Thursday , July 18 2024

Anthem Film Festival Review: ‘They Say it Can’t Be Done’ Wins Best Feature Documentary

They Say It Can’t Be Done won Best Documentary Feature, and tied for Audience Choice, at the Anthem Film Festival’s virtual version this year. Like most everything else in the world, Anthem, scheduled to take place in July in Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, had to go virtual. You can still get tickets   and view films online till October 31.


They Say It Can’t Be Done operates on two topical levels at once and, unusually for a documentary, is fun to watch.

Do It Anyway

The film presents arguments for and against regulation and champions the cause of innovators. I enjoyed this, having just previously watched another documentary which was totally one-sided. A film that explores a subject from multiple sides shows respect for the viewer’s intellect.

Director Michael “Oz” Ozias selected people to interview and chose historical examples to provide context. Interviewees included former members of regulatory bodies, people leading efforts to innovate, and people tasked with having to deal with government regulation. He gave historical examples – such as the thalidomide babies and the AIDS epidemic – where regulation helped or hindered.

Do It With Style

Director Michael “Oz” Ozias

Documentaries are known for long sequences of “talking heads.” No matter how intriguing the subject, this tends to get boring. Ozias used several methods to avoid this common documentary pitfall.

Rather than sitting someone down and having them talk into one camera, he used multiple cameras for each interview. Switching to different angles keeps the visually sensitive parts of a viewer’s mind stimulated.

He also cut away during the interviews to shots of processes or places related to the subject under discussion. Ozias interviews a man who received a life-saving artificial organ transplant while the man throws a football around a park.

He also used a special technique he referred to as “Little World.” Many of the cut-aways were to a miniature world – like the village you might build around your model train or under the Christmas tree. Additionally, these models weren’t static. They moved in an amusing stop-motion style.

Miniatures were used to illustrate the film’s points.

My favorite variation on this was stop-motion miniatures watching a video relevant to the story on their tiny computer models.

Do It For Innovators

They Say It Can’t Be Done also explored the pros and cons of the projects the innovators worked on and how these related to regulation.

Wait lists for organ transplants can have thousands of people on them. A group of doctors is creating replacement organs using 3D printers and tissue from the person who needs the transplant. This is such an innovation that the government is having a hard time deciding who should regulate it. (The government rarely seems to ask whether something should be regulated.)

Framework for an artificial ear

Two groups of innovators are dealing with issues involving animal cruelty and food.

The Cell Cultured Meat project takes a cell from, for example, a chicken and uses it to chemically produce artificial meat. The film shows this team eating chicken tenders produced from cells of a chicken that is still walking around the picnic table where they are eating.

Growing mussels below the sea doesn’t deplete resources

Innovators involved in aquaculture harvest kelp and mussels from the ocean. The people interviewed in the film must do this more than three miles from the California shore. They explain that the ocean within three miles of the California shore has 10 different state agencies regulating it. Those agencies have issued no new permits in 22 years.

Do It For Freedom

So, is regulation good or bad? They Say It Can’t Be Done will make you think about this in all kinds of new ways. You can watch the trailer below and find out about screenings and related special events at the film’s website.

Anthem Film Festival and its parent event FreedomFest hope to return to the live world next year. Find information for next year’s events at the Anthem and FreedomFest websites and on Facebook.

About Leo Sopicki

Writer, photographer, graphic artist and technologist. I focus my creative efforts on celebrating the American virtues of self-reliance, individual initiative, volunteerism, tolerance and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.

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