3 Refreshing Documentaries

I watch a lot of documentaries and I love how easy it is to absorb information from them.  But although I pick up a lot of memorable facts, and sometimes gain a better understanding of the “big picture” of life, I wouldn’t say I find inspiration in them.  But three I’ve seen recently stand out for the ways they celebrate creativity and honor the human spirit.

In Trash Dance, choreographer Allison Orr accompanies Austin sanitation workers on their rounds and studies the motions they repeat each day in performing their jobs.  With the workers’ input, she stages a performance built around them.  The workers’ personalities shine before the camera and it is a joy to watch their performance.   We have square dancing horses here in Texas at rodeos, but Allison Orr came up with dancing garbage trucks!

In 1978, a society photographer for the New York Times published his candid pictures of fashions he spotted on the streets of New York, and a new feature was born. Now 86 years old, Bill Cunningham still takes photos on the streets every day with the goal of celebrating individual expression.  Bill Cunningham New York follows this energetic and gracious man through his work process.  And if you don’t have time for the whole movie, you can watch 2 minute slideshows of Bill’s recent shots here at the New York Times.

40 Under 40 is a behind-the-scenes look at an exhibit at the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian.  For the Gallery’s 40th anniversary in 2012, the work of forty craftspeople under 40 was chosen.  You can see the pieces in the exhibit here.

Of course we would all choose different pieces if we were putting on an exhibit, and I certainly didn’t agree with all the choices made here, but I loved watching the selection process and hearing the museum staff explain their thinking.  Several of the artists guide tours of their work spaces and explain their process.  It’s fascinating to see how the works are installed and how difficulties are resolved before the opening.

I especially loved the work of Sabrina Gschwandtner, who makes quilt tops out of old 16 mm textile film strips that were being thrown away by the Fashion Institute of Technology.  (I really wish I could have watched those film strips too.)

And I loved One, a giant two-part paper installation by Mia Pearlman, that reminded me of waterfalls and clouds.  (The link will take you to an interactive panorama of the piece, as well as detail shots.)

The only negative for me was that the film shows several intriguing shots of a working spinning wheel made of glass! but it is never covered in depth.  😦 Well, I guess a good show always leaves you wanting more!

If you need a creative jumpstart or a mood lift sometime, I recommend these!