My favorite doc at SXSW this year was Penny Laneof “Confessions of a Good Samaritan,” a fascinating intersection of altruism, empathy, and personal exploration. Lane doesn’t do traditional documentaries, but he’s never included himself in one like he does here. Usually I don’t like filmmakers who become the subject of their movie, but I will make an exception if it includes said director who literally gave part of their body to the production.
Lane decided he wanted to be an altruistic donor, a small group of people who decide to donate body parts, usually a kidney, to a complete stranger. The majority of life-saving organ donations come from relatives and loved ones, but the need DISTANCE more than the supply of viable donors. If everyone walking around with an “extra” kidney donated one? The kidney is no longer needed. Lane decides not only to donate a kidney but to explore the very concept of altruism, and he ends up in some unexpected places.
Without spoiling anything, “Confessions of a Good Samaritan” is not only an encouragement to all of us to try to make a better world. If there were more people THINK about their fellow man as Lane did, we are all in a better place. But Lane discovers that life is not that simple. Altruism is complicated, and that’s all the more difficult to make a movie about. Lane begins to question not only why he gave up his body part but dragged a camera crew along in the process. It helps that she’s an amazing future subject that allows us to accompany her on this vulnerable journey that changes her worldview. It can be for you too.
Mr. William Shatner also a unique observer of the world. He is the subject of “You Can Call Me Bill,” the latest from the ambitious documentary Alexandre O.Philippe (“78/52,” “The People vs. George Lucas“). Loyal readers know that bio-docs are my Kryptonite, but Philippe avoids the story-headed, chronological structure that drains my soul in two ways. First, he uses a more thematic construction, going back and forth in time as the film develops different ideas instead of just using a simple “then it happened” structure. Second, he lets Shatner tell his own story. No partners, fans, or experts. Just Bill. And he had A LOT to say.