Thursday, April 16, 2009

One Peace at a Time

Last night's premiere of Turk Pipkin's One Peace at a Time was really interesting. While I did like the film and the topics it covered, it felt like it was all too much. The subjects were all so broad that it was difficult to get a clear sense of the point Pipkin was trying to make. Each individual right presented by the children writing on the blackboard could have been a documentary in and of itself. Instead, we get a brief and broad glimpse of the issue in other countries and not much of an idea of what we can do as citizens to try to help.

What I particularly liked about the film was the editing, at least in the beginning. The introduction was, I thought, fantastic and I really liked the use of transitions. However in the grand scheme of things I think the editing failed in making the film a focused argument. The problems were just too broad and the solutions too big for the audience to really understand or be able to do anything about it. I think the editing could have definitely made Pipkin's points much clearer and focused.

I also liked the film's cinematography. The shots are beautiful and the film as a whole is stunning to watch. Pipkin's journey is amazing to watch however the point of the film isn't supposed to be his journey as much as it is the problems the world is facing. The fact that everything was shot so bright and brilliantly makes the issues that should probably be more sad, easier to watch.

I really did like the film, my main problem with it was really just how it was approached in the editing room because I think that's where the arguments and points got lost. Pipkin's voice over certainly helps out a lot but without it the audience would be completely lost as to what the film is supposed to be about since so much of it is so broad. Each section on the different rights we deserve as human beings was not specific enough for me to think much outside of what I already know about these problems. I think issues could have been narrowed down much much more to make the film's impact that much greater as well.


  1. Agreed. While the film gets points from me for tackling very weighty and serious issues, AND remaining as light-hearted and optimistic as it can be without compromising the subject matter, there are enormous focus issues going on.

    As it progresses, the movie seems to lose any sense of order in terms of how it unfolds. I felt as though I were being subjected to sprawling shotgun blasts of different problems, ideas, and solutions, barely given enough time to process one before I was thrown into another.

    Somewhat paradoxically, the film felt too short AND too long: too short because, as Emilee said, you could spend more than 2 hours discussing each of the several issues tackled and still not have gotten anywhere, too long because by the film's end, the flow of information has taken on a rambling tone, and several opportunities to "wrap it up" have come and gone.

  2. After watching this movie I was more jealous than sad. I feel like Pipkin's life is more exciting and fulfilling than mine ever will be. Sure he spends time examining the problems of the world, but what is Pipkin's story. After the movie was over I didn't want to know more about the issues at hand, but instead, how do I become a man like Pipkin? It's almost like a "making of" this documentary could potentially be more interesting.

    I do like the promotion of service and vounteerism throughout the movie. He's not saying that you have to directly involve yourself in these issues, but helping at a local level can be beneficial to the whole scope of things. The structure of the movie is very upbeat and does not produce a mandate to the audience for them to serve. He just shows how it can be fun and rewarding, and by looks of his experience I believe him.

  3. I agree, he does offer an option for volunteering at a local level, for those who cannot travel around the world and dig a well in Africa. I feel like this option is just tacked on to the rest of the film as a side note. The tag line for the film is "A film about a messed up world...and how we can fix it." I found the film did not really explain how we can fix the problems of the world. If anything, I felt even more overwhelmed about the issues presented and as though I myself cannot do anything about them, because I do not have the money to jetset to third world countries and build a well in Africa.
    The simple tag line presumes the movie will present problems and simple solutions that will inspire people to act. To me, the film seemed like Turk set out on this journey and found so many problems that he felt he had to include all of them.
    True, the world is overwhelming, but in film, the issues presented need to be organized and each explored thoroughly. There were too many characters and competing themes for this to be possible in One Peace. I wanted to know more about each character introduced, but felt as soon as they were presented we were whisked off to another country and another issue. Likewise, the slew of talking head interviews with Nobel Laureates (and Willie Nelson) made me feel as though I could not really get into the film. When the film finally did get to the Willie Nelson interview, I felt as though he was going to give us some true southern advice and the film would end on that note.
    The film truly was a journey for Turk, but I felt this theme grappled with the theme of the certain Rights every human has for attention.
    Overall I really enjoyed the film, but if it had been more concise, I think I would have left the theater more inspired, rather than wondering what a poor college student like me could possibly do to change this "messed up world" we're living in.

  4. I could not agree with more Emilee that the subjects were too broad. The only characters I truly remember other than Turk, were the ladies that owned the shop and the man who opened up the school, only because they had speaking lines and memorable quotes. I felt that the film did not invest any time in actually getting to know any othe individuals. I wanted to see a story about them and not a story about Turk and his journey. I would have liked to see more on how the school went up, he process behind it, the struggles, and the impact it was making. I also felt that the audience tended more to "look on" rather than being active. I cam out of the film thinking, "wow, they have a serious problem over there" rather than "hey, WE have a serious problem." I kept seeing images of life in other countries that was devastated by hunger, genocide, and no healthcare, contrasted with the lifestyle here in a America. It kept giving me a feeling of "their" problem and Im sure other people might have felt the same way. However, it is really a global problem, but the film in my opinion did not represent that too well in my opinion, based on the broadness of topics.

    I too really enjoyed the editing and the cinematography. The shots were just beautiful! And the coverage was incredible. There was just so much to look at. However, I did feel many of the shots were repetitive. Every so often there would be a solo shot of Turk looking into the Sunset, looking out over a lake, petting a cow with the sun in the backgroud, or even just him on the kayak. It was just a little too much on him. In terms of the length of the film, it could have been much, much shorter. I personally would have ended it after he wrapped up about the problems of the world, and when the all the kids came together and wrote on the chalkboard ar once. But then it continued and continued. Every time he wrapped up and gave a "moral lesson" and made you think it was over, he would then say, "and then I decided to go to Ethiopia..." It was very much Lord of the Rings-esque.

    Lauren makes a valid point about volunteering. It was all a little too big. Sometimes it is the little things that can be done that can help more than anything, but the film was so overpowering in the problems that it was as if there was nothing you really could do. There were so many problems that you had no clue where to start if you wanted to help! It would have been nice to focus on one key issue and find the solutions to that. He said in the film that the energy crisis would solve most of the other problems. If that was the case I wish he would have then focused his time on how we can fix that and find solutions for just that in order to give people a perspective.

    While I enjoyed seeing all of the Nobel Peace Prize winners, I would have like to have seen more people like myself, more of your average person. I kept watching scholarly individuals lecture on the problems, but I wanted to feel as if I mattered just as much. I would have loved to have seen someone completely normal and who could never live up to that status impacting the world. I wanted to see somone of my age and status. Eveyone interviewed kept talking about the world problems being those of the next generation and of their kids. They were all older, established individuals. If the problems are those of my generation, it would have been nice to see people of that generation showing an impact.

    As everyone else, I did enjoy the film, but I did find it could have used to more fine tuning to make it more of an effective film.

  5. Pipkin's One Peace at a Time was a special experience for me, since money I raised in high school went directly to the causes shown up on the film.
    trying to divorce my personal opinions from my critical analysis, I want to focus on two main issues I had with the movie. First is its lack of focus and the second its use of experts.
    Before I jump in, however, I want to credit Turk for the footage he obtained. I thought his connection with the children in the movie was especially cool. He always filmed on their level, and it was evident that he truly cared for the kids and the admired him.
    Even though everyone has commented on One Peace's lack of a cohesive focus and its shallow treatment of each of the problems it covers, I wanted to add a bit of perspective. I saw the original film, Nobelity, and I thought it was a lot more effective in considering serious topics completely - in Nobelity a Nobel laureate each talked in depth about a world problem and a solution for it. In One Peace, Pipkin brought up a lot of problems and solutions but didn't let the Do-ers (people running the aid projects, etc.) fully explain themselves and their mission like the stars f Nobelity did. I wish Pipkin would have focused in letting the projects speak for themselves rather them covering them in a brochure-esqu fashion.
    Secondly, I wanted to comment on the use of experts. Once again, I thought Nobelity made much better use of its talking heads. One Peace had a few Nobel guys sharing their views, but it didn't seem as cut and dried as in Nobelity. I wish the project leaders would have been given the spots the laureates had in Nobelity - a full opportunity to explain their program and how it was helping. Especially in South America, Pipkin made a passing reference to a program working in the Amazon. After about 60 seconds of rainforest footage, we were zipped away to someplace else. This seemed to be the general rule of the film. A little more focus and depth could have made this an even more inspiring film. Inspiration is, thankfully, something the film has in bunches - I just wish this inspiration was more focused. The "expert" given the biggest time slot was Willie Nelson! Some priority may be out of whack when the ambassador of weed is treated as a universal sage - but hey, this is Austin!

  6. As I was watching the film, I really enjoyed it, both its content and structure. However, as it dragged on and then we discussed it later, it seemed there were a handful of things that could have been done differently or presented more effectively. First off, I love Austin as much as or more than the next guy, but that Willie Nelson segment was ridiculous. It was endearing and interesting, yes, but I feel like it stuck out, was distracting, and obviously confused many of us, as we thought that's where the film was going to end.

    I think this movie was just a little too ambitious. The content is great and everything in the movie deserves time and an audience. However, it was much too much to get all into one film. The best examples would be that there are characters all of us wish had been developed more, but if they had been the film would've been hours longer. The film was loaded enough with the 8 basic rights being a structural guide, but then he got into way too many sub-stories within those rights. The cluster bombs section, for example was very interesting and shocking. However, due to time and focus constraints, that is a topic that got brought up and left partially developed. Some of these stories could have stood to be cut or saved for other films related to the project.

    At first I liked the 8 section style, but after a while it was tiring, and it reminded me of a film I saw last winter, The End of America. It was a book turned film, shot in a lecture style with film and other media mixed in, like An Inconvenient Truth. The author talked about 10 signs that America was becoming like the dictatorships of the early twentieth century. Her presentation was equally tiring as One Peace At A Time because both films tried to pack way too much information into a film length feature; the sections were interesting, but had a lot of information they were shoving at the viewer. You walked away from both feeling helpless

    I think One Peace At A Time would've been better served getting broken into multiple works. The content and interest is there, and you hate to cut some of the things he included just to make it work, so why no just restructure the material to function as a multi-piece feature?

    p.s. Loved all the Austin-based music. And that he's a local filmmaker did give a 'homegrown' feel to the cause, and more tangible and less overwhelming for those of us who may want to help.

  7. What a lofty subject for a single film: how to fix the world. I'm impressed that anyone would even attempt it. While I do see parts that could have been left on the cutting room floor, Turk Pipkin does a far better job with the film than I could ever dream. (This maybe due to his disposable income large enough to travel the world?...)

    I agree with Parker in saying it seemed like a "THEY have a problem" film. One Peace focused way to much put it bluntly... the rich, white people coming in to help the 3rd world country citizens. People are able to help themselves. There could have been more of a focus on people helping them to help themselves. Unfortunately, it seemed like a glorification of the people going in to help than the ones being helped. Because the majority of the protagonists (who actually got interviewed) in One Peace were white it actually came off a little racist. And, frankly, that's never good for a film trying to promote world peace.

    Also, Parker's comment made me laugh out loud: "Every time he wrapped up and gave a 'moral lesson' and made you think it was over, he would then say, "and then I decided to go to Ethiopia..." It was very much Lord of the Rings-esque." So very true.

    P.S. I can't help but share that the entire viewing/discussion of the film I thought Turk's last name was PIMPkin. I wondered why no one else in our always mature class thought that humorous.

    P.P.S. Turk's IMDB page lists him under the "miscellaneous crew" for Judy Tenuta: Un-Butt Plugged in Tex-Ass! (1999). Speechless.