The Six Dollar Fifty Man: The World Gets a New Hero

The Six Dollar Fifty Man: The World Gets a New Hero

The Six Dollar Fifty Man is an inspiring short film directed by Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland, produced at New Zealand’s Sticky Pictures for NZ Shorts. The award-winning short film premiered with Special Distinction in Cannes 2009, received the Jury Prize for Filmmaking at Sundance 2010 and was nominated for Best Live Action Short Film at the 2011 Academy Awards.

The Six Dollar Fifty Man tells the story of eight-year-old Andy, who is forced to cope with daily struggles against bullying and abuse at a suppressive elementary school in rural New Zealand. The gutsy little boy has created a fantasied superhero world, in which his wild imagination allows him to perform extraordinary physical feats to withstand pain, scale buildings and leap from tall rooftops to deal with the school bullies and his constantly disparaging teacher. However, when Andy gets into trouble with the headmaster, he realizes that in order to save himself and his only friend, he must find the courage to confront his problems in the real world.

The Six Dollar Fifty Man: The World Gets a New Hero

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Lost Youth: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor

Newsboy, “Don’t Smoke, Visits Saloons,” 1910

Young Girl Working in a Textile Mill, Newberry, South Carolina

Boys Working the Midnight Shift, a Glass Factory

A Young Coupling-Boy (12-14 years old) at Indian Mine, Jellico, Tennessee

Children Working at Bibb Mill No. 1., Macon, Georgia

Lost Youth: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor

Lewis Wickes Hine (1874-1940) attended the University of Chicago and later moved to New York City in 1901, where he accepted a position as an assistant teacher at the Ethical Culture School. At that time, Hine started using the camera as an educational tool and also began to attend the School of Education at New York University.

By 1905, Hine had received his degree from New York University. He continued to photograph for the ECS and while leading its Photography Club, he met Paul Strand. By 1906 Hine was considering a career in Sociological-Photography and began to pursue freelance work with the National Child Labor Committee. In 1908, the NCLC assigned Hine to photograph child labor practices. For the next several years, Hine traveled extensively, photographing children in mines, factories, canneries, textile mills, street trades and agricultural settings.

Hine’s photographs alerted the public to the fact that child labor deprived children of childhood, health, education and a chance of a decent future. His work on this project was the driving force behind changing the public’s attitude about children and work, and it was instrumental in the legislative battles that resulted in the passage of stricter child labor laws.

Lewis Hine: U.S. Child Labor, 1908-1920

Slide Show: Lost Youth/Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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Lookout, Lookout: The Heartfelt Sounds of Forgiveness

 

Lookout, Lookout: The Heartfelt Sounds of Forgiveness

Mary, Mary-belle within a bird-cage cell,
All your neighbors know what your mother sells,
But you carved out a name;
You carved out a name for yourself.
Look out, look out,
Look out, Look out,
There are murders about.

Lookout, Lookout is the heartwrenching, honest and unabashedly sad music video from the astonishing debut album by Seattle-based singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas (aka Perfume Genius).  Learning is a devastatingly lovely premiere album, a collection of songs that starkly explores the dark and melancholy world of drugs, depression, suicide and abuse.  Hadreas has described the songs as having been written in an attempt to gain some understanding of his own troubled life, and they were originally intended to be heard by only his closest friends.

When close attention is paid, the music here is gut-wrenching, sad and fearlessly honest, while at the same time maintaining a dignified sense of resigned acceptance.  Perfume Genius has managed to craft some of the finest heartfelt, new indie-music this side of the millennium, with sounds and plain-spoken lyrics that can tap into your inner emotions.  Hadreas’s voice stands out with a  soft-spoken tenderness and ethereal quality on the track Gay Angels, which switches from piano chords to minimalistic organ drones.  Lookout, Lookout can push you to the point of possibly offering empathic, compassionate forgiveness to anyone who you feel  has done wrong to you over the past few years.

Lookout, Lookout: The Heartfelt Sounds of Forgiveness

Gay Angels: Hearing and Seeing Them (Perfume Genius)

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Love Suicides: A Tragic Tale of Self-Destruction and Abuse

Love Suicides: A Tragic Tale of Self-Destruction and Abuse

Love Suicides is a short film by Edmund Yeo, which is based upon a story of the same title by the Nobel Prize-winning author Yasunari Kawabata.  Set in an isolated fishing village of Malaysia, a lonely woman´s relationship with her young daughter descends into a path of self-destruction and child abuse when she begins to receive a series of strange and mysterious letters from her husband, who had abandoned her many years ago.

Love Suicides: A Tragic Tale of Self-Destruction and Abuse

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Crossbow: A Meditative Elegy on a Sadly Senseless Sensual Tragedy

Crossbow: A Meditative Elegy on a Sadly Senseless Sensual Tragedy

Crossbow is a remarkable short film by the Australian director David Michôd, a meditative elegy that wrestles with the exquisite sadness of a seemingly senseless tragedy, and how it relates to sexuality and nostalgia.

The film opens to a house in a very average suburban neighborhood, focusing on the vacuous face of a teenage boy, the main character.  The house is filled with the loud and exaggerated sounds of rough sex, and an unseen narrator, who turns out to be the boy’s neighbor, chronicles the boy’s predicament: he lives in a home of rough people, his mother and father think nothing of engaging in boisterous sex in his presence, nor of doing drugs and partying with other men.

Crossbow centers on a vacant, disaffected boy who suffers from abuse, before coming to a violent end.  The violence at the conclusion is made even more dramatic by the film’s slow unfurling, becoming all the more powerful by how clearly it is foreshadowed.

Crossbow: A Meditative Elegy on a Sadly Senseless Sensual Tragedy

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Quimby the Mouse: A Tragic Tale of Abuse and Helplessness

Quimby the Mouse: A Tragic Tale of Abuse and Helplessness

Quimby the Mouse is an animated short by Chris Ware, with music by the enigmatic Andrew Bird. It was created for the 2009 spring event, “This American Life-Live!” The theme of the performances in the live show was “Return To The Scene Of The Crime”, and this animation certainly lived up to it! Quimby the Mouse is an incredible piece, but also a sad and tragic story about the female mouse in the film, a tale of sadism and helplessness from which there is no escape.

Quimby’s apparent sadism is a nice contrast to the innocuously sugar-coated Mickey. Whenever Chris Ware uses humor in his films, it isn’t with the intent of provoking mirth. It almost invariably serves the end of making things hurt more, an artistic mandate to make you hurt as much as possible, whether it’s recognizing terrible things in yourself or aching with sympathy or drawn in by loathing or… many other really distressing things. And this is certainly the case with Quimby the Mouse.

You can listen to this episode of “This American Life-Live!” online here.

Quimby the Mouse: A Tragic Tale of Abuse and Helplessness

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Standard Operating Procedure: People Behind the Abu Ghraib Abuse

Standard Operating Procedure: The People Behind the Abu Ghraib Abuse

Academy Award winner and documentary filmmaker Errol Morris’s Standard Operating Procedure is an inquiry into the prisoner torture and abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison. It is, predictably, a very bleak and depressing movie. But the very scale of Standard Operating Procedure, which in its expensive-looking production values, special effects and elaborately choreographed re-enactments, shows that Errol Morris has grown weary of working in the dimly lit outer fringes of motion picture productions, to which documentary filmmakers are still too often relegated.

Standard Operating Procedure is a big, provocative and disturbing work, although what makes it most provocative is that its greatest ambitions are for its own visual style. In sweeping strokes, the documentary addresses many of the issues that abound when government-authorized torture is accompanied by that very government’s public denial of responsibility, leaving young male and female soldiers bereft of anything except their own poorly-informed tactics.

Morris explains that a major force driving the project was the profusion of photographs that were taken by the American soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison that document, in horrifyingly graphic detail, the prisoner abuse that those very soldiers helped to perpetuate. Morris and his documentary crew “set out to examine the context of these photographs,” attempting to uncover what had happened within the accepted narrative about the torture. For him the photographs functioned as both an exposé and a cover-up because while they revealed the horror, they also “convinced journalists and readers they had seen everything.”

Morris wasn’t convinced that he had seen everything. He made this movie, which at its finest and most focussed, tries to investigate how seeing both does and does not evolve into understanding. To that end, Morris employed two familiar documentary strategies: direct-address interviews and re-enactments in which actors re-enact actual historical events. As a tactic, the interviews with some of the soldiers who actually carried out the torture and abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison could have enabled the documentary’s subjects to speak for themselves, to raise their own voices.

Unfortunately, as the film progresses, it becomes clear that even when those subjects are able to speak from the vantage point of looking back in retrospect, they are only capable of providing, or willing to provide, anything more than defensive testimonies on their own behalves.

It is testimony to a government’s pervasive moral vacuum.

Standard Operating Procedure: The People Behind the Abuse

Abu Ghraib Iraq Prison Abuses, 2003

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