Films You May Never Get to See

by francine Hardaway on January 23, 2003

27 January 2003

Namaste from Sundance Film Festival,

The Hardaway adventuresses are at Sundance. We have already gotten a taste of the real deal: a meal in the Easy Street Brasserie at 10 PM (when it had an empty table)and a ride in the Music Taxi, a big van with a live guitarist who played “Love the One You’re With” while driving us to the hotel. On the side of the Music Taxi’s van it says “Better than sitting in a snowbank.” There’s not much snow, because Utah is suffering a drought, but there’s no drought in the movie department.


“Bukowski: Born to This” is a documentary about the life of Henry Charles Bukowski, a novelist and poet of the sixties who reminds me of a cross between Dylan Thomas and my friend Mike Lacey.

Reading Bukowski’s work transformed the life of the Apple ad copywriter who made the film. Indeed, the director ditched his advertising job and started flying all over the world to interview people who had stories to tell about Bukowski, who died in 1994. Seven years later, director John Dongellen has a finished film that was chosen for the documentary competition here at Sundance. He also has no idea of what the eventual market for such a film will be, or of how to distribute it. Fortunately, the film was self-financed. Hope it gets to A&E.

“Swallow” was part of a group of four short subjects; it was the best of the group by orders of magnitude. It’s the story of a high school kid whose father dies, leaving him grief-stricken, without enough money to go to college, and with lousy SAT scores. His guidance counselor refers him to a special kind of scholarship for kids with special issues.

The scholarship turns out to be an “internship” with two drug smugglers who teach the poor kid how to swallow cocaine tied up in a condom with dental floss.

The film is a true learning experience; I certainly didn’t know that the wax in the dental floss protects the body from the effects of the swallowed cocaine. I also didn’t know drugs were smuggled to and from so many different locations.

Our adolescent hero receives $5000 per trip; he gets to some exotic places, such as Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Colombia, but just for a few hours.

In a somewhat cliched resolution, he tries to stop smuggling as the dealers keep upping the ante: he is now bringing in black tar heroin, which is far more dangerous to his body, but is more lucrative to the dealers. The dealers, of course, do not let him go easily.

One of the saddest parts of the film is that the poor kid tries to study for his SATs and finish his senior year of high school in between trips.

I found “Swallow” totally riveting and equally disgusting. I never wanted to know this much about how drugs are smuggled inside the bodies of human beings who can easily die if there’s a burp in the process.

Although “Swallow” had nothing to do with my life, the next film, “Love and Diane,” reminded me enormously of my own experience as a foster parent.

Diane is a mother of six who loses her children when she becomes a crack addict. Her daughter, Love, grows up in four foster homes and a group home. By the time she is eighteen, she’s back home with Diane, pregant and HIV positive.”Love and Diane” explores the mother daughter relationship between these two women, neither of whom really wants to be the adult, and neither of whom has ever really known a mother’s care and love.

As they try to get it together to bring up Love’s baby, the filmmaker, Jennifer Dworkin, allows us insight into the complexity of the social issues surrounding poverty and family dysfunction.

Because I was a foster parent, and I saw this story played out almost exactly in the family I fostered, I appreciated both the filmmaker’s efforts to present the family in glorious three dimensions and the family’s willingness to tell its story to the public. “Love and Diane” goes beyond the artifically constructed challenges of “Survivor” and the other reality TV shows into the situation of a group of people who didn’t choose these challenges and see no reward at the end.

The film’s been picked up commercially and will open in twenty cities this year. In the first part of 2004, it will air on PBS’ POV show.

“Tupac: A Resurrection” was thelast film of the day, and we were disappointed in it. It reminded us of any one of a hundred “Behind the Music” episodes, and contributed very little to my understanding of the great power Tupac Shakur still exerts over teenagers through his music.

The film was a collaboration between the Shakur family and some MTV people, and perhaps that’s why it was so one-sided. I think they should have given the project to a director whose previous work did not include so much contemporary music. Maybe Clint Eastwood could have given us a new perspective on Tupac. Maybe the great Redford himself.

The taxi ride on the way home was delivered by a company called “Powder for the People.”

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