The last day of the American Documentary Film Festival 2016 was a good day. That started quietly for me with a film on the Swiss Guard of the Vatican, ”Escerito: The World’s Smallest Army” (86 mins.) by Italian veteran director Gianfranco Pannone, a very well made informative documentary that lets its audience inside the walls of the Vatican together with some Swiss born young men, who serve there in their colourful costumes. The film, a commissioned work by the Vatican, is beautifully shot by Tarek Ben Abdallah, who knows and demonstrates that images can tell stories. Good to be reminded about that after having seen several American documentaries that are edited through words with no real attention to the visual side.
”Zuluhoops” (56 mins.), a world premiere, later that day was a warm-hearted documentary by Kristin Pichaske featuring a young sympathetic teacher Ken Mukai and his effort to teach zulu kids in a rural outpost in South Africa. Language is a problem – ”after 3 weeks I discovered that they did not understand anything of what I was saying” – and the motivation was not there until the teacher had a basketball pitch set up and started teaching them how to play, took some of them to watch a tournament and made them create a team to compete. Teambuilding. The camera catches fine moments between the teacher and the charming kids, it is a film that deserves to go to European festivals as well.
As the closing night film, festival director Teddy Grouya had made an excellent choice, Moby Longinotto’s ”The Joneses” (photo) (80 mins.), a so-called ”Sneek Peak” with this catalogue text: ” FJheri Jones, a 74 years old transgender divorcee, and her family live in Bible Belt Mississippi. Reconciled after years of estrangement and now living with two of her four sons in her trailer park home, Jheri embarks on a new path to reveal her true self to her grandchildren while her son Trevor begins a surprising journey of his own…”
The English director told the audience afterwards that he had visited the family around 100 days, had got very close to them – you can see that in a film, that is full of respect and compassion. Official premiere at the San Francisco festival May 1st.