No No and To Be Takei: The Heart of Sundance

January 22, 2014 : 11:54 pm | by Andy Bene

Near the beginning of the festival, I overheard a conversation between two people in the box office. One man, obviously a veterin of the festival, said that all the indie films were nice, but that the real heart of Sundance is in the documentaries. That the festival gives voices to so many amazing stories that would have otherwise been lost is why he kept coming back every year. I have not yet seen all the films I Want to at this festival yet, but juding by the two documentaries I have seen so far, I am already inclined to agree with that sentiment.

The first, To Be Takei, tells the life story of George Takei, an actor and human rights activist, whose most remembered role is that of private Sulu on the original run of Star Trek. It’s an amazing story, as the man has been through so many struggles in his life, from his families internment during World War II to having to hide his sexuality from the public in fear of ruining his carrear. That this film is about someone who faced the things he did and come out as cheerful and full of life as he is now would be enough to carry a documentaryby itself. Luckily, director Jennifer M. Kroot went above and beyond, as the film is beautifully shot and edited. Even with the heavy subject matter, George’s quick whit and the well timed editing also make the film absolutely hilarious.

The second, No No: A Dockumentary, tells the life story of Dock Ellis, who is now famous for pitching a no hitter while under the influence of LSD. After seeing this film, however, I now know that remembering him only for that is an absolute tragedy. Dock was an unrelenting force, both on and off the field. He was a surprisingly significant force in shaping race relations in America, and was the spark that lead to the first all black starting line-up in the major league. By virtue of his character this film too has a comedic bent, and is also wonderfully directed and edited. Hopefully film will be a driving force for remembering Dock for his better years, and not for the time that he forgot a day in a drug fueled haze.

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