VIFF 2011 Reviews: You’ve Been Trumped, One Lucky Elephant, The Girls in the Band


Three documentaries today. Docs are a hit and  miss affair. Some, like Cat Dancers two years ago, are memorable; but it takes a gripping subject and a talented director to make such a film. The three films today appeal not to our wonder, but our sympathy. Never a good start.

You’ve Been Trumped. UK, 95 min.

Let me get this straight. Billionaire developer Donald Trump wants to bulldoze a swath of coastal Scotland to build a golf course, a luxury hotel and 1500 expensive homes. Moreover, the film implies, he seems to have bought off the government, which has overruled the environmental laws that protect the ecologically sensitive area. And his company goes to extreme lengths — cutting off water and electricity, for example — to cower the few local residents who oppose the project. The police are apparently in on the plot too, going so far as to arrest the director of the film. Now there’s no doubt that Trump is backing the huge project; he appears in the film tramping the sand dunes and hosting press conferences. And the sight of heavy equipment ripping up grass land assures us that his project is going ahead. But a glance at a map raises questions about his sanity. The area in question lies just north of Aberdeen, not the most northern of Scottish cities, but also not one that enjoys a salubrious climate. Has Donald checked out the weather forecast for a sample of summer days? Bring some skepticism to this film.

Summary: Sympathize with the locals and despair at the destruction, but treasure the hope that Trump may have stumbled.

One Lucky Elephant. USA, 81 min.

Circus ringmaster David Balding has brought up orphan elephant Flora from infancy, featuring her in his St. Louis circus. Now she’s twenty and getting a little ornery, he decides to send her to live with her own kind. But elephant sanctuaries are rare and Balding has high standards: he’s not about to see his beloved Flora unhappy.

Summary: An insight into the social needs of elephants with an implied criticism of keeping animals in captivity.

The Girls in the Band. USA, 83 min.

Old photos, film clips and interviews chronicle the lives of women jazz musicians, well-respected by their male peers, but now forgotten. The film deals with racism (one white sax player runs into trouble when she joins an all-female, all-black band) and feminism.

Summary: A must-see if you are interested in the history of jazz.

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About aharmlessdrudge

Way back during the late Bronze age -- actually it was the 1950s -- all of us in high school had to take a vocational test to determine our interests and, supposedly, our future careers. I cannot remember the outcome, but I do recall one question that gave me pause. "If you were to win a Nobel prize, would it be in literature or in physics?" I hesitated over the question: although I enjoyed mathematics and science more than English class, I did have a couple of unfinished (and very bad) novels hidden away at home. I cannot remember what I chose back then, but the dilemma followed me to university, where I switched from mathematics to English and -- after a five-year stint in journalism -- back to mathematics. I recently retired as a professor of statistics. Retirement. What a good chance to revive my literary ambitions. I have finished a novel -- more about that in good time -- and a rubble of drafts of articles about mathematics and statistics is taking up space on my hard disk.
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