After a lengthy hiatus caused by the pandemic, Fresno Filmworks is excited to return to in-person showings with our three-film event, Sunday at the Cinema with Fresno Filmworks. We invite you to join us on Sunday, Nov. 20 at Strummer’s in the Tower District (833 E. Fern Ave.) We will open with the documentary “Free Puppies!” at 1:30 p.m., continue with a 3 p.m. showing of “The Justice of Bunny King,” and conclude with our final film, “Subject,” which will start at 5 p.m.
Tickets for each film are $10 for general admission and $8 for students/seniors. They may be purchased online at www.strummersclub.com or at the door.
Here’s our lineup:
‘Free Puppies!’ Highlights the Heroic Fight to Save Dogs
“Free Puppies!” director Samantha Wishman first learned of the efforts of three women known as the “Tri-State Rescue Ladies” when she went to pick up a dog she helped her parents adopt. Wishman was moved by the determination of these women to save animal lives. “The courage of the women the whole time was obviously inspiring to us,” Wishman said. “They were just so strong and relentless and trying to do what they can.”
Southern states face a severe pet overpopulation for myriad reasons, ranging from poverty and lack of access to veterinary care to temperate winters that strays can survive. Rescued animals are given care and either taken to shelters or transported north by a grassroots network of volunteers and nonprofit rescue organizations. The ASPCA alone transported its 200,000th animal to safety in March 2022. Wishman reminds us there is still a crisis in this country. Although many animals were adopted during the pandemic, shelters are still overflowing. “Free Puppies!” is a moving look at the heroic efforts of three women who love animals.
A Struggling Mother Fights for Her Children
This powerful drama focuses on Bunny King, a New Zealand woman recently released from jail who is fighting with a remarkable fierceness to reunite with her children who have been placed in foster homes. Bunny finds herself in a Catch-22 situation: She cannot regain custody of her children without a home. She cannot get a home without a job. She cannot get a job because of her criminal record. She barely gets by washing gridlocked motorists’ windows. The goal of finding a home for herself and her children seems unreachable.
I never found myself questioning Bunny’s past or wondering what offense put her in jail; instead, I fell in love with her spunky, at times abrasive, but also deeply compassionate behavior. Watching her offer kindness to others, when her own situation is so dire, compelled me to believe in Bunny and to cheer on her efforts to regain custody of her children. She promises her daughter a birthday party and through a series of unfortunate circumstances finds herself battling the social services system that will either grant or deny her a life as a mother.
“The Justice of Bunny King” is a deeply human story. It is also messy and challenges the audience to consider their opinions about what defines a good parent.
‘Subject’ Challenges Us to Examine the Ethics of Documentary Filmmaking
Like many of you, I love watching documentary films, yet I rarely stop to consider the potential negative impact of being the subject of a documentary. Consider some of the well-known films examined in the documentary “Subject”: “Hoop Dreams”, “Wolfpack”, “The Square”, “Capturing the Friedmans”. These are critically acclaimed films, yet after they are screened and have garnered awards, what happens to the now-famous film subjects?
Documentary filmmakers curate the stories they tell and based on the interviews in this film it is clear that while some participants enjoy their experiences and relish the opportunity to have their stories told, others feel manipulated and exploited. “Wolfpack” explores the abused Angulo children, who were forced to stay indoors for 14 years before breaking out and exploring Manhattan against the rules set by their father. In “Subject”, their mother discusses the film’s impact on one of her sons who gained international fame.
For many, participating in a documentary can prove dangerous. Once “The Square” was streamed on Netflix, freedom fighter Ahmed Hassan found himself in increasing danger. These are issues that audiences might not consider, but this film questions filmmakers’ responsibility to protect the lives of their subjects.
“Subject” is a must-see film for anyone who enjoys documentaries; in fact, it is almost our responsibility to see it and to then consider the consequences of documentary films we view in the future.
A retired high school English teacher, Cindy Peters Duzi serves on the Filmworks board as venue director. She blogs about current cinema on her INSTAGRAM.