Monday, May 9, 2011

Hot Docs 2011 - Living Skin (with Guanape Sur)

Guanape Sur
By Janos Richter, 2011

Guanape is a short film that preceded the screening of Living Skin. Both films were a part of the Workers of the World series at this year's festival and both films came up slight for me as I had higher expectations. The short documentary is beautiful visually and the subject is highly promising: workers are sent to an island off the coast of Peru every eleven years to collect bird excrement that has hardened and turned into profitable fertilizer. Many risk injuring themselves due to infections, illnesses and the peril found on the steep landscape. When the film abruptly ended, I found myself wanting more. More scenes of the interesting landscape, more focus on how the fertilizer is collected and organized, and more intimacy with the workers. Sometimes Abrupt endings feel warranted.. Sometimes they just feel... abrupt.

3 out of 5

Living Skin
By Fawzi Saleh, 2011

In the bustling city of Cairo, child workers play a prominent role. Living Skin is a mid-length documentary following various young boys as they work in the city's tanneries, handling animal skins, treating them with dangerous chemicals and shipping them by horse and cart. The conditions these boys live and work in are shocking and Saleh does a wonderful job capturing their daily routines, but its chosen structure comes off as a bit too easy and sloppy. The film is edited into days of the week, but for no apparent reason, because after the title card with the date is shown, one day is undecipherable from the next. The film is also heavy with narration from the boys, which plays over scenes of them working. The narration is interesting at times, such as when the boys speak about their work, but there are also tangents from them about girls they love and other feelings that, although are cute, come off as unfocused and would have been better presented elsewhere.

3 out of 5

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