AFTER THE MEAL WAS DONE AND the dishes were washed, the lights would be turned down and the show would begin. Except for dessert, this was my favorite part of family get togethers. The first movie projector I ever saw was at a relative’s house. I cannot remember how young I was when I saw my first home movies, but I know it was before I was in kindergarten. The movie projector would get set up in the living room; opposite of it, my relative would unroll a movie screen that was perched on top of a tripod. All the kids would be sitting on the floor while some of the older relatives squeezed together on the sofa. The other family members would either sit on one of the various chairs that were set up around the room or simply lean up against a solid surface. Every time the movie projector was turned on, I enjoyed hearing the film reel being spooled through the projector because it sounded like the sound I would get when I clipped a playing card to the spokes of my bicycle wheel. With the tick, tick, tick sound steady in the background the first few frames of each movie reel always had what I took to be static; random scratches and lines briefly appearing on the screen before family members would materialize. MY COUSINS AND I WOULD GIGGLE whenever we saw a much younger version of one of our relatives. No matter where or what was being filmed, every reel always had scenes of family members waving at the camera. I discovered that waving usually meant they did not want to be filmed, especially anything that required any physical exertion beyond waving. Then there were some relatives who loved to perform in front of the camera by either singing, dancing, demonstrating a tool, cooking or some other type of activity. To me, I did not care what they did because I was just excited to see a piece of family history. I had this fascination with studying the relatives who had died before I was born. It was one of my ways to find a connection to the past. Not that I wanted to live in the past, I just wanted to see the same things my older relatives had seen. Being able to see a past relative in one of these movies brought life to the photos that we had in our old family photo albums. I can not only appreciate what the subject in this documentary has done throughout his life, I can also relate to it. THROUGHOUT HIS ENTIRE LIFE VAL KILMER (The Doors, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) filmed everything he was doing, even when he was the one being filmed. Directed by first time directors Ting Poo and Leo Scott, this biography was a fascinating study of an actor’s life. Spanning approximately 40 years, I enjoyed the cameos from movie actors such as Kevin Bacon and Marlon Brando. The idea of Val having not only filmed so much of his life, but to have saved all of it was remarkable; but seeing it in contrast to his life now was especially emotional. I felt I was getting a history lesson in multiple subjects and I mean that in a positive way. Seeing a brash young actor at one moment, then realizing the scope of his acting journey as it unfolded in this movie provided a solid base for Val to touch on many subjects which I appreciated. Hearing what he wanted to make a particular scene more authentic gave me new insight into his capabilities and insights. Even if one is not a movie fan, this film provides enough entertainment along with poignant moments for any type of viewer.
3 ½ stars
“Do not drink milk when eating citrus fruit” and “Eat raisins to prevent the growth of cysts” are some of the old sayings I heard growing up. I have no idea where I even heard them; I just remember thinking they were such odd tales to be handed down from generation to generation. In story telling I know when a story is repeated from person to person it can take on a whole new definition. I only trust something that is solid and concrete like my great, great grandfather’s silver wine cup. It is the oldest family heirloom I have in my possession. Like an oversized thimble with filigree style etching across its tarnished finish, I can only imagine what type of man he was since I never met him. That cup is my connection to the country where he was born. My fascination with family history was stoked by this mystical drama, set in New Mexico during the 1940’s. Before I knew this film was the screen adaptation of author Rudolfo Anaya’s novel of the same name, I remember the movie made me feel as if I was being read an old folk tale. The story concerned a young boy who would learn about good and evil forces in the world, when an old medicine woman came to live with his family. Luke Ganalon (The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vincente Fernandez) played the inquisitive boy. The brilliant choice of Miriam Colon (Scarface, Gun Hill Road) as the medicine woman Ultima made this film extra special. The mix of magic, folk lore, family traditions made for an enchanting movie watching experience; despite having a few heavy-handed scenes. Because I find religion to be a personal and private matter, I felt the religious aspects to the story were being foisted on me. As the narrator finished the telling of his story, I found myself wishing I had more living relatives who could tell me about our family history. Part Spanish with English subtitles.
2 3/4 stars