A Plastic Ocean.

Watched on a CX flight from PEK to HKG. June 2017.

So. I met Craig Leeson because he’s a filmmaker in Hong Kong, and he’s a friend of a friend. I had no idea that he is a journalist, and I had no idea that he was making this film. It’s incredible, and tragic, and so shameful.

The film begins by juxtaposing a beautiful baby pygmy whale with the disgusting pollution in the ocean… The excitement of finally spotting a whale, and then the awfulness of the water all around it. Just terrible.

So the story goes all around the world, following both Leeson and free diver, Tanya Streeter, as they find the plastic story from history and origin to where the plastic is ending up – in the oceans, collected on the ocean floor, floating in the waves, caught in coral. The picture is terrible.

And compounded with this horror, was the fact that I was eating the plane meal, with plastic cutlery, drinking Sprite in a plastic cup. And then we got to the segment in the film where Leeson approaches a number of restaurants and cafes, to get food to go, but asks staff not to put the food or drink in plastic. The difficulty this presents is almost astonishing – except it’s not that astonishing at all. Thinking about my own life and the places I get take out from – sushi in plastic boxes, chicken rice in a styrofoam box, iced tea in a plastic cup… with a plastic straw… and a plastic long spoon….

A Plastic Ocean is a huge wake up call. Though I’m pretty sad to say that I have friends who will watch it and still think it has nothing to do with them. Sigh. It really is a fucking fantastic film. Absolutely loved it.


The 24 Hour War.

Watched on a CX flight from HKG to PEK. June 2017.

Phwoar! First of all, the 24 hour races are just crazy. Secondly, I did not know how big a part Ford played in them!!!

The story is incredible. Watching the history of the companies and how they grew, hearing the drivers and the crew talk about the races and how the cars evolved, the history behind the rivalry between Enzo Ferrari’s company and Henry Ford’s company… so compelling, so intense, and so damn dangerous…

Loved it :D

Sports Doping – Winning At Any Cost?

Watched on a CX flight from TPE to HKG. June 2016.

Okay. Since it’s June now, there have been new additions to the documentary section of the Cathay Pacific entertainment system… and there are so many things I want to watch, but on a one hour flight, there are only so many things I can watch without pulling my hair out. Some, for example, like A Plastic Ocean and The 24 Hour War, both of which are almost two hours long, are an utter no no, as I won’t be able to get to the ending of the film. Luckily, the person curating this section has the good sense to include some shorter TV documentaries, like the one I ended up watching, which was an engrossing 52 minutes long.

Sports Doping – Winning at Any Cost? follows Dr Xand van Tulleken as he talks to athletes, doctors and scientists around the world, while investigating the use of anabolic steroids, which has become increasingly widespread within the general public. It’s an eye-opening piece not only on the psyche of athletes who want to be the best no matter what the cost, but also on the psyche of all humans, including those who “just” want to look good. It cautions strongly against the use of drugs, interviewing former athletes who used steroids regularly and now have lost use of kidneys, have shown cognitive impairment, etc.

An really insightful, well-researched film. Good stuff.

Higher Education: The New Global Economic War.

Watched on a CX flight from HKG to TPE. June 2017.

Tragic. Just… Sigh. It’s like… the generation before us, they worked their asses off so that we could get a good education, so that we could get out of whatever situation, whatever class bracket we were in. And now, we have made getting a university education so incredibly expensive, that people who graduate are in so much debt, it then takes God knows how many years to level with the amount of student loans (plus interest) that were taken…. and unfortunately, it seems there aren’t enough jobs for all the graduates, and so they are mired in debt for God knows how many years… but time doesn’t stop… and it’s just a ridiculous vicious cycle. Sigh.

I don’t know if we can point the finger at the Labour Party in the UK – their reasons for making citizens pay for university were valid. However, the repercussions are so massive that it’s just difficult all round. Sigh.

And so many UK students would go to other European universities because they don’t charge EU students tuition… but guess what… now with Brexit… I can’t even.

Sigh. No words.

Rise of the Sufferfests.

Watched on a CX flight from HKG to PVG. May 2017.

Okay. So I expected this to be pretty funny even though I don’t understand why people put themselves through all that torture – I don’t even understand marathons, let along marathons with obstacles… like what. Anyway. Scott Keneally is hilarious. He’s an investigative journalist, and he writes about all the fun things haha. I seriously want to go and find all his articles so I can read them haha.

Keneally manages to interview a bunch of really awesome people – for example, Mr. Mouse, the founder of the Tough Guy course, who probably started the whole obstacle race trend; Amelia Boone, champion of several obstacle races, and a legal consultant at Apple (!!!); authors Nicholas Carr & Tim Ferriss (amongst many others); Will Dean, CEO of Tough Mudder; etcetc… the list goes on.

About two thirds of the way into the film, Keneally talks about how the film came about, and it made me laugh a lot when he said he was just naive. As in, he had no understanding of how difficult it would be, and therefore he just decided to do it. Hahahaha. I feel his pain.

Anyway. One of the best quotes in the film is the following:
“What used to define you is how well you could swing your broad sword in battle is now how well you can, you know, move a mouse or… work your tablet…” — Hunter McIntyre

HAHAHA. SO TRUE. Awesome film. Everyone should watch this!!!


The Music of Strangers.

Watched on CX flight from Singapore to Hong Kong. April 2017.

I did not know that Yo Yo Ma had put together an incredibly beautiful collective of musicians called The Silk Road Ensemble… I really wish I had known earlier, I would have liked very much to watch them live on stage. Anyway.

The documentary follows several of the musicians in the Ensemble, including an amazing Chinese pipa player, a beautiful Spanish bagpipe player (and singer!), an incredibly talented Iranian kamancheh player, a breathtaking Syrian clarinet player, and of course, the wonderful Yo Yo Ma. Their stories are varied, and tragic, and brave, and heartbreaking, but beautiful. They exemplify how music brings people together – although the film also touched on how the Silk Road Ensemble apparently got some flack for blurring the lines that some think traditional music should stay behind.

Loved this <3.

Life, Animated.

Watched on a CX flight to BKK. May 2017.

OMG. Remember how I’ve been raving about the documentary selection on Cathay Pacific flights? Yeah, this is another example of greatness.

Life, Animated is about an autistic boy, who learnt how to cope with the real world through the animations of Disney. From a very young age, Owen watched Disney cartoons with his family, and when he became autistic around the age of 3, and stopped talking to people or relating to the real world, it was finally through Disney films that communication started again.

It’s a beautiful – if often sad – window into the lives of families with autistic kids, and it’s honest and raw and moving at the same time. An incredible story.


Watched at HKU, hosted by the Hong Kong Documentary Initiative. April 2017.

I had never watched Watermark the film, although I have been through the book numerous times, and have stood in front the photos in Ed Burtynsky’s Watermark exhibition for hours on end. It is incredibly humbling to think that I know this great artist who produces these fucking fantastic photos. Just mind boggling.

The film is reflective, and jarring, inspiring, and tragic. Just the opening – water gushing across the frame, lots and lots of it, the sound of water hitting water, and then silence as the camera looks directly at cracked earth, scorched dry – hits hard as you contemplate how water is the source of life and without it, we’re just doomed.

It’s a film that is more beautiful the larger the screen you watch it on, and carries such weight as you watch stories about the loss of water, the building of dams, the sacredness of cleansing, and of course, pollution caused by human activities… Burtynsky produces incredible beauty from devastation and death. It’s just fantastic.

Black Code.

Watched at Sky Olympic as part of HKIFF 2017. April 2017.

There’s a part of me that’s still processing this film – much like how I am still processing the Israel trip last year – because this film (like that trip) reaches far enough down to really make one think.

Surveillance – whether on my physical being (through CCTVs or my phone) or on my thoughts and feelings and dreams (via social media or hacking) – is everywhere. There is a part of me that thinks I’m way too boring for anyone to be interested in following what I am doing or thinking or saying, but on the other hand, who the heck knows.

There was a huge part of me that wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to blog about watching this film. But since I’m doing this mainly to remind myself of things I’ve been doing these days, I suppose I should. (And yes, I am at an age where I don’t actually recall what I’ve been doing say last week or sometimes even yesterday.)

This film is rather more journalistic than Nicholas de Pencier’s other films (Manufactured Landscapes, Watermark), it’s much less reflective and presents stories that are compelling and tragic and fucking freaky as hell. The main subject is Professor Ron Deibert, who wrote the book of the same name, and which inspired de Pencier to make this film. Deibert runs the Citizen Lab in Toronto, and we follow his journey as he treks to a Cold War bunker in Sweden to meet the CEO of the company that holds the servers which held all the Snowden info before it became widespread, flies to Pakistan to meet a super interesting gentleman who is fighting for the right to information, and gives talks around the world about information and surveillance.

We also meet and hear the stories of super enthusiastic citizen journalists down in Brazil, who form a group called Mídia Ninja, a Syrian journalist who now resides in Jordan, a Tibetan filmmaker who escaped to Northern India, and then we have the stories of Sabeen Mahmud, who was gunned down in Pakistan after being outspoken on various rights issues, including that of free speech, and Bruno Ferreira Teles, who was accused of – and immediately condemned for – throwing a molotov cocktail at the police. Teles is one of the rare, uplifting stories – he was cleared of any wrongdoing when he appealed to Mídia Ninja followers for videos that would prove his innocence. In the end, using the Ninja videos, it was discovered that the actual people who threw the explosives were policemen. Sheesh.

Super interesting film, and I’m a bit anxious (but also very curious) to know what the repercussions of this film are going to be. I mean… this is an incredibly sensitive topic (what with the Wikileaks, then the FBI demanding information from Apple, and more locally, the great firewall of China along with the censorship and monitoring that we all know goes on there, etcetc). This is a story worth following, if only because it affects every single one of us who have some sort of digital footprint…