Breathing Earth: Susumu Shigu Working with the Wind (Germany/UK; 93 minutes; director Thomas Riedelsheimer). This is one of those documentaries whose subject matter is so lyrical and enticing that the film can not go wrong. And under the quiet and sensitive direction of Thomas Riedelsheimer it goes more than right: it accurately depicts Japanese artist Susumu Shigu as a sculptor of — wind. Shigu, now old enough to remember the aftermath of the Second World War, assembles wood, cloth, metal and plastic into — windmills. Not your mundane Dutch variety of windmills, you must understand. No. Shigu’s windmills float, twist, and burrow into the wind, forming intricate patterns. With his intriguing red-haired wife, Shigu travels to world from Japan to Scotland, from Italy to Turkey, planting his creations on the earth or floating them on water. If you appreciate wind and water (every the jewels and balm of Vancouver weather), you will treasure this film (despite the fact that it is, like most docs, 20 minutes too long).
Your Day is My Night (USA; 64 minutes; director Lynne Sachs). Unfortunately, other business cut short my viewing of this film, but I wish I had been around for the last half. In it we meet America’s next citizens — Asian immigrants who share crowded rooms in New York’s Chinatown. Like the Russians, Jews, Poles and Italians of a hundred years ago, these folk live close to the edge, sharing not only culture, but physical beds. If you are lucky, you get a day-time bed for eight hours in a 24-hour flop house; if not, you share a bed with your father. But in spite of these limitations, our major characters show spirit, going so far as to launch off-off-off-off-Broadway shows in subterranean auditoriums. The spectacle of a group of elderly Chinese men strutting and swirling red capes to the music of Carmen is worth the admission. If you think that might be racist, consider Sachs’ admiration of these people, who sacrificed much and struggled through hell to get a a chance for a good life. Her subjects are heroes.