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“The Stitches Speak”

Tanko Bole Che, or “The Stitches Speak” (2009, India), is a 12-minute animated film about the artisans of the Kala Raksha Center in Sumrasar village in Kutch and how the traditional arts preservation trust came to be. Traditionally embroidered and appliquéd figures traverse hills and fields of variously patterned fabrics. People, camels, herd animals, the war between India and Pakistan, interactions with officials, village life and occupations and the creation in 1991 of the Kala Raksha – “1,000 artisans from 25 villages, and their own design school” are depicted in this unusual film by Nina Sabnani. 12 min.

“Summer Pasture”

“Summer Pasture” (2010, U.S.A/Tibet) is an award-winning documentary film about the lives of nomads of Kham in eastern Tibet and the dramatic changes coming to pass in their 4,000-year-old tradition. The focus on the family of Locho and Yama and their baby serves to demonstrate both the hardships and hard-won rewards of the way they live.

The difference of this life from life in the city is made clear in numerous ways: Most of the film’s sound is the sounds of the wind, the animals, people crying, laughing, calling or speaking, or music they play on cassettes with the help of a portable generator. The light is different on those vast fields; the hairy yaks come up only to about the waists of their owners, who rise at 4 a.m. to begin the day of milking, herding, making their own bread, cheese and butter. Yama, the young wife, collects as much yak dung as she can and spreads it thin on the ground so it will dry, at which point she will collect the hardened substance to be used as fuel during the cold winter. It is up to Locho, the husband, to go into town to buy groceries and to sell what yak hair they can spare and caterpillar fungus. The nomads are unsure what the Chinese use the latter for, but it brings in what is to them phenomenal amounts of cash. Tibetans use the wealth to make the move into permanent dwellings in the city. 

The ambivalence of Locho and Yama regarding nomadic vs. city life is highlighted when they talk about a visit to a big city. Yama says, “We couldn’t speak Chinese. We talked, but no one understood us. We were just like animals.” And Locho, who says he wished to go to school but was discouraged from it, is set on helping his daughter go to school so that at least she will be able to read.

The film is quiet but intense and tacitly informative. Directed by Lynn True, Nel- son Walker III, and Tserling Pao. 85 min.


“Colony” (2009, Ireland/U.S.A.) delves into the effects of Colony Collapse Disorder on the people most immediately affected by it: American honeybee keepers. The visually attractive documentary follows developments over 18 months in the Seppi family of Pixley, Cal., whose young family business is rocky in the face of national economic crisis, despite the continued need of farmers for bees to pollinate their crops. Attention is also focused on veteran beekeepers David Mendes and David Hackenberg to press pesticide-producing chemical companies to use their funds and researchers to work harder to find out what is killing over a third of America’s honeybees and endangering the country’s food supply.

The title “Colony” seems intentionally ambiguous, referring perhaps, to both bees and the people who raise them. Viewers get a real feel for how the business works – sending hives in huge numbers to blueberry farms in Maine, then to cranberry growers in Massachusetts; from there to orange growers in Florida and California almond orchards – to pollinate en masse, for a fee, and how the community of beekeepers has become desperately collegial in the face of CCD and the economic woes.  

Mr. Hackenberg was the first to bring CCD to light, when he discovered an inexplicable loss of 80 million bees from his hives. Since then, beekeepers all over the United States have either been hit by CCD or know someone who has. David Mendes, also articulate and intelligent,
has become a leader in the attempt to get beekeepers to work together, above all else, to get information; by the end of the film, one pesticide-producer, at least, has stepped up to work together with them, though they express certainty that their product is not responsible for the devastation.

The Seppi family, a devoutly religious family of undisclosed denomination, faces a major setback when a farmer tells them he needs to reduce their contracted fees from $174 per hive to $160; a barely veiled threat is made that “with such high prices [the farmers] won’t be back again next year.” The young brothers, Victor and Lance, who run the business, are backed into a corner and agree to lower their prices. Their mother, Esther, is furious, and their father seems gently depressed; he, a schoolteacher, has put all his earnings into the family business as well. The anguish on all sides is impassioned.

Some information is missed; why the Irish Film Board was specifically interested in making this film, for one; occasionally people appear onscreen with little explanation of their significance – George “Bee Man” Clutter, for example, whose face is covered with honeybees. His relationship with the industry is unclear.

“Colony,” directed by Ross McDonnell and Carter Gunn, won the First Appearance Award at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam in 2009. 87 min.

Schedule for 2011 Talking Pictures Film Festival

Below is the schedule of times, dates and places; more information, including ticket prices, synopses, directors and duration of films, is available at www.talkingpicturesfestival.org.

Abbreviations: AMS, Annie Mae Swift Hall on the Northwestern campus; B, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art on the Northwestern campus; EPL, Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave; Med., Medill School of Journalism (McCormick Tribune Center) on the Northwestern campus.

April 14

7:30 p.m. “Old Cats.” B.

April 15

6 p.m. “Concrete, Steel and Paint.” Med.

7:30 p.m. “Winter Vacation.” B.

8 p.m. “Trust, Second Acts in Young Lives.” Med.

April 16

1 p.m. Shorts/Take 1: “Native”; “Kinderspiel” and others. EPL.

1 p.m. “Dream Chicago,” short Med.

3 p.m. “You Can’t Sing It for “Them.” EPL

3 p.m. “ Colony.” B.

3 p.m. “Sin by Silence.” Med.

3 p.m. “Little Voices.” AMS. Preceded by two animated shorts: “Great Expectations” (Romania) and “L’Anima Mavi” (Italy). AMS.

April 16, continued

5 p.m. “Refugee Lives.” Med.

5 p.m. “Paradise Recovered.” AMS

7:15 p.m. Oscar Shorts: “The Confession”; “The Crush”; “God of Love”; “Na Wewe” and “Wish.” AMS.

7:30 p.m. “Summer Pasture.” Preceded by Nina Sabnani’s animated documentary “The Stitches Speak.” Med.

9:15 p.m. Shorts/Take 2: “Red Rider’s Lament”; “ Stretch”; “Deux Petits Bateaux”; Sacred Transformations”; #5 lessons” and “9 questions about Chinatown”; Spaceslime!”; “Das Tub” and others. AMS.

April 17

1:30 p.m. Oscar Shorts – Animation. “The Lost Thing”; “Day & Night”; “The Gruffalo”; “Let’s Pollute”; “Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage”; “The Cow Who Wanted To Be A Hamburger” and “URS.” B.

1 p.m. “Burning Ice.” Med.

1:30 p.m. “The Lord Is Not on Trial Here Today.” EPL.

3 p.m. “Atomic Mom.” Med.

3:30 p.m. “Silent Souls.” B.

3:30 p.m. “Water, Water Everywhere.” EPL

5 p.m. “Stuff.” Med.

7 p.m. Festival party at Hilton Orrington, 1710 Orrington Ave.