Blogging SilverDocs: The Centerpiece Screening
Blogger Enette Ngoei attends the Centerpiece Screeing of AJ Schnack's "Convention."June 18th, 2009 | Enette Ngoei
Limited by a day job, I was confined to picking one of the 122 nighttime screenings at SilverDocs 2009 and, not knowing much about any of them, my decision was a bit of a gamble.
Convention, a behind-the-scenes look at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, by an ensemble all-star crew of documentary filmmakers, was the festival’s Centerpiece Screening and therefore seemed a logical choice. My conundrum was that the film had had none-too-positive reviews and its screening time coincided with other fascinating-sounding films: Act of God, about the perspectives of people struck by lightning, Voices from El-Sayed, about how a village with the world’s highest population of deaf people and its own unique sign language deals with a father who allows his son to undergo a cochlear implant.
I made an on-the-spot decision to go with Convention and being situated in the middle of the long-snaking line waiting to get into the theatre made it hard to change my mind.
Filmmaker AJ Schnack was joined by Laura Poitras (My Country, My Country), Paul Taylor (We Are Together), Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar (A Lion In The House), and Daniel Junge (They Killed Sister Dorothy), to put together the seamless story of the events in Denver leading up to the historic moment where Barack Obama emerged as the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. The documentary is captured through the eyes of the Convention organizers, reporters, police and protesters.
The approximately 90 hours of film, which was edited into 95 minutes was warmly received by those in attendance despite brief technical glitches in the screening. Almost half the audience remained for the panel discussion moderated by NPR’s White House Correspondent, Don Gonyea.
During the discussion, AJ Schnack expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to watch the raw footage of the filmmakers he respected. Gonyea pointed out that the film put real faces to what are often caricatures of journalists, government workers, police and protesters.
The theme of teamwork, which resonated throughout the film also extended to the filmmaking crew who came together after each day of filming to discuss the best footage captured, Schnack said.
Perhaps more significantly, the idea that things don’t always go according to plan but can turn out better than you thought, which applied in the film was also experienced by Schnack. According to the filmmaker, on the last day of the convention, as he was pushing past crowds to get to the convention center to film, someone had ripped off his credentials leaving just the lanyard. Unable to get to where he originally intended to film, Schnack managed to sneak into the Denver mayor’s booth, where he was able to capture the emotions of the organizing committee as they reached their height at the historic moment of Barack Obama’s Democratic nomination.
All in all Convention was a bet well-placed.
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