Zealand coastguard just 30 kilometers from shore -- within eyesight. Viewers are then treated to the story of McAuley's life, the preparation that went into his trip, and finally, scene after scene of his battle with one of the most treacherous expansions of ocean on Earth. You see him cry repeatedly, promise his wife he'll never do anything so stupid again, and yearn to hold his baby boy. What you learn is the sanctity of human life, and the very demarcations of what man is capable of. It is no doubt one of the most depressing films I've ever seen, but one that's worth every second.
You can watch the preview for Solo below, and get details on when it will air on the National Geographic Channel here. McAuley's blog remains intact here.
I.O.U.S.A. is another in a series of excellent documentaries released this decade that aim to wake up the American public. Some have been tremendously popular with the common moviegoer (e.g. Fahrenheit 9/11 and An Inconvenient Truth) while others have gone regretfully unnoticed (e.g. Why We Fight). Regardless, each of these films -- and you can add I.O.U.S.A. to this list -- takes a subject that Americans have some cursory knowledge of, and claims that we've got a substantially larger problem than any of us may realize.
This documentary, directed by Wordplay's Patrick Creadon, tackles the issue of the US National Debt crisis by focusing on former Comptroller General, David Walker. Walker's "four deficits" are highlighted: the trade deficit, the savings deficit, the budget deficit, and the leadership deficit. The moral is frightening: if we the nation of America continue down the road we are on, we will be unable to sustain ourselves, and like the empires that came before us, we will crumble.
Creadon mixes media effortlessly -- interviews, news stories, animation, speeches -- and, critically, presents what I found to be a neutral and informative take. I would strongly suggest all Americans see this film precisely because there aren't too many practical day-to-day fixes provided. Instead, solving this problem will take a shift in attitude and political lifestyle that can only be accomplished on a national level.