What makes a great documentary is to learn interesting facts and tidbits about the subject – more information than you ever thought possible.
Two documentaries I saw this year were almost required viewing in my role as a writer as they played at several film festivals I covered.
I really had no interest in seeing the movie about George Takei as I am not a big fan of “Star Trek.” But I am glad I am opened minded because the documentary on him, “To Be Takei,’ is a fun and interesting portrait of a light hearted and proud man who has been through a lot in his life.
You too have the opportunity to see “To Be Takei” as it opens in the Bay Area Friday, Aug. 22.
The movie starts off with Takei and his husband Brad Altman Takei taking a daily walk in the neighborhood. We soon zoom in on their every day life – which includes eating breakfast while a commercial with George plays in the background (they swear it isn’t stage) and making a lot of plans for personal appearances for George – which really takes up a lot of their time.
People not in the know, would think the appearances all have to do with his role as Sulu from “Star Trek.” That’s partially right. But Takei has spent a lot of his life sharing his stories are about his childhood in an internment camp. The horrors he shares about a child imprisoned simply for being Japanese are heartbreaking. From a filmmaking point of view, the scene in which Takei tells his story to many different audiences is one of the best montages ever put to film – narrative or documentary. Director Jennifer M. Kroot must have spent more time on this sequence that any other part of the in film. She has Takei’s speech filmed from start-to-finish, but edits it together from different locations and manages to keep the sound level the same throughout. That short sequence may go unnoticed by many, but it a small example of how this film is elevated in its craftsmanship to be worth seeing for more than its subject.
The subject of George and Brad though is a beautiful tale of love and togetherness and has many tender and remarkable moments of them working and loving together. The movie, like life, is a rollercoaster of feelings and emotions, adding irony and pathos at every turn. Without giving away much, there is one heart wrenching scene when the government decides to make good and apologize for imprisoning Takei and others – and another terrible insulting injustice occurs during this celebration.
“To Be Takei” covers a lot of ground in its short running time and has something for everyone – from people wondering about Takei’s relationship with William Shatner to his proud beginnings about refusing to take an stereotypical Asian roles to his own life story being incorporated into the hopeful Broadway bound musical “Allegiance.”
The movie opens in select cities Aug. 22 and additional theatres Aug. 29. Find it playing near you at www.tobetakei.com.
Oh….if you’re still wondering the other surprisingly informative documentary I saw this year was “Back on Board: Greg Louganis.”