Reel NW


Robert Horton Recommends: More Like "Carts of Darkness"

This is first in a series of posts where film critic Robert Horton recommends other independent films viewers might enjoy if they like what they see on Reel NW.

In Murray Siple's Carts of Darkness, the filmmaker forges bonds with men in Vancouver's homeless population, who collect bottles and cans for deposit money and ride shopping carts down steep suburban hills for the sheer rush of it. The film displays both sympathy and traces of mischief—Siple hasn't left his past as a snowboarder entirely behind. Other movies come to mind, not just because of overlapping subject matter, but because they share a similar sympathy with outsider communities. For instance:

Streetwise (1984). This devastating feature remains a classic of non-fiction filmmaking, a study of adolescent street kids in Seattle whose recourse to drugs and prostitution is in direct proportion to the neglect or abuse they receive from the adults in their world. Filmmakers Martin Bell and Mary Ellen Mark have a clear-eyed gaze that prevents the movie from sentimentalizing its subject, but the results are nevertheless heartbreaking.

Murderball (2005). An exhilarating documentary about the gung-ho participants in wheelchair rugby, known to participants as "murderball." In Carts of Darkness, director Siple talks about his life as a quadriplegic man; this movie has some of his cheeky defiance. My review of Murderball.

Great Speeches from a Dying World (2009, not on DVD yet). Seattle filmmaker Linas Phillips got to know some downtown homeless people, and the profiles here are as intimate as they are sometimes difficult to watch. The film's most remarkable touch is having these hard-luck citizens recite passages from stirring pieces of writing: the words of Lincoln, King, Sojourner Truth, and Shakespeare come pouring out at the most unlikely times. My review of Great Speeches.

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