Its the Earth not the Moon
These two documentaries attempt to capture human life in extreme locations - on an island in the middle of the Atlantic, or on the slopes of isolated mountains.
Director Goncalo Tocha's It's the Earth, not the Moon sets out to catalogue visions of life on the island of Corvo in the Azores. This volcanic outcrop has a small village, about four hundred residents, some fields and some cows. Tocha wants to capture each and every element and uses three hours to do so (I admit I didn't stick it out to the end).
It's certainly a warm, poetic and positive film but it does not illuminate the mysteries, beliefs, or even the setting, of this isolated island. A couple of French dancers are some of the few immigrants, attracted by stories of the "primitive" culture, but I never saw anything which could keep them there. This collection of people and their stories is thorough but it doesn't add up to more than the sum of its parts. A similar but much more beautiful and enlightening film was sleep furiously, set in rural Wales.
Life Above the Clouds is a much more pedestrian affair, probably because it is actually a television series, not a film at all. This screening included two of four episodes, and featured a family living on a Transylvanian mountainside and four hermits living in a Spanish monastery. Even with the annoying voice-overs telling us what to think, this film brings the people and landscapes to life so much more vividly than It's the Earth. The old Romanian couple who still live a traditional life in the mountains are grizzled by work but are charming, vibrant people. The monks who live in silence (except when talking to the camera) in the Pyrenees effectively communicate the peace and revelation they have found in their isolation.
No more screenings of It's the Earth. The two episodes of Life Above the Clouds I saw play again on Monday Oct 10th at 10:45 am at the Cinemateque. The second program, which features a Norwegian fjord and Cretan mountain, plays Tuesday Oct 11th at 10:45 am at the Cinemateque.