Saturday, September 16, 2017

Scientology: The Ultimate Failure

Scientology: The Ultimate Failure

            So remember when South Park made that episode making fun of Scientology? That was fun, wasn’t it? Turns out that the Church of Scientology is still a thing though, and it’s up to Leah Remini (a former member of said “Church” [Yes I prissy quoted that]) to point out all the absolutely abhorrent things that Scientology makes its bread and butter off of.
Leah Remini, producer and host of Scientology and the Aftermath

            For this particular docu-review, I’ll be looking at the second episode of the second season of Leah Remini’s Scientology and the Aftermath. This particular episode deals with the failure of Scientology to meet the key requirement of a religion to its followers. But what might that point be?
            Leaving behind the theological questions and looking at religion purely in a practical light, the main goal of any faith is to provide for its people a sense of spiritual and emotional fulfillment. And yet, as Remini points out in her entire series, this couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Scientology preys on the weak and the desperate, using them as cash cows, forced labor, and all but mind-wiping them to obey their doctrine.
            And that’s the purpose of Remini’s docu-series: point out the evils of Scientology to an audience that might not be wholly familiar with the Church, while also exposing these out-and-out evil actions to any who will listen. It’s by reaching out to this audience, and by putting forward the people who were most affected by Scientology (such as Remini herself, or her guests who are usually former members of the Church) that the docu-series establishes the weight of its purpose; this isn’t about cold hard facts or a few trumped up statistics, but rather it’s about lives that have been affected—in some cases destroyed—by a Church that to this day receives tax exemption as a religion.
            This. Is. Stupid.
            So while we’re on the topic and I’m good and steaming about this betrayal of religious, moral, and ethical principle in the pursuit of that tasty hard stacks’a’cash, let’s look at some fun facts I found on scientology:
o   L. Ron Hubbard, the science-fiction (cause of course he was) writer of Scientology has been awarded three Guinness Book of World Records entries for his Dianetics.
o   Despite claims of growth by the Church-run magazine Freedom, only 25,000 Americans claim to be scientologists.
o   The average cost of Scientology reaches anywhere from $30,000 to $128,000, depending on how deep into this rabbit hole you want to go.
o   Claims of abuse by the church range from claims of rape (which they covered up), child labor violation, human rights violations, and spurious law suits.
o   Scientologists do not believe in or allow members to seek psychological help.

            Leah Remini is a brave woman for taking a stand against the Church like she has, but it hasn’t been without consequence. Not only has the church threatened legal action against her, but have dedicated entire websites to destroying her credibility and that of her co-hosts in a practice known as “Fair Game” by the Church. Yet her ability to stand up and tell the truth despite the threats of petty, morally-reprehensible thugs speaks volume to both her own character and the value of this docu-series.
            Sure, one could argue that much of the arguments presented rely on eye-witness testimony of former members, or that there’s a fair amount of potentially manipulative emotional material, but in this blogger’s honest, humble opinion, I don’t see that as being the case. Pathos is not a sign of a poor argument; rather, it is a key component to show the emotional turmoil that these people suffer through for their poor choice in putting faith in these money-hunger monsters.
            Leah Remini’s docu-series is a must watch for anyone interested in the topic of Scientology and the potential abuse of religion. It gets my highest rating of 5/5 tickets. If you have the time, go see it. You won’t be disappointed.

            Oh, and if some Church official should see this, and get their knickers in a twist over my language?


That is all. Have a good day, and stay beautiful, readers!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Living Small - Tiny House Documentary

Living Small – Tiny House Documentary
            Imagine trying to fit all your belongings, your whole life, in a house that is 8 x 20 feet on top of a trailer bed. That is exactly what it is like living in a tiny house. Tiny houses are defined as spaces between 100 and 400 square feet. Living Small – Tiny House Documentary highlights the tiny house movement and follows an undergraduate student, Anderson Page as he races to build a tiny house for his senior thesis. The video also explores the tiny house movement by interviewing designers and people who live in their own tiny houses. The film discusses the environmental and monetary benefits of downsizing and living a more modest life. After watching this film, I pictured living in my own tiny house surrounded by trees, mountains, and the colors of fall. Living Small – Tiny House Documentary shows the tiny house movement through personal testimonies and Anderson Page’s building journey to inform and educate people on the benefits of living small.
          

  The tiny house movement has gained more traction in the last couple of years as well as gaining widespread media coverage. The documentary was filmed in 2014 which is the same year FYI channel showed their television program Tiny House Nation hosted by John Weisbarth and Zack Giffin who search the Nation to find creative small spaces. Around that time HGTV released its show, Tiny House Hunters. People were especially interested in finding a more economical and flexible housing situation after the United States mortgage crisis from 2007-2010. The fear during that period made many people reconsider their living situations. Another thing that contributes to the tiny house movement that was mentioned in the documentary, is younger generations, in general, are more inclined to move around and avoid the traditional housing expectations. The documentary featured beautiful scenery with quaint house designs to encourage this idea of traveling the country in your own house with only the things you need.

            The people highlighted in this documentary fell into one or more of three categories – they were either younger, environmentally conscious, or interested in downsizing. Those tend to be the people who are intrigued with the idea of tiny houses, and that is the audience that they were trying to appeal to – the people who are interested in making a change. The director shows people who are building or have built their own living spaces in hopes to show others that it is possible. The film specifically focuses on designing and building to appeal to that audience. In this case, I don’t think the target audience is that far off from the actual audience watching this documentary. Where I think the two audiences differ is some of the actual audience might just be interested in the concept of tiny houses but not in the building and designing. Also, part of their actual audience would probably never seriously consider living in a tiny house.

            Throughout the film, it gives statistics concerning past and current housing practices. The statistics and the interviews with people who are involved in the tiny house movement are meant to inform the potential audience of tiny houses and the benefits that come with living in them. Another issue raised in the film is the lack of areas for people living in tiny houses to park their trailer since they do not fit into standard housing criteria. It sends a message that part of the documentary’s purpose was using this to educate people on the difficulty people are facing from local officials to live in their own homes. The film uses real stories to inspire emotions and to create awareness of the movement.

            This story is portrayed by interviews and statistics flashed on the screen. There is hardly any voice-overs and the director’s voice is never heard. The director is Stephen Hewitt, and he is an MFA student at Emerson College. There is little to no information about him or his film career available. The lack of information makes it hard to determine his stance on certain issues outside of what is covered in the film. Based on how tiny houses are portrayed in the film, and the people who live in them, it is fairly safe to say Hewitt is intrigued with the idea of tiny houses and most likely support them for the benefits they have on the environment and the freedom they give their inhabitants.

            Living Small – Tiny House Documentary focuses on the uniqueness of living in such a small space and seeks to give others an appreciation of tiny houses. The director uses personal stories from a wide variety of people such as those who design, build, and live in tiny houses to add credibility to their portrayal of the movement going on all around the country. Following Anderson Page through his journey to build a tiny house from the ground up showed the determination and the skill that goes into building one’s living space. This documentary beautifully portrayed the tiny house movement and makes people consider whether bigger is really better. 

  

The True Cost Documentary Review

The True Cost documentary, directed by Andrew Morgan, is a film created to inform Americans about the cost of clothing consumption. It educates viewers through interviews of sweatshop workers, footage of landfills in third-world countries, and interviews with environmentalists. The intended audience is Americans of all ages; it seeks to convince people that there are severe repercussions of disposable fashion. The True Cost did not reach a large-scale audience- it only was nominated for the Environmental Media Awards in 2015 but did not win the award. However, the film did successfully raise awareness about the danger of Fast Fashion and the need for change in the garment industry to a small-scale audience.

            People like to watch interesting documentaries on Netflix, right? However, teenagers typically do not seek spending a casual night-in to watch a documentary that will heavily convict them to make a major life change. The True Cost addresses the issues of slave labor, pollution, and GMO’s all relating to the fashion industry. So although the message is serious, the director, Andrew Morgan, believes it is important for Americans to learn about the impact of clothing consumption.
After learning about the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013, Morgan became curious about how American clothing is made. After reading the article about the factory collapse, he began to uncover the hidden truths about the fashion industry and sweatshops. Morgan finds these issues relevant because Rana Plaza is declared as the greatest fashion disaster in history. He finds that clothing consumption has upped 500% in the last two decades and garments are the world’s second largest polluter; the damage of the fashion industry makes the film relevant to Americans more than ever.

Because the film educates viewers about GMO’s, fair trade, sweatshops, and garment pollution, its intended audience is American women and men of all ages. While it may seem as though The True Cost is intended for careless Americans, the information applies to anyone who buys new clothing. Because people of all ages consume clothing, the audience is widespread and applies to many different people. Sadly, because many are unaware about how clothing is produced, the documentary is not a hot topic. The film is not extremely popular because the concepts are very new to American society to think about where clothes come from.
The purpose of The True Cost documentary is to explore the negative impact that clothing has on our world. Morgan brings to light the horrific truth that women, particularly in India, are being mistreated in factories producing western brand clothing. The film argues that the clothing industry disregards sustainability of the environment and that factory workers and farmers are treated inhumanely.
What is the cost of Fast Fashion? Morgan indicates it is pollution, death, disease, and addiction to consuming more clothing. He takes the position that purchasing clothing is more of a moral issue than we realize, and that consumers have the power to change the direction of the garment industry. The purpose of the film is to educate Americans about the treatment of garment workers, how clothing is made, mass media, consumerism, textile pollution, and pesticide contamination. It is ultimately made to highlight the detrimental cost of high-demand fashion production and consumption for people and the environment.

The point of view of The True Cost is fairly balanced. Although the director and producer are men, two of the executive producers are women along with two male producers and a female producer. The perspectives include both genders and most of the people behind the camera are journalists, writers, and environmentalists. It is credible because several interviewees are fashion designers, factory workers and owners, CEO’s, cotton farmers etc. Although Morgan does not have experience with the fashion industry prior to making the film, he traveled to 13 countries to educate himself. The True Cost seems to be liberal-biased because global capitalism is addressed as a damaged system and is acknowledged as the source of the issues addressed in the documentary.
While the concept of the film is factual and informative, it could be considered a problem that the statistics do not have traceable sources. Although it covers many issues, it does not give a clear solution to the problem. The viewers are encouraged to revolutionize the fashion industry by changing purchasing choices, but it is also implied that if global capitalism stays structured in its original form, no real changes will be significant. While global capitalism is briefly mentioned as the source of the problem, the viewer is never told how capitalism should be adjusted- and how it would make a difference. The vague solutions make it unclear what Morgan wants Americans to do with this newfound information about the fashion industry. Purchase Fair Trade? Buy secondhand? Leave it to the Politicians to change capitalism? The viewer is left wondering what the next step should be.

There are several reasons I believe The True Cost documentary is effective, but there are a few weaknesses in the film as well. The first reason it is effective is because it has changed the way I purchase clothing and view people. It seems that Morgan wants viewers to see workers in the third-world countries, like Shima, and realize that they are being treated horribly for the sake of American fashion, and we should not stand by and let it continue. Since learning about these disturbing facts, I have stopped purchasing through unethical clothing companies. The second reason that it is effective is because it exhibits diverse people and ethnic groups featured in the documentary and the filmmakers are also a diverse group. Lastly, The True Cost is effective because it shows the current cost of Fast Fashion and explains the severity of the problem. There are minor weaknesses in the film, but it is an overall successful documentary. Although Morgan's film does not provide a long-term solution or plan to revolutionize the fashion industry, he begins the necessary dialogue that will hopefully lead to a solution. 

Unlocking Memories Through the Power of Music

Over five million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease.

Within the next thirty years, that number could reach as high as sixteen million

As this statistic continues to increase dramatically, more people are realizing that medicating those suffering from Alzheimer’s just doesn’t cut it. It only slaps on the proverbial Band-Aid and causes the patients to lose their sense of self in their drug-induced, nursing home-confined states. In response to this issue, social worker Dan Cohen founded the organization called Music & Memory. Cohen’s goal: to place iPods into the hands of every Alzheimer’s patient in the United States. He believes that music can help affected elders keep their personalities alive, and free their memories from the trap this disease creates.  


In 2014, Cohen teamed up with filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett to create a documentary called Alive Inside. Both Cohen and Rossato-Bennett seek to improve the world we live in through their work—Cohen uses his background in both technology and social work to help seniors, and Rossato-Bennett uses his films to “make life better for all of us.” The two joined forces to create a timely and profound documentary that allows viewers a glimpse of life in a nursing home. This touching film beautifully educates viewers on the benefits of music therapy and inspires them to enact change by bringing music back into the lives of Alzheimer’s patients.

At the time that Alive Inside was released, one in nine individuals over the age of sixty-five had Alzheimer’s. The film ultimately set out to raise awareness and spark conversations about how we can better serve these individuals, but it was also created to highlight Cohen’s struggles to get the proper funding for his vision. The film was most likely intended for rich, higher-ups who could write a hefty donation check. However, with the help of a YouTube clip that went viral, the film actually reached people from all walks of life, from youths who volunteer their time visiting seniors and creating playlists all the way to the Broadway stage with the annual Broadway Alzheimer’s iPod Drive.

The reason this film was so successful was that viewers could see for themselves the dramatic reactions the patients had to hearing their favorite songs. The majority of them went from glassy-eyed stares and little communication to lively expressions, clapping, singing, and even dancing. The film shows an interview with Dr. Oliver Sacks, who explains this phenomenon—he tells of the way certain medications and living conditions can cause patients to retreat into themselves, and how music is the key factor that animates them again, bringing their true selves back to the surface and unlocking the memories that were once thought to be lost.

Alive Inside won the 2014 Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award, and Music & Memory has not only received thousands of iPod and monetary donations, but has also been featured on various media platforms that have raised awareness of the organization. This biggest success of this film, however, is that it reminds us as a society that our elders are still important members of our community, and we should do all that we can to care for them. In a raw and emotional way, this film shows us that instead of sitting back while seniors with Alzheimer’s withdraw into their own inner prisons, we should use whatever means we can to bring life and happiness to them. Music is such an easy and affordable way to do this, yet it is also extremely powerful, in both emotions and memories.


While the film backs up the ideas of music therapy with experts’ opinions and scientific evidence of the cognitive benefits of music, the largest response to the film is an emotional one. Watching as residents receive their music for the first time tugs at viewers’ heartstrings, evoking both smiles and tears. It makes us want to hug our grandparents or dig out our wallets and scream “take my money!"



Yes, the film successfully heightens our understanding of just how powerful music can be, and it opens our hearts to the awareness that we can make a difference, even in something as simple as creating a playlist. 


    


For The Victims And For The Voiceless: An "I Am Jane Doe" Review


As I searched for a documentary worthy of writing about, I stumbled across the silent silhouette of I Am Jane Doe. I wasn’t going to just write about anything. I had to use a documentary that impacted me—something worthwhile. Well, spoiler alert, I Am Jane Doe is most worthwhile. It is worth all the ugly outrage that it instills with a single view. This is a documentary directed by the award-winning filmmaker, Mary Mazzio.

The film is a perplexing and horrifying account of the lives of three young girls who were sold for sex through an Internet domain called Backpage.com. As viewers take in the sickening statistics that are portrayed throughout the film, they also follow a direct timeline of the long and wearisome road these courageous young girls traveled to make sure that Backpage.com would put an end (once and for all) to their nasty and severe tendency toward allowing underage sex trafficking on their website. This documentary doesn’t pose an argument so much as call attention to the vulgarity of the misuse of the Internet in our day and age. I thought the documentary was effective in raising awareness—by way of outrage—in a thoroughly unaware public.

Not only do viewers get to see the timeline of the girls’ intense opposition with corporations, judges, Backpage.com, and a ludicrous law that is exploited (almost as easily as Backpage.com exploits its many underage victims) time and time again, but viewers also get to hear their shame-stuffed testimonies that are always accompanied by their guilt-filled tears. 

The film was released on February 10th, 2017. The environment that the film was released into had barely gotten a break from the intense argument between the victimized girls and the gross old men at Backpage.com. It was on January 10th, 2017, only a month prior to the documentary’s release that the Senate Subcommittee compelled Backpage to testify at a hearing. The first and fifth amendment rights were invoked, and nothing was decided.
One of the last statistics of the documentary states that, “to date, no amendment to Section 230 has been enacted by Congress to prevent websites from hosting child sex ads.” Section 230 holds the one slight legal loophole that has been protecting the villainous faces of this website. It is “a provision of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.” As if the rest of the film isn’t enraging enough, this single line produced almost enough fire in me to march right up to the court myself and make them understand just whom they’re protecting and whom they are neglecting.
John Ducoff bluntly asks, “Do you protect kids from trafficking, or do you profit from their suffering?" These words resonate inside of me, just as I’m sure the writers, producers, and makers of this movie hoped they would resonate with everyone who got a hold of it. I can’t imagine that there is a specific target audience for this film, simply because the most understandable target would be everyone. This is a crime against innocent children! Even some of the most grotesque people out there in the world have enough heart and humanity to protect our children.
Some of which narrate bits and pieces of this documentary. Children who were specifically victims of Backpage.com share their own points of view, and as much as I enjoy playing the devil’s advocate in my writings and arguments, I cannot seem to justify thinking that Backpage.com would have anything better to say than these girls! I’ll argue that while they’re only speaking from their own points of view, they’re at least speaking the truth—an awful truth about the horrors they have had to endure and will have to endure in their minds for the rest of their lives.

That’s why I think that this film will invoke change, no matter how many people view it. No matter how many awards it receives (side-note: due to the recent release of the movie, no awards or nominations could be found, however, you might check out it’s Rotten Tomatoes score) In a perfect world, Backpage.com would consider this documentary, see the pain they’ve caused these people, and do everything they can to repent to and repay them. Even if that weren’t to happen, ideally, an important government worker or two would pick this up and join in the fight. They would become the extra voice that this resilient wind of hopeful change needs.
Perhaps, though, the only people who take the time to watch this documentary are people like me. And perhaps they don’t feel like they can make any change, or set this situation apart in any way from the turmoil that our troubled world insists upon. Well, I’ll say that at least it’s is a start. Those of us who do find rage upon the big screen and behind the curtain of everyday life, those of us who empathize even though we could never truly (and hopefully never have to) understand… we are watching. We are waiting. And perhaps, we are being called to action. Even if that action is just furthering the awareness of the cruelty that should not be allowed to survive this trial.
This documentary incorporates a lot of pathos (in case you couldn't tell judging by my reaction), and rightfully so. It also utilizes ethos and logos in its direct timeline as well as its multitude of quotes and appearances from arguably the most important people in this case. It is a stirring and wrenching documentary, and I guess I can think of no better ending than with this quote from David Boeis: “There’s a question as to what kind of society we’re going to be—whether we’re going to tolerate sexual trafficking in children. That is an affront to everything that we believe.” I’ll ask on behalf of David Boeis, Mary Mazzio, and all the Jane Doe’s out there: “What kind of society are we going to be?”