Passepartout is all about documentaries and visual stuff I find worth seeing.

The most important thing they kept: portraying Syrian refugees through their ‘pieces of home’

‘The Most Important Thing: Syrian Refugees’ is a collection of black and white portraits of people and the one thing they got to take when they left their home. Each story is written in a direct style. And looking at the photos and reading those stories somehow show without telling everything someone from far away needs to understand about vulnerability and uncertainty and being far away from home.

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An image of all your posessions – Huang Qingjun’s photos of people and everything they own

Huang Qingjun traveled through China and took these photos, meant to be a look at the impact of modernization on rural Chinese families. The project is called ‘Family Staff’.

I don’t think they speak much about the impact of modernization, at least not to someone from outside that context. That is mainly because I don’t have the means to judge whether they are doing well or a term of comparison to understand change in their lives as a result of modernization. They are probably better situated than previous generations. But I think more information would help make more sense of these images. Still, they are interesting for different reasons.

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Misao the Big Mama and Fukumaru the Cat: the visual documentation of a friendship

Aw! How did I miss this one? I only recently discovered these photos of a grandma Misao and her friendship with this white odd eyed cat. The photos have been taken by Misao’s granddaughter. Miyoko Ihara has been photographing her grandma for 13 years. 8 years ago grandma found this white cat in a shed and named her Fukumaru (fuku means good fortune).

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The Act of Killing (2012, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer)

The Art of Killing is intriguing and I have mixed feelings about it. I find it daring, original, surreal and often so unbelievable that it makes you wonder whether what you see is acted or not. And then I find it obscene, questionable and eventually unnecessary.

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Stories We Tell (2012, directed by Sarah Polley)

This documentary is terribly personal. The story is that Diane Polley, the director’s mother, died in 1990. She was an actress and a very lively person, bubbly and easily getting in trouble. What Diane Polley left behind is different memories and a big dinosaur in the family closet. Since she is now gone and no longer can explain the choices she made, her daughter, Sarah Polley, sets out to talk to everyone who was close to her mother, and make sense of the dinosaurs.

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The Roma Journey – photos from seven countries

There are certain mental images associated with the Roma. There is the romantic view, the dreaming and eternally free gypsy traveling the world with his horse and caravan. Then there’s the victim view, the Roma always mistreated and abused. And last there is an image of aggressiveness, the dirty Roma, the Roma criminals. (Something worth mentioning is that if one portrays them romantically, it seems acceptable to call them gypsies –  while if they’re portrayed as victims or criminals there’s the politically correct name – Roma. Adding to this, I find it quite interesting that if I google ‘gypsy’, the images I see are of that romantic view, while if you google Roma/Romani I get all the misery in photos. Try.).

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Stories from a 13,000 km trip around the Black Sea

Photographer Petrut Calinescu and writer Stefan Candea traveled 13,000 km around the Black Sea. Even though the photos have been taken in different countries (they started the journey in Romania, went to Bulgaria, Turkey and on) they have a certain common feel coming from these places’ shared past. The traces of the Soviet era are mixed with each country’s local flavor. One can sense this influence not only in architecture (on which the Soviet era left its the most visible footprint) but also in the clothes and small objects surrounding the people.

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Watch Online Documentary: China Blue (2005, directed by Micha X Peled)

If the jeans you are wearing are made in China, then they might have been made by Jasmine Li (she’s the one with the blue sweater in the photo above). China Blue tells the story of this 17 year old girl who lives and works in the Lifeng Clothes Factory in Shaxi, Guangdong. She shares her room with others like her, young migrant workers – some of them with fake ID’s making it seem they are older – who leave the safety of their villages and families to earn some money. Jasmine makes 7 cents per hour.

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Dolls: a Woman from Damascus

Rating: ★★★¾☆ 

Fulla is the Middle Eastern version of Barbie. Fulla is “loving, caring, she is part of the community. ” Fulla is made to reflect the customers she’s been addressed to. She respects her parents. She prays. She takes care of others.

At the same her breasts have been made smaller, because customers requested it. Her undergarments are part of her body, so they cannot be taken off. Fulla is a modern doll, inspired from a liberal society and transformed into the reflection of a conservative one. The film challenges this assumption and questions whether this modern doll really reflects modern young arab women.

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A country where reality has been arrested and executed

I always wanted to know how communism and its altered reality impacts a human life. One human life. One person. Then another one. In the end, you’ll have a full image of a country.
This interest has to do with me being Romanian. I couldn’t understand my family’s past and stories without knowing the context of these past and stories. For example, I couldn’t understand why years after communism fell, my grandma still stuffed the fridge with food even through we had supermarkets around. And besides these kind of many more other examples, I also wanted to put my few childhood memories in context.

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Man on Wire (2008)

Rating: ★★★★¾ 

Man on Wire is a story about the courage to take risks and do something unique that defies any common acceptance. It’s the story of Philippe Petit, a French high-wire artist who transformed fear and risk into challenge and in 1974 he danced on a wire tied between the two World Trade Center Towers, 417 meters (1368ft) high from the ground.

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