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Author Topic: Documentaries - Discussion - Which should I watch?  (Read 223788 times)
Jack T. Cross
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« Reply #150 on: May 19, 2015, 11:35:31 AM »

Here's kind of an unusual one. I remember seeing it years ago and it may have been the first doc I'd ever seen. The guy that made it says he set out to do a certain thing, but it turned into something different. So don't get fooled by the title. I'll tell you that it's sort of like American Nomads (couple posts up) in that it is a drifter.

I liked it years back, but will watch it again before saying anything else. Note the length, though, so maybe treat it like a book and come back to it a couple times in order to finish.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUvLgP_rSNM" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUvLgP_rSNM</a>

Like nearly any documentary that goes over 1.5 hours, there will be some parts that should be removed. This one goes about 2.5, with surprisingly little that might've been fair to remove. The guy does come off as a bit of a whiner (and possibly a would-be cuck), so the few bits he decides to showcase himself were unnecessary and a little annoying in my opinion.

He does a great job at moving along, though, and keeps his own nonsense to a minimum. So he might not be as wimpy as he seems. Overall, he did an excellent job.

Other than that slight warning about the maker's personality: he takes the camera as he interacts along the way through his mission. His intent, supposedly, is to document the grounds of Sherman's March, but he claims to be pursuing a girlfriend at the same time - so that's what his focus sets on.

A great look at the Old South in its final days, in my opinion. A complete drifter for when you want to let your mind go for a spin. Glad I watched it again, before it disappeared from the link.
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Jack T. Cross
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« Reply #151 on: May 19, 2015, 11:40:25 AM »

...that one's called Sherman's March and it's by Ross McElwee. It may be currently unavailable to stream on youtube, unfortunately.
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« Reply #152 on: May 19, 2015, 11:58:19 AM »

Haven't yet watched the whole thing, myself. I want to give it the attention it deserves, as I've seen enough to know it's a very important work.

Have to admit, though, I would have advised him (the guy that made it) to start with some basic introduction into the situation. It felt like I was pulled into something tragic, without having a clear idea of who is who.

This is definitely a watch to be had, and I'll start it again from the beginning.

Oh, assumed your post was a summary.

Without giving much away, astonishing how the brain sometimes responds to unimaginable abuse. Please give your thoughts on the hospital visit after viewing.
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« Reply #153 on: May 19, 2015, 12:13:58 PM »

Yeah, I do get the spirit of it (I think), but no way I want to watch it on autopilot. I'll probably read as much on it as possible, then watch it a couple of times to really understand what he's trying to say. What I did see gave me the creeps like a motherfck, though, so I know it's almost like a burden to watch (very strange).

Just assume the absolute worst, then still proceed with caution. In these cases, I'm always more shocked by the enablers, rationalizers, and apologists, rather than the monster himself. Whom I instantly dismiss as a monster.
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« Reply #154 on: May 19, 2015, 12:21:01 PM »

Just assume the absolute worst, then still proceed with caution. In these cases, I'm always more shocked by the enablers, rationalizers, and apologists, rather than the monster himself. Whom I instantly dismiss as a monster.

I know what you mean as a general. Just when you think you've seen it all, some crazy little culture people have made will spring into awareness.

TU, were you quickly able to know who was who in it, or did you find yourself going back to try and pick up pieces?
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« Reply #155 on: May 19, 2015, 01:16:26 PM »

I know what you mean as a general. Just when you think you've seen it all, some crazy little culture people have made will spring into awareness.

TU, were you quickly able to know who was who in it, or did you find yourself going back to try and pick up pieces?

No, it took a while. He certainly drug it out some. And then there are all the names you still have to keep in order. A few generations worth of two large families.
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« Reply #156 on: May 19, 2015, 01:26:15 PM »

No, it took a while. He certainly drug it out some. And then there are all the names you still have to keep in order. A few generations worth of two large families.

Yeah, I thought so. So many documentaries become immediately cluttered, when a simple introduction would have minimized it. I hope nobody gives up on it because of that.
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« Reply #157 on: May 21, 2015, 09:12:11 AM »

Louis Theroux looks carefully at a situation to find the most effective way to stir the bullshit, which sometimes makes his documentaries pretty borderline (to me), but he's SO good at it, it's tough not to watch...

This is about the Westboro Baptist Church. I actually found myself understanding their POV through this (not necessarily agreeing with it, but it became less mystifying to me):

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pxE6_VY8aM" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pxE6_VY8aM</a>

Written by Louis Theroux, shortly after the death of Fred Phelps:

*

Pastor Fred Phelps is gone, called to glory if you believe the teachings of his hate-spewing ministry, the Westboro Baptist Church. To me it seems more likely that his remains are mouldering away somewhere, obeying the laws of physics and biology. But, either way, it seems an appropriate moment to reflect on the man and his legacy.

I had some history with "Gramps", as his family and followers liked to call him. I made two documentaries about his church for the BBC: The Most Hated Family In America in 2006 and America's Most Hated Family in Crisis in 2010. In all, I suppose I spent about a month with the members of the WBC, trying to figure out what induces them to dedicate their every spare moment when they aren't holding down respectable jobs as lawyers, correctional officers or salespeople in their hometown of Topeka, Kansas to flying around the country, standing as close to funeral-goers as they are legally allowed and waving hate-filled placards with slogans such as "Thank God for Dead Soldiers", "Fags Eat Poop", and, of course, "God Hates Fags". They became notorious for picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the WBC teachings, the soldiers were being punished for fighting for a nation doomed in the eyes of God for its tolerance of homosexuality.

Their main scriptural inspiration is the passage in Leviticus that mandates the death penalty for gay sex ("Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is an abomination") though, for some reason, the adjacent verses, which proscribe astrology in similar terms, never seem to excite the WBC quite so much. Not to mention that Christ had nothing to say on the subject of gay sex or shouting at funerals and plenty to say about kindness and humility.

The WBC has tended to be a family affair, overwhelmingly made up of Gramps' lineal descendants and their spouses. They live in suburban Topeka, in a collection of houses with connected gardens, which they call Zion. Gramps was the prime mover behind the practices of the church. He founded it when the idea of abominating sodomites was mainstream in American Christian circles. In some respects, it was the times that changed, leaving the WBC behind in their dogged adherence to old-style fire-and-brimstone Bible-thumping. But it's also the case that homosexuality seems to have been an obsession with Pastor Phelps.

According to legend, the WBC inaugurated their anti-gay pickets when a Topeka park became a cruising ground in the 1980s. The Phelps decided to make signs and demonstrate against the practice. The WBC doctrine evolved into a belief that the whole of America was fallen and damned in God's eyes, as was anyone who fought under the US flag or, indeed, who wasn't a member of the Westboro Baptist Church. We are all either "fags" or "fag enablers" you, me, Desmond Tutu, Princess Di, Donald Rumsfeld, Billy Graham, Liz Taylor though possibly not Robert Mugabe: Gramps had a soft spot for him. An eternity in hell is the fate of anyone who doesn't get baptised into the WBC and travel the country waving hate-filled placards at political events, colleges and places associated even in the most tortuously oblique way with tolerance of homosexuality.

While I was with them, they had a regular local picket of a hardware store that sold Swedish vacuum cleaners. The Swedish government had imprisoned a pastor for homophobic preaching, and for the WBC that made the store a legitimate target for a ritualised Biblical smackdown. For the newcomer, these pickets were bizarre, not simply because of the venom of the signs, but also because they clashed with the banality of the family interaction. For the Phelpses, it was another day at the office there was a water-cooler ambience of chit-chat. Meanwhile, everyone, even the youngest child, was carrying placards saying: "Thank God for 9/11", "Your Pastor is a Whore" and "Fag Sweden".

There is no question that their caravan of religious bigotry has made life miserable for thousands of people, many of them vulnerable mourners hoping to pay tribute to recently departed loved ones. Among their proposed picketing targets was the funeral of young Amish children who had been shot by a deranged gunman. In the tortured logic of the WBC, those kids died because their parents weren't out holding pickets denouncing homosexuality. In the end, the WBC called off the event only after they were promised airtime on a local radio station, effectively holding the community to ransom.

But the WBC also made life miserable for themselves and inflicted a distorted and poisonous view of the world on the youngest members of their own family, holding over their heads the threat that any deviation or failure of commitment (not going to a picket or socialising with outsiders) would result in a lifetime of banishment. Ex-members of whom there are quite a few can have no contact with the church.

Given their eagerness to court controversy, it's not surprising that there are misapprehensions about the WBC. Unlike hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, the WBC members never claim to hate gay people themselves, only that God does. I'm pretty sure there was at least one gay man in the congregation of the WBC. Even on the pickets, the Phelps family members could be civil. For most of the Phelpses, the hostility they expressed was a role that they enacted, dictated by a doctrine they had imbibed from their church leader and paterfamilias. You can find videos on YouTube of counter-demonstrators having cordial chats with Phelps picketers. I don't doubt that, if you knocked on the door of one of the second generation of the family, said you had some questions about Jesus, they'd let you in and maybe offer you a glass of water. Pastor Phelps was a different story: he was a hater by instinct.

I'm proud to say he took against me from the moment we met. I asked him how many children he had. He disliked this question I think he found me trivial. The interview was cut short. Over subsequent days, we continued filming but I hardly saw him. I had the feeling he was hiding from me. We eventually crossed paths again, in church one Sunday after his sermon on the subject of America's coming tribulations, in which he bellowed: "You're going to eat your babies!" One-to-one, Gramps still had the remnants of a folksy, plainspoken charm, but underneath was a bitter contempt for humanity in general and me specifically. I asked him how he could possibly know that the WBC members were the only people bound for heaven. "I can't talk to you you're just too dumb," he said. It seemed that I was a hellbound sinner. Well, at least I was in good company.

I've heard people speculate that Phelps had repressed gay leanings or that perhaps he was sexually assaulted when he was young, leading to a lasting animosity to homosexuality. Personally, I doubt it. I suspect he had a lasting dislike of the military, which partly explains the picketing of funerals. But there may be no simple explanation for his behaviour. He was just an angry, bigoted man who thrived on conflict. There are credible reports from his disaffected offspring (four of his 13 children left the church) that he was physically abusive to his wife, Marge; he was violent to his children and had an intermittent problem with pills. He was also a lawyer and won some civil-rights cases, receiving an award from the NAACP. But he liked going against the grain.

The members of the WBC like being attacked for their activities. They thrive on the presence of counter-demonstrators the patriotic bikers who would sometimes turn up and rev their engines to drown out the WBC's songs at military funerals and also the students who turned out in droves to sing and register their dissent when the WBC held pickets near their campus. For the church, this meant they were getting a reaction and they would quote Bible verses to the effect that being hated by the world was a sign of godliness. Indifference was harder for them to deal with, although they have faced plenty of that as well without being much deterred.

It has been reported that Pastor Phelps had been "excommunicated" from his own church before he died (probably this doesn't mean much more than being prevented from preaching; I doubt he was out wandering the streets). In 2010 I heard a similar rumour. Then, the word was that Gramps was panicking about a multimillion-dollar lawsuit brought against the church by the family of a dead soldier whose funeral they had picketed. (The WBC won the case on appeal.) The rest of the church viewed Gramps' failure of nerve as evidence of lack of faith in God's plan and they put him on the naughty pew for a time-out.

The truth is, despite being its founder and main preacher, Gramps had been a marginal figure within the WBC for some years. When I made my documentaries, the dominant force was Fred's daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, a gifted organiser who could sling religious obloquy while holding four separate placards and wearing a bandana with a message of religious hate in a different context, it would have been impressive. In fact, underneath her programming, and despite all the pain she inflicted in the name of her religion, she is basically a kind person.

But my sense is that Shirley has been pushed aside by an axis of WBC men, among them her brothers, Tim and Jonathan, and also the WBC convert Steve Drain, with Steve possibly in the driving seat. This is speculation on my part, but it struck me when I spent time among the WBC members that Steve was the most likely to take over the church. Steve had originally come to the WBC to make a documentary (called Hatemongers) and ended up moving in and bringing his wife and two daughters from Florida. It was striking that he too called Pastor Phelps "Gramps". He had become disconnected from his own parents and found a surrogate family in the Phelps clan. Steve is an intelligent man but arrogant. In personality, he is closer to Pastor Phelps than any of Gramps' natural children. I met and interviewed all three of Pastor Phelps' sons who remain in the church: they all have the slight air of being survivors of an abusive upbringing.

Where the WBC goes from here is anybody's guess. I haven't been following its doings as closely in recent years. Evidently they have attracted new members from outside the family. A few years ago there was news that a US marine and his family had been baptised into the church. Just as striking was the report that a British man had moved to Topeka from England, joined the church and married Jael Phelps. A few weeks ago I found a photo on Twitter of Jael at a picket holding a tiny baby. In its abundant procreation, the family has a guaranteed supply of future recruits.

I don't expect huge changes with Gramps' death. The church has always operated according to the dynamics of a large family rather than a cult. Cults don't typically excommunicate their charismatic leaders. Families do: they put their ageing parents in a granny annex and take away the keys to the car. Maybe, as with other families, the bereavement will bring them together. In another context, that might be a comforting thought. In this case one rather wishes that the second generation would continue to feud and fragment and perhaps in the process moderate their way of thinking and get in touch with some of the apostate children they no longer see.

The more chilling thought is a backward-looking one, of how one man's legacy is likely to continue. Gramps' offspring, and their offspring, have been raised to believe that abuse is kindness. The natural bonds of family have been braided into this twisted thinking so that children who love their parents and siblings can't separate those feelings from their sense of obligation to the church and its creed. And when they leave they also take with them the nagging guilt and fear that haven't just lost a family: they have lost their only chance of salvation.







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Jack T. Cross
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« Reply #158 on: May 21, 2015, 09:39:35 AM »

BTW, a lot of people take this approach in communication with the WBC. But unless your aim is to stir shit, not sure what good it is:

Quote
I'm proud to say he took against me from the moment we met.

If you're trying to get somewhere, it doesn't sound too effective.
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« Reply #159 on: May 21, 2015, 12:43:52 PM »

Never understood why those bikers or military comrades didn't attempt physical harm at the funerals. Couldn't imagine being faced with that while burying a beloved serviceman.
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« Reply #160 on: May 21, 2015, 01:04:41 PM »

Never understood why those bikers or military comrades didn't attempt physical harm at the funerals. Couldn't imagine being faced with that while burying a beloved serviceman.

They are actually out of sensory range, from what I understand. They can't be seen/heard by the mourners.

Their stand is that you can't restrict the ability to say things based on some possibility that feelings may be getting bent. (But if you look at Alito's response to it, you'll see how quickly that can disappear. I think JPS said he would've taken a stand with Alito on that, too, as a matter of fact. And who knows how many others feel the same. So...)
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« Reply #161 on: May 21, 2015, 01:09:40 PM »

Documentary about the MOVE standoff / fire in Philadelphia during the mid 1980's, and the subsequent hearings into the plannings and reasoning behind it. The first third moves slowly, but the other 2/3 are quite good -


<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBnoHFsZHkU" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBnoHFsZHkU</a>.

Edit - Youtube took it down, It was called "Let the Fire Burn" if you want to see it.
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Jack T. Cross
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« Reply #162 on: May 21, 2015, 01:18:08 PM »

Documentary about the MOVE standoff / fire in Philadelphia during the mid 1980's, and the subsequent hearings into the plannings and reasoning behind it. The first third moves slowly, but the other 2/3 are quite good -


<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBnoHFsZHkU" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBnoHFsZHkU</a>.

I remember hearing about this one (the story).

From what I understand, they were a back-to-nature group of dreadlocked blacks living in Philly (and possibly with others elsewhere). Many used the last name Africa.

Cops went after them for some reason, and I believe ended up burning down an entire residential block.
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« Reply #163 on: May 21, 2015, 03:35:16 PM »

They are actually out of sensory range, from what I understand. They can't be seen/heard by the mourners.

Their stand is that you can't restrict the ability to say things based on some possibility that feelings may be getting bent. (But if you look at Alito's response to it, you'll see how quickly that can disappear. I think JPS said he would've taken a stand with Alito on that, too, as a matter of fact. And who knows how many others feel the same. So...)

Btw, this was personally handled by Fred's daughter, Marge (you don't hear as much from her as the rest). She is probably the sharpest of the bunch (which says a lot, when you look at most of the rest - including and especially the converts, like Steve Drain and his family). She is very interesting to listen to, and has a way about her that doesn't involve the angry-schtick of her sister (Shirley), her dad, Steve Drain, etc.

Can't imagine why they haven't made her the spokesperson for them.
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« Reply #164 on: May 22, 2015, 04:01:21 AM »

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/the-man-who-saved-the-world-watch-the-full-episode/
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« Reply #165 on: May 27, 2015, 04:51:29 AM »

https://vimeo.com/91583460
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« Reply #166 on: May 28, 2015, 01:40:03 PM »

Not the most professional documentary in terms of production, but enjoyable if you like to people watch, and have a thing for crime documentaries. It covers Ny from the 70's - mid 1990's pretty well, with an eye toward street level stuff -

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TJrsJkzwZ0" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TJrsJkzwZ0</a>.
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« Reply #167 on: May 28, 2015, 09:15:37 PM »

Short documentary from the late 1980's about Hong Kong's fabled Kowloon City district which was free from government oversight for much of post WWII - early 90's period. It became home to many of the area's poor, various criminals, and clandestine manufacturing groups. Very interesting watch, if even simply because it seems quite foreign to most western eyes -


<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lby9P3ms11w" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lby9P3ms11w</a>.

In 4 parts that run in sequence, with decent English subtitles.
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« Reply #168 on: May 30, 2015, 02:12:31 PM »

Hookers on Davie . A look at the lives of various prostitutes, poor, and street people that live on Davie street in Vancouver, Canada, which seems to be similar NYC's Time Square area. A little slow in parts, but interesting, as many times we don't get to see that part of life in Canada -

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3foUxsqAPE" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3foUxsqAPE</a>.

You can pair it with Whistling Smith, a documentary on Bernie "whistling" Smith, a legendary old school cop that patrolled some of the rougher areas of Vancouver during that time too. He passed away a few years ago -

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kGSJ85GlzQ" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kGSJ85GlzQ</a>.
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« Reply #169 on: May 31, 2015, 08:34:04 AM »

Louis Theroux looks at crime in the big city of Lagos, Nigeria, Africa:

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOEZufmetec" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOEZufmetec</a>

Another look at a society from hell. But unlike Johannesburg S.A., this place has stayed pretty dry of wealth. So the scenes don't include skyscraper takeovers with big-buck private police getting involved, etc.

Here, a structure exists to bring up people that can successfully control others - through force or some type of loyal respect. That's the "Area Boy" system. All things leading to hard value in a particular area will be seen to by such a person, and he answers upward in the chain.

The "kingpin" and his guards can sometimes be found in the streets, performing a ritual that has him use a wad of cash to draw a huge crowd of street youth, to see who will be the one to walk with it. That's how recruitment is done.

Some other madcap shit thrown in, too. There's a fucking nitwit ex-military man (with legal authority) who throws people in jail on Saturdays if they're not cleaning. Hahaha. Yes, he goose-steps through the streets ordering people arrested because they're daring to sit down, etc., when he wants them to be cleaning. Some unexepected humor, to say the least.

A good one. Glad I moved it off the watchlist again.
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« Reply #170 on: June 01, 2015, 12:39:12 PM »

Oh, assumed your post was a summary.

Without giving much away, astonishing how the brain sometimes responds to unimaginable abuse. Please give your thoughts on the hospital visit after viewing.

Yeah, TU. That was a bit much to see. But I guess when it comes down to it, love is that strong. So as sick as the whole thing is, the fact that those women didn't turn their backs on him may be the one thing that could have ever caused him to feel remorse for what he'd done. I really can't imagine how else to view it. Not sure how the (now adult) victims could be stopped from showing affection toward him if that's how they want to act. It seems the documentary-man should have pursued that line with them, though, instead of leaving such a major unresolved issue.

Good catch on that. Because that scene is the one that raises all the big questions.
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« Reply #171 on: June 01, 2015, 12:44:12 PM »

I was wrong about Philadelphia. It's actually pretty straightforward.

Really cruddy scenes throughout the whole thing, etc. (But if you'd like to see an episode of Cops with Louis Theroux in the middle of it all, this is it. Not a bad watch.)

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tei_Jv80ibQ" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tei_Jv80ibQ</a>

Fixed
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« Reply #172 on: June 01, 2015, 12:59:10 PM »

On MOVE - Philadelphia:

Quote
On May 13, 1985, after complaints from neighbors, as well as indictments of numerous MOVE members for crimes including parole violation, contempt of court, illegal possession of firearms, and making terrorist threats, the Philadelphia Police Department attempted to clear MOVE Headquarters at 6221 Osage Avenue and arrest the indicted MOVE members. This led to an armed standoff with police. The police lobbed tear gas canisters at the building. MOVE members fired at the police, and the police returned fire with semiautomatic weapons. A Pennsylvania State Police helicopter then dropped two one-pound bombs made of FBI-supplied water gel explosive, a dynamite substitute, targeting a fortified, bunker-like cubicle on the roof of the house. The resulting fire ignited a massive blaze that eventually destroyed approximately 60 houses nearby. Eleven people, including John Africa, five other adults and five children, died in the resulting fire. Ramona Africa, one of the two survivors, claimed that police fired at those trying to escape the burning house, while the police stated that MOVE members had been firing at police.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eHpRjxk7N4" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eHpRjxk7N4</a>

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« Reply #173 on: June 01, 2015, 01:12:35 PM »

Yeah, TU. That was a bit much to see. But I guess when it comes down to it, love is that strong. So as sick as the whole thing is, the fact that those women didn't turn their backs on him may be the one thing that could have ever caused him to feel remorse for what he'd done. I really can't imagine how else to view it. Not sure how the (now adult) victims could be stopped from showing affection toward him if that's how they want to act. It seems the documentary-man should have pursued that line with them, though, instead of leaving such a major unresolved issue.

Good catch on that. Because that scene is the one that raises all the big questions.

I agree, the grandson was fearless confronting this monster's past, and he got the entire family to open up about what happened; so why not ask them to explain their continued affection. Only one or two stood outside the room refusing to enter.

And at the funeral, the one drunk daughter went off on him. But she was also in there giving him hugs and kisses at the hospital, right? Crazy as fuck.
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« Reply #174 on: June 01, 2015, 02:08:43 PM »

I agree, the grandson was fearless confronting this monster's past, and he got the entire family to open up about what happened; so why not ask them to explain their continued affection. Only one or two stood outside the room, refusing to enter.

Yes, he should have put some time on that. It had/has the potential to really sink into the mind, which should be his aim. In fact, once he realized how that particular footage was playing out, he should have felt obligated to pursue a line with each of the women (in a different environment, but as shortly after as possible). Instead, he raised some almost-shocking questions which went unanswered.

Quote
And at the funeral, the one drunk daughter went off on him. But she was also in there giving him hugs and kisses at the hospital, right? Crazy as fuck.

That funeral scene was so strange. It was as close to funny as it gets, while still remaining inappropriate for humor.

All around, the guy did a good job. He didn't come anywhere near getting the full potential from the story, obviously - but he performed some very important work that needed to be done. I don't think anyone can deny that.
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