ReFrame 2016: Dear Araucaria & Serving Time

Dear-Araucaria-A4-724x1024While feature-length documentaries can pack a memorable punch, even the short films can leave you reeling. Both ends of the spectrum come with years worth hard work and research, but these short films are masterful in their lean editing techniques, and all without leaving anything meaningful behind.

Dear Araucaria (2015) comes from the David Gelb and Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011) documentary filmmaking school. This film is beautiful from start to finish, and tells its story through interviews and artistic recreations of the subject’s past.

The film revolves around John Graham, better known as Araucaria, who created the cryptic crossword puzzles for The Guardian for 55 years. After a particularly alarming turn of life events, he shares a secret message with his cherished readers in the clues and answers to one of his many puzzles.

Somehow filmmaker Matt Houghton was able to tell a touching and profound story within such a lean time-frame. It’s a marvel to behold and the story will sit with you for some time. I was particularly attracted to the narrative, which stemmed from Graham’s lifelong passion for solving and creating puzzles, and it was a thrill to discover how his work had touched the lives of millions.

What was even more comforting was the fact that his wonderful story had been shared and is continuing to be seen by viewers across the planet.

Serving Time (2014) is one of those feel-good stories that puts a kick in your step. It focuses on a program that takes in previously incarcerated youth and grants them an opportunity to train and work in a culinary environment.

This one in particular is a food truck in New York City. The film focuses on how difficult life is for those who have “gone through the system”, and highlights why programs are necessary to not only keep them out of trouble, but to grant them with responsibility and a job so that they feel like contributing members of society.

It’s a beautifully put together short documentary, but it left me craving more. The issues and people that are introduced have stories that can surely empower a full-length film, and I hope the filmmakers Sana Malik and Sean Liliani take this note to heart and give us something to fill our mind, heart, and soul. This is a wonderful appetizer, for sure.