Motto Place Holder (rohmie) wrote in cinemapileup,
Motto Place Holder

Strange Culture

I just finished watching Strange Culture, the film about art professor Steve Kurtz's Kafkaesque four-year ordeal at the hands of FBI. Kurtz and his wife, Hope, were working on an art installation about genetically modified (GM) foods when she died in her sleep of a heart attack. He called 911 and the paramedics, seeing the Petri dishes of bacteria in the house, called Homeland Security thinking he was a bio-terrorist. It was obvious that he was innocent, but the Justice Department proceeded with the prosecution, possibly to make an example or test case out of him. Since the legally obtained bacteria was harmless, the charge of manufacturing Weapons of Mass Destruction would not stick; so they charged him with mail and wire fraud even though nobody claims to have been defrauded.

The film is a docu-drama / documentary. Much like American Splendor, it mixes interviews with dramatizations, so we meet the real people and watch actors play them. Unlike American Splendor, none of the actors look anything like the people they are playing, which is kind of jarring. Not that the acting is not decent, but you have to wonder why they did not just make a documentary. And, as a documentary, it is quite good. Since the people are artists, I suppose the whole po-mo approach is appropriate in both films, but Strange Culture should have cast actual look-alikes. I recommend it anyway, since it is still a very good documentary.

Edited Edit:

On the other hand, the second documentary on the disc, Voices of Dissent: Activism & American Democracy (42 minutes) is essentially a preachy power point presentation that tries to wow us with really primitive graphics. A lot of impressive names were interviewed, presumably at length, but it seems like their comments were pared down to the film's basic message so the effect is repetitious. But if you like really bad protest poetry, this film is not to be missed. Woody Harrelson does one about Hitler.

The third documentary on this disc is Outlawed: Extraordinary Rendition, Torture and Disappearances in the "War on Terror." It's a pretty harrowing 27 minutes detailing what had happened to two innocent Muslim men who were snatched from the street and flown to foreign prisons to be tortured for years on end. Their families had no idea what had happened to them.
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