Kekexili: Mountain Patrol
Lu Chuan, Director
In the early 1990s, the number of Tibetan antelope in China's western plateau region plummeted from an estimated 200,000 to the edge of extinction. Poachers – many of them herders whose pastures had turned to desert – slaughtered the animals by the hundreds for their fine “shahtoosh” wool used to make luxurious, albeit illegal scarves for the western market. In response, local Tibetans formed a volunteer patrol to try to stop the illegal trade.
Filmed on location in Kekexili, the largest animal reserve in China, the movie is based on the true story of the ragtag band’s struggle to stop the poaching, sometimes at the cost of their own lives. Their efforts made them heroes to China’s fledgling environmental movement and eventually lead to the formation of the reserve.
Writer-director Lu Chan cast mostly local amateurs, giving the film at times the feel of a documentary. In this isolated life-and-death struggle, the characters’ challenges come as much from the harsh natural environment as from the patrol’s machine-gun toting adversaries. Chan spent a great deal of time with both the patrolmen and their quarry, an experience that led him to see the poachers more as ordinary farmers than the brutal robbers he had imagined. “Poverty turns them into slaughterers,” he says, “killing the antelopes for only one reason – their own survival.”
Who Is Bozo Texino?
Bill Daniel, director
Though most commonly associated with the Depression Era, hobos
have continued to fascinate folks, from readers of historical and
contemporary accounts of hobo travels (see recent publications of
presses ranging from AK to Vintage) to a new generation of young
punks attracted to the rail-riding lifestyle. Who is Bozo Texino?
is the first documentation of hobo life to focus on the graffiti
that has covered boxcars from Florida to Washington state.
The film is a fifty-five minute compilation of black and white
footage shot by maker Bill Daniel over fifteen years. The film’s
title refers to perhaps the most prominent of all the tags found
on trains throughout the US: a cowboy-hatted, blank-staring head
smoking a cigarette, with BOZO TEXINO marked below it. While the
question of who is behind the face remains as the backdrop for the
film, the majority of Who is Bozo Texino? focuses on other hobo
taggers. The film features interviews with rail workers and hobos
(including ‘legends’ such as Colossus of Roads, Herby,
and The Rambler), footage of hobo hang-outs and camps, as well as
often-beautiful scenic footage of the US shot from trains across
the country. Daniel’s 16mm and Super 8 quick-cut photography
and the original music and raspy hobo narration that guide the film,
create a wonderfully gritty feel, not far removed from hobo culture
Most of the insight that Who is Bozo Texino? provides relates specifically
to rail graffiti, but the film also includes discussion of the overall
attraction of the lifestyle as well as its differentiation from
“bum” living (hobos work for the money that they need
and, according to comments in the film, most don’t lie or
cheat or even drink excessively). The folks featured in the documentary
are real characters, with rich stories to tell and much insight
into their lives to provide. The hobo wisdom Daniel includes is
often fascinating. But, unfortunately, the film doesn’t offer
too much in the way of personal histories of the hobos (other than
when Daniel is able to catch up with ‘Bozo Texino’ and
even then, the talk is mostly limited to his graffiti) or much about
hobo history more generally. Additionally, many other issues are
only briefly explored, if at all, which is unfortunate since the
film’s topic and subjects are so compelling. The viewer does
not, for instance, learn much about hobo survival (other than appreciating
that it’s a tough life), the level of camaraderie that exists
on and off the rails, how hobos deal with cops or rail workers,
or why all hobos in the film are men and almost all are white.
That said, Who is Bozo Texino? is an engaging, well-done and downright
fun film. While other texts may offer a more general picture of
hobo culture, Who is Bozo Texino? is an important documentation
of the older generation of hobo taggers.
Dana Adam Shapiro and Henry Alex Rubin, Directors
One of the goals in making Murderball – a fierce documentary about a wheelchair version of rugby developed and played by quadriplegics – was to subvert “the bullshit condescending p.c. attitudes people have in this country about disabilities,” said filmmaker Henry Alex Rubin. He and co-director Dana Adam Shapiro succeeded.
There is nothing sentimental about this film, which carries the sport’s original moniker (it’s now “quad rugby,” one player notes, because you can’t get corporate sponsorship for a sport called murderball). The players are world-class athletes slamming into each other on a basketball court in wheelchairs modified like something out of Road Warrior (minus the spikes). They are also men whose lives and bodies have been drastically altered by car wrecks, rogue bacteria, fistfights or other misadventures. They’ve had to redefine who they are and what it means to have a full life -- and yes, that does include sex, though everyone is always afraid to ask.
The Canadians may have invented murderball, but the Americans dominated
the game for a decade.
That all ended at the 2002 World Championship in Sweden when former
U.S. player Joe Soares coached his Canadian team to an upset victory.
The film interweaves the players’ personal stories with the
bitter cross-border rivalry personified by Soares and Mark Zupan,
the U.S. team’s charismatic tattooed spokesman, as it builds
to the final confrontation at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens.
By also following the rehabilitation of recently injured motocross
rider Keith Cavill, the films shows the emotional and physical challenges
the others faced earlier in their lives.
Rowdy, inspiring and at times poignant, Murderball is thoroughly honest and completely unforgettable.