Each of these five nominated films told a deeply compelling story worthy of recognition, all with heartrending subject matter. Here are my thoughts on each film.
Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405, Director Frank Stiefel
This intimate look at Mindy Alper is less a typical artist portrait than one of a life deeply affected by mental illness. By film’s end we have a deeper understanding of the things that have happened to Ms. Alper over the course of her 56 years, from early childhood to the present, and the challenges she has faced and continues to deal with each day. We are left with an appreciation of how creating her stunning artwork has been therapeutic in her journey, and an even better sense of her as a wonderful person and resilient spirit. Must See.
Heroin(e), Director Elaine McMillion Sheldon
Not only was I deeply moved by the story featuring three individuals working to help those devastated by the opioid crisis in Huntington, West Virginia, but encouraged by those three being strong and powerful women. Cabell County Drug Court Judge Patricia Keller, Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader, and Brown Bag Ministry worker Necia Freeman are women of wisdom, action and compassion, and seeing how they each play a vital part in their community’s battles against addiction and its consequences is inspiring. It also makes me want to have more women in charge of things. Should See.
Traffic Stop, Director Kate Davis
The story of Breaion King, a grade school teacher, dancer and African American woman in Austin, Texas, being assaulted by police during a simple traffic stop for speeding is another example of the injustice and social disorder we face as a nation. The brutal police response to a seemingly innocuous situation – no doubt connected to the militarization of the police in the last few decades and the pervasive systemic racism and white privilege which escapes the awareness of those with power – is on full display. That this is only one of hundreds of instances of these kinds of behaviors and abuses happening across the nation each day only makes the story more important. That Ms. King happens to be a brilliant, compassionate and valuable member of society is beyond the point, but also makes this even more compelling. That her assault has still not been met with justice by the legal system, and the way we as a society continue to turn a blind eye to these issues, is our indictment. Should See.
Edith+Eddie, Director Laura Checkoway
A heartbreaking look at two nonagenarians who find each other and marry in their 90’s and are happily facing the end of life together, only to be ripped apart by a family battling for the Virginia house at the center of Edith’s estate. It’s hard to watch family members exert their legal rights of conservatorship over Edith and move her to Florida away from the house she owned and worked for all her life, leaving Eddie behind to suffer away from her and ultimately pass on. The acknowledgement of people trying to do their best in trying circumstances is hardly softened by what seems to be them choosing their rights over common sense and human decency. That people often make unclear and unfair judgements in these kind of circumstances, doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. Profoundly sad. Should See.
Knife Skills, Director Thomas Lennon
Attempting to launch Edwins as a premier French restaurant in Cleveland will be difficult enough, but it gets even more complicated and interesting when part of the rational is to staff it with ex-convicts. This film about the efforts of restaurant CEO Brandon Chrostowski, himself a former convict, and his crew is part Food Network reality show combined with a peek into the lives of cons trying to reintegrate themselves as productive members of society. It has all the legal, emotional and psychological challenges one would expect, is well told and worth a look. Should See.