When Canadian filmmaker Jamie Kastner set out to discover who made money in the recent economic downturn, he stumbled on a camp that trains children how to become millionaires, where they are taught how to think like the rich. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, three generations of one family eke out a meager living in a Jakarta slum.
These are two of the stories, many highlighting corruption and the growing gap between rich and poor, being told at the 2011 CNEX Documentary Film Festival, which opens tomorrow and runs through Nov. 6 at several venues across the capital.
Initiated in 2006 with the aim of recording the evolution of Chinese-speaking societies, the nonprofit organization Chinese Next, or CNEXT, helps create documentary projects by disbursing money to aspiring filmmakers.
Films that are produced in collaboration with CNEX are screened annually at the festival alongside documentaries from across the world.
Festival director Wu Fan (吳凡) told the Taipei Times earlier this month that the ongoing global financial turmoil prompted organizers to settle on this year’s theme, crisis and opportunity. However, they later discovered that documentary filmmakers in the Chinese-speaking regions are not much interested in the topic.
“We really wanted to screen some Taiwanese works that deal with the economic downturn, but could not find any. So we turned to documentaries produced by television networks such as the BBC, whose daily business it is to discuss current affairs and related issues,” she said. “We extended the topic to cover both microeconomic and macroeconomic aspects, to show films that not only directly address economic issues but tell personal stories and explore how individuals are affected by changing environments.”
Films on the lineup include The Love of Money: Back From the Brink, which looks at the financial crash in 2008 from a British point of view, and The Flaw, which examines the credit bubble through interviews with leading economists, such as Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, as well as Wall Street insiders and victims of the crash.
On a less dry note, in Recessionize! For Fun and Profit! Toronto-based filmmaker Kastner travels through California, Europe and Dubai to see how businesses get inventive when faced with a recession. Among his many inspiring finds, a brothel in Germany that offers discounts to customers who bicycle to visit a prostitute.
With several major movie showcases, including the Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival (台灣國際民族誌影展), Women Make Waves Film Festival (女性影展), Kaohsiung Film Festival (高雄電影節) and the upcoming Golden Horse Film Festival (金馬影展), the yearend film festival season can prove arduous, even for the most devoted cinephile.
If festivalgoers have time for only one movie at the CNEX event, a good choice would be Position Among the Stars, the last installment of the multiple award-winning trilogy on Indonesia by Dutch cinematographer and director Leonard Retel Helmrich.
With amazingly fluid and imaginative camera movements, uninterrupted shots and no interviews or voiceover, Helmrich weaves together a moving and sometimes hilarious story about economics, globalization and religion in present-day Indonesia through the life of the Sjamsuddin family, which the director followed for 12 years.