We kicked off our time at the Phoenix Film Festival with their Documentary Shorts presentation. It’s always a gamble with shorts, but I love seeing them. If they’re bad, they’re over quickly and if they’re good, you are getting a bunch of them! I like experiencing the work of many talented artists, but sometimes it can be a chore sifting through them for the diamond in the rough. So throughout the Festival I’ve opted to see shorts in most cases unless it conflicts with a feature I REALLY want to see – which was many, write-ups to come in the next few days as I find time between screenings.
The Documentary Shorts features four powerful narratives showcasing the lives of real people and places. The 2012 lineup includes: Kaziah the Goat Woman, Sacred Poison, Randy Parsons: American Luthier, and My Caddy Won’t Let Me, four very professionally done short documentaries.
Kaziah the Goat Woman
2008. Directed by Amy Duzinski Janes. 40 minutes.
Kaziah the Goat Woman features artist and polygamy escapee Kaziah Hancock. Born on the prairie, she owes her life to the goat that nursed her when her mother could not, and has spent her life being a caretaker and protector of these ruminants on her Utah ranch. Her heart goes out not only to the goats and chickens in her life, but also her fellow humans, especially the families of fallen soldiers. Kaziah paints the portraits, for free, of service members killed in action as a show of support to their loved ones. Her organization, Project Compassion has painted over 3,500 portraits, over 950 painted by Kaziah herself.
The documentary features interviews of Kaziah telling her story of life, love and death in Utah, and tags along in her daily life. Throughout the film, we see her paint, start to finish, a portrait of a fallen soldier based off a photograph sent by the family.
Kaziah the Goat Woman is a moving piece that gets into the mind and motivation of a very strong and spirited artist.
2011. Directed by Yvonne Latty. 30 minutes.
Sacred Poison is a documentary outlining the problems of uranium mining and the lack of awareness about unsafe drinking water within the lands of the Navajo (Dine’) people. Uranium was mined until the 80s and 90s with no concern about contamination or health risks. Sadly, many families lost children to uranium poisoning, as they collected the “pretty rocks” for display in their homes. Arsenic is another contaminant in the water (natural and via mining, coal burning and other human activities), and likely contributed to the ill health of one of the people filmed who suffered from thyroid tumors and other complications.
The director Yvonne Latty was in attendance at the screening and was asked how things were doing currently, as the documentary was filmed over several years. She mentioned that not much has changed for the people there.
Please visit The Forgotten People for more information on how you can help the Dine’ people secure safe drinking water.
Sacred Poison won Best Documentary Short Film at the Phoenix Film Festival!
Randy Parsons: American Luthier
2011. Directed by David Aldrich. 8 minutes.
Randy Parsons: American Luthier is a great short documentary focusing on the craftsmanship and skills of guitar maker Randy Parsons as he works on some unique yet functioning instruments. A luthier is someone who creates lutes and other stringed instruments, and this guy does so with traditional wood, glue and… skulls. Inside each guitar he builds are animal skulls to add an artistic and bizarre touch to his work.
The director David Aldrich was in attendance and we spoke to him for a bit. The scorpion embedded in the guitar was packaged for human consumption, so Parsons did not buy a live one for his work. He mentioned that the guitars aren’t all outrageously expensive for hand-crafted instruments. Check out Randy Parsons’ works of art. The skulls aren’t visible on the outside, more like a joke on guitair repairmen, his fellow luthiers.
My Caddy Won’t Let Me
2011. Directed by David Urbanic. 34 minutes.
A novel approach to a rock documentary includes musician, Noah Engh, touring his one-man-band show in a 1972 Cadillac. When the ride unsurprisingly breaks down 2 hours into the trek, Noah continues, doggedly, in more reliable transport. However, it is a sign of things to come as he travels to each booking: broke, but with enough booze to get him through each night. The film is funny yet full of the realities of being a “DIY” independent musician/agent/promoter/event planner/chauffeur.
Noah Engh is a talented individual who understands the risks involved with his profession. He makes a great film subject and My Caddy Won’t Let Me is a must-see for anyone interested in the anticlimactic glamour of a musician’s life on the road.
Director David Urbanic was in attendance and said that Noah Engh has since moved on to other projects outside of the one-man-band tour. Check out the trailer below to get a taste of what Urbanic’s rockumentary has to offer.