Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

March 13, 2015

The Socially Relevant Film Festival, 2015

Filed under: Counterpunch,Film — louisproyect @ 1:12 pm
The Socially Relevant Film Festival, 2015

Films on the Lives of Ordinary People


After being asked to chair a panel discussion on storytelling at theSocially Relevant Film Festival 2015 in New York that runs from March 16 to 22 and previewing a dozen scheduled films, both narrative and documentary, I had an epiphany: “socially relevant” films have a higher storytelling quotient than Hollywood’s for the simple reason that they are focused on the lives of ordinary people whose hopes and plight we can identify with. With a commercial film industry increasingly insulated from the vicissitudes of an unending economic crisis, it is only “socially relevant” films that demand our attention and even provide entertainment after a fashion. When the subjects of the film are involved in a cliffhanging predicament, we care about the outcome as opposed to the Hollywood film where the heroes confront Mafia gangsters, CIA rogues or zombies as if in a video game.

Take for example Eraldo Pacheco, the Chilean sheepherder who leaves his home in the Patagonian region of Chile and travels to Idaho for a three-year contract tending a herd of a thousand sheep. Hard times have forced him to leave his parents, wife and young son behind while he tends to chores not different from those seen in “Brokeback Mountain”. Unlike “Brokeback Mountain”, “Gaucho del Norte” is not a love story but one much more about scraping out a living as a farmworker, the fate that awaits so many immigrants, documented or undocumented. Eraldo Pacheco is an ordinary man but one endowed with extraordinary insights about his fate as a migrant worker, a good sense of humor (he says at one point, “What can be more boring than looking at a sheep’s ass for a living?”), and mastery of a skill that goes back five thousand years. He will linger on in your consciousness long after you have forgotten about Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger.

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  1. Knowing now that we were right to not join up or support the Vietnam war, or for that matter refuse to “join the system” can be frustrating in light of what’s going on these days. People don’t listen, do they? And they want to bring back the draft? It was easy to beat the draft back then, it may not be that way now.

    Comment by Jeff Costello — March 13, 2015 @ 4:05 pm

  2. Thank you for discussing “Lighter than Orange-The Legacy of Dioxin in Vietnam” so positively in your article . There is just one mistake in it, the documentary is a German film, director and producer Matthias Leupold and cinematographer Armin Dierolf aren’t Americans. Could you please correct this? Thank you so much! Best wishes from Berlin! Last remark: The link should change into: http://www.lighterthanorange.com (vimeo link is private).

    Comment by Matthias Leupold — March 14, 2015 @ 8:02 am

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