Becoming Bethany

Observations on becoming and being

Month: July, 2008

In the midst of the mundane

On the train home this evening there were no seats.  I stood in the aisle holding on to the bar.  It had been a very long day and I did not feel like being around people anymore.   And I was crammed into a commuter train with over a hundred.  I must have been on the train about 15 minutes before I even looked at the woman in front of me.  She appeared to be in her mid-forties, probably not very wealthy, and probably on her way back from a long day of work too.  There was nothing especially remarkable about her appearance.  The only reason I even gave her a second thought was the crochet hook she held in her hand.  She was making tiny, beautiful, crocheted flowers out of bright red, orange, and yellow.   The colors were a stark contrast to the mundane blacks, greys, and browns of all the passengers’ work day clothes.  The yarn she was using was very fine so the flowers she was creating were very delicate looking.  I watched her for a few minutes struck by the contrast between the beauty she was creating and the dull surroundings of the train car.  When I looked up again, I glanced around to see if anyone else was watching her but no one seemed to be looking at much of anything.  I looked back at the flowers blooming in her hands and I realized that I had not really seen anything beautiful all day.  I think I was a little starved for beauty actually.  I wonder if the woman was too.  I wonder if that’s why she brought her crochet hook and yarn along with her for her commute.  Maybe she needed to add a little beauty to her otherwise mundane world.



Today I went to check out the Istanbul documentary film festival.  I saw 2 feature-length documentaries and about 6 shorts.  The atmosphere was different from the American film festivals that I’ve been to.  My experience with film festivals is that people are really chatty and mingling and discussing the films and such.  I was there for over four hours today and didn’t hear anyone say anything aside from the occasional whispering to a neighbor.  No filmmakers for Q&A either.  I was a little disappointed about that.  The two features that I saw were really interesting though. 

“Please Vote for Me!” was excellent!  It has no narrator and simply documents an experiment in democracy at a Chinese primary school.  For the first time, a class of third graders is given the opportunity to vote for their class monitor.  The three canidates are chosen by the teacher and embark on a week of campaigning.  Classmates, friends, and parents all get involved in the process.  The way the election process progresses is really fascinating (and often funny).  And it was eye-opening about the way democracy is perceived in China.  I highly recommend it!  I really like documentaries that are both informative and entertaining.  You can check out the trailer here:

Trailer for “Please Vote for Me!”

“Who Am I?” was the other documentary I saw.  This one was about the 500 Argentinian children that disappeared during the 1977-1983 military coup.  Apparently 30,000 adults and 500 children disappeared during this period.  Most of the adults were killed but many of the children were given or sold to Argentinian families.  Most of these children have no idea that they were adopted or that some of their adoptive parents are actually the people who murdered their biological parents.  (I never even knew that Argentina had this violent history!)  Truly eye-opening and surprisingly moving.  You can read a news article about it here:

Article from The Guardian

Most of the shorts that I saw were from a project called “Why Democracy?”.  You can check it out here.

The editor of the “Why Democracy?” project, Nick Fraser, is quoted as comparing the documentary film movement to the rock ‘n’ roll movement and that documentaries are “one of the few truly distinctive cultural innovations of our time”. 

What do you think?

Documentaries in Istanbul

I just found out that there is an international documentary film festival called Documentarist going on right now in Istanbul. I’m hoping to make it to a few screenings.

When I looked at the schedule this morning I found out that “The Monastery: Mr. Vig and the Nuns” played last night. I’m disappointed to have missed it. This was my favorite documentary of the ones that I saw at Sundance 2007.

It’s a very unlikely story for a documentary. No history changing events or great world problems. It’s just the quiet little tale of a Danish man who invites Russian Orthodox nuns to set up a convent in his dilapidated castle. The old man’s quiet way of life and the busy nuns’ expectations clash in humorous and sometimes insightful ways.

I’m sorry I missed the screening. I’ll have to rent the DVD when I get back to the States and my Netflix account.