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commentary | Doc Talk

Louis C.K.’s Oscar intro gave short shrift to filmmakers

Louis C.K. at the Oscars.

Kevin Winter/Getty

Louis C.K. at the Oscars.

“Amy” won the Academy Award for best documentary feature last Sunday, as expected. But Louis C.K.’s introduction of the best documentary short came as an unpleasant surprise.

The comic started out OK, pointing out that, unlike the millionaires in the audience, documentary filmmakers tell important stories without any expectation of financial reward. But then he played it for laughs.

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“This is the best documentary short,” he said with incredulity and to growing audience applause and merriment. “It’s not even a documentary feature. These people will never be rich as long as they live. This is going to be the nicest thing they’ll ever own in their life. All they got is this Oscar going home in a Honda Civic. It’s gonna give them anxiety keeping it in their crappy apartment.”

What a bunch of losers, making films about victims of Agent Orange (“Chau, Beyond the Lines”), the Holocaust (“Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah”), the tragedy of PTSD and the iniquities of the death penalty (“Last Day of Freedom”), the Ebola plague in Liberia (“Body Team 12”), and the grotesque crime of “honor killing” in Pakistan, where fathers, brothers, and uncles murder with impunity female family members who they think have shamed them.

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That was the subject of the winning film, “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.”

Accepting the award, the filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy said, “Thank God I have two Oscars” (she had won previously for her 2012 short “Saving Face,” about Pakistani women disfigured by acid attacks). In her speech, she pointed out how her film — which tells the horrific story of a girl who survived an honor killing (her father shot her in the face and dumped her in a river) — so moved the Pakistani prime minister that he amended the laws against that crime. “That is the power of film,” she concluded as the music swelled, giving her the bum’s rush off the stage.

Not that it should matter, but Obaid-Chinoy is also a woman (too bad gender equality is so 2015) and a person of color (this year’s big issue, which will probably be forgotten next year). Perhaps Louis C.K. intended his remarks to embarrass the limo liberals in the audience who make millions making movies that make millions, but those online who found his words hilarious (the clip has gone viral) and are calling for him to be next year’s Oscar host probably didn’t interpret them that way.

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No report on whether Obaid-Chinoy was driving a Honda Civic when she returned to her crappy apartment with her second Oscar.

Watch C.K.’s Oscar presentation here:

A bullfighter’s tale

Matadors might be the least sympathetic of athletes. Killing brave bulls in a lopsided fight isn’t everyone’s idea of sport. But Antonio Barrera, legendary in Mexico as the world’s most gored bullfighter (23 times), could tell you a tale or two about stamina and survival. At some point, even the most dedicated bullfighters have to wonder about a career change. Ido Mizrahy’s documentary “Gored” shows how Barrera had to choose between staying alive for his family and continuing a career killing beautiful beasts that have done him no wrong.

“Gored” is now available on iTunes and additional digital platforms.

For more information go to www.goredthemovie.com.

Victory for Vick’s victims

Speaking of animal abuse, if you missed “The Champions” — Darcy Dennett’s documentary about the fate of the pit bulls rescued from NFL star Michael Vick’s illegal fighting ring -- at any of its enthusiastically attended public screenings, you can now catch it online. When the decision was made to euthanize the 22 surviving canines, organizations like the Best Friends Animal Society agreed to take custody of them, rehabilitate them, and find them homes. A tribute to a much abused breed and a treat for animal lovers everywhere.

For more information go to www.championsdocumentary.com.

Transgender pioneers

Many who have seen this year’s best picture Oscar nominee “The Danish Girl” from Focus Features may have been surprised to learn that transgenderism is not a recent phenomenon. In fact, as the docu-series “We’ve Been Around” demonstrates, it has a long history. An online series of six-minute shorts presented by Focus, Time.Inc, and The Advocate and directed by “Transparent” co-producer Rhys Ernst, it includes inspiring stories of transgender heroes and pioneers such as Albert Cashier, a transgender man who fought in the Civil War, and Lucy Hicks Anderson, a woman of color who fought for her marriage rights in the Prohibition era.

The “We’ve Been Around” series can be followed at people.com, advocate.com, EW.com, and essence.com.

Wake up call

John Gianvito’s documentaries are avant garde both politically and aesthetically; they confront injustice with a poetic sensibility that is compelling and profound. His film “Wake (Subic)” completes a diptych entitled “For Example, the Philippines, after Vapor Trail (Clark)” which began in 2010 with “Vapor Trail (Clark).” The two films eloquently expose the little known toll of violence, destruction and environmental damage left behind by the closing of US military bases in Third World countries.

“Wake (Subic)” screens at 3 p.m. on March 13 at the Harvard Film Archive. The director will attend the screening.

For more information go to http://hcl.harvard.edu/hfa/films /2016marmay/wake.html.

Peter Keough can be reached at petervkeough@gmail.com.
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