Posted on Saturday, April 24th, 2010 by David Chen
I love Documentary Shorts programs because they’re fascinating little slices of life from around the world that I’d never otherwise be privy to (plus, the films are so short that if you don’t like one, all you need to do is wait 15 minutes for it to be over). Last night, I saw IFFBoston’s Shorts 2: Docs package. We usually don’t write about short films here at /Film, but I thought that Keep Dancing and The Poodle Trainer were so great, I just had to throw out a quick word about them. After the jump, trailers for the films and my brief thoughts.
Vance Malone’s The Poodle Trainer is an amazing short film about the life of Irina Markova, a Russian poodle trainer, who discusses her life as a circus worker and her relationship with her dogs. The footage of what she is able to accomplish these poodles to do is both hilarious and awe-inspiring, but it’s equaled by the talking-head footage of Markova herself, whose passionate recounting of the struggles she has been through is incredibly compelling. The film has a great score and a beautiful color palette. Each shot feels perfectly considered, and it feels like Malone has skillfully extracted every ounce of drama possible from the film’s brief runtime.
The Poodle Trainer is currently making its rounds at film festivals all across the country. Here’s an excerpt from the film.
I also want to highlight Keep Dancing, a film about dancing legends Marge Champion and Donald Saddler. Saddler and Champion became friends while working on a Broadway production of Follies. After the show ended, they decided to keep dancing, renting a studio to regularly practice old dance routines and develop new ones. They are both 90 years old.
Keep Dancing is a testament to the vitality of existence, an affirmation of the fact that aging does not equate to surrendering. And Champion and Saddler performing a dance routine for “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries” is probably the most adorable thing I’ve ever witnessed in my life. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bigger smile on my face when leaving a movie screening than I did after watching this film.
My only complaint about the film was that it focused too much on archival footage of the stars. The drama for from the film comes from what’s happening today (vs. the lives they lived 50 years ago), and I longed for an uninterrupted take of the two of them performing a routine, but never got one. Still, the film is well worth watching. It will fill you with hope.
The people behind Keep Dancing are currently trying to raise money to get the TV rights to the film. With luck, the short film will air on PBS at some point in the future, although I’m told you will also be able to buy it at their website at some point. Here’s the film’s trailer.