Tuesday, September 21, 2021

2021 CAMDEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL September 16 through September 26 (virtually) Eclectic Arts

2021 Camden International Film Festival


I have been so very honored to take part in several (virtual) film festivals this year. If you had told me back in early 2020 that I would have been credentialed for any film festival, let alone six, I would have straight up laughed at you. Yet, through a chance opportunity, and a lot of hard time consuming work, here we are in 2021 having achieved just that.

If you thought you missed out, you’re in luck. The CIFF virtual film festival is running right now! It goes through this Sunday the 26th so don’t miss out. One of the best parts is that 50% of the virtual pass sales go to the creators themselves through the Filmmaker Solidarity Fund.

Ticket options:

Below are the reviews of the films I’ve watched so far with more coming.


After Antarctica

The first film of the festival for me. “After Antarctica” was a fascinating look at a long time expedition explorer who braved the unpredictable nature of Antarctica in 1989. Some of his team didn’t make it back.

At 75 years young, Will Steger has lived a very unpredictable life. He decides to go down to Antarctica for his last major expedition. That’s right - at 75.

The documentary spends a lot of time discussing the 1989 expedition and everything that happened, right and wrong. There is a ton of footage from this trip that makes it into the film.

My only minor gripe is that I wish there had been more footage from the current expedition. Don’t get me wrong, there is footage. And Will Steger points out how things have changed over the years (climate change being a major factor). But I would have preferred the ratio of old to new footage reversed.

Having said that, “After Antarctica” is still a compelling documentary.

The Real Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin really needs no introduction. However, the man behind the characters certainly does. Known for his legendary character “The Tramp”, many associate that character with Charlie Chaplin as if he actually was “The Tramp”.

Like many comedic geniuses, Charlie Chaplin has a very checkered past. His interest in really young women (late teens) - all the way up to his last marriage where he was decades the senior of his bride, really put him in a bad light. One can talk about how the times were different back then but that’s just excuses in my book. Abortions were also scattered throughout his past with his girlfriends and wives. And his major mood swings were also well evident in the film.

I won’t get into the argument about separating the art from the artist. But, the film “The Real Charlie Chaplin” is an interesting study for a very complex man.

All These Sons

I worked with gang-involved youth in South and West Seattle for over ten years. Until you work hands-on with the demographic that is featured in the film “All These Sons”, it may be hard to relate to what it’s really like.

The film focuses on two men in Chicago trying to teach the future victims or perpetrators of gun violence that there is a better way in life.

The documentary is hard hitting and relevant. We all know that the violence in this country is out of control. And when you’re growing up in the hood - anywhere in America - it seems like there is no other life. I know. I heard it from the young people I worked with for years.

But as community leaders and adults, we have to believe that there is a better way. With the setbacks, the deaths, and the frustration, if you stay the course, your teachings will impact the young people of the future.

Listening To Kenny G

Being from Seattle, I’ve known about Kenny G for decades. I saw him live at the height of his popularity when the Kenny G “Live” album came out.

What I really liked about the film is that it showed both sides - the fans and the detractors. The jazz-heads that can’t stand him and the fans that got married to his music. The dichotomy really makes for an interesting documentary.

Kenny is interviewed throughout the film. He is self-deprecating, hard working, and goal driven. He also comes off a little full of himself at times too but I believe it’s really unintentional. It reminds me of the nerd in class that finishes an assignment first and tells everyone so. They don’t necessarily mean to brag, they are just proud of themselves for finishing the assignment first. They don’t really understand how it might rub some people the wrong way.

There is a great basketball analogy in the film by one of the jazz critics. I won’t paraphrase it here but let’s just say it’s spot on about why jazz heads don’t like Kenny G’s music.

I happen to like Kenny G’s music in moderation. Even at his show back in the day, I could only take so much instrumental music. And holding a note for ten minutes doesn’t impress me, it’s rather annoying, actually.

But at the end of the day, “Listening To Kenny G” is a great documentary by all involved and is worth checking out.


The songs of whales are front and center in this documentary about two marine biologists that have spent years trying to not only decipher the songs of humpback whales but also a means to actually communicate with them.

I understand the scientific need to discover answers to questions that seem to have no answer. One can’t help but wonder though after watching a documentary like this what would have happened if the scientific minds involved (and there are many) dedicated a part (not all) of their time, energy, and resources to helping the human condition.

I love animals as much as the next person but perhaps there is no reason behind the songs of the humpback whales that will unlock new layers of revelation for the human race to understand. Just a random thought.

Citizen Ashe

I love it when I watch a documentary that I didn’t know much about the subject, in this case Arthur Ashe. Sure, I knew he was a talented tennis player but beyond that I really knew nothing more.

“Citizen Ashe” really does a fine job of showing Arthur’s background, his upbringing under his father’s stern supervision, and the many, many obstacles he overcame as an African American tennis pro.

What really stuck with me was how Arthur carried himself. As a social justice activist, as he worked with John McEnroe, and his unwillingness to bend to what others wanted him to be. He was uniquely himself and that is to be commended.

A recommended viewing.


There are many interesting plots in the documentary “Underdog”. The plight of the American farmer. How they manage to work their tales off while dealing with monetary debt overhead pretty much every day.

In this case, we also get to see a man, Doug Butler, pursue his other dream which is to race dogs in Alaska.

The film is a pure documentary where there are not separate interviews with any of the cast. The footage is edited together from what I assume is months of filming (perhaps years). Questions are clearly asked of Doug and the other subjects but it’s during the course of their everyday lives.

Doug is an underdog in more ways than one and it makes for a fascinating film.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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