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Survivors (2008)

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A beautifully-made directorial/editing effort by one of the most original documentarians in film today
28 May 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"Survivors" is an eight-minute short film by renowned documentarian Errol Morris, who wastes not a second interviewing numerous people who have struggled with cancer themselves or have had relatives fight the battle. Morris not only interviews celebrities who have suffered from some form of cancer, like Martin Landau, Carson Daly, or Tom Green (someone I never thought I'd mention in a review of an Errol Morris film), but common people who have tried their best to stay optimistic in the face of incredible uncertainty.

Morris, being the incredibly skilled documentarian that he is, is able to infuse comedy into the short but also turn brutally honest and address the subject with the kind of seriousness that it needs. He edits the short together with quick-cuts and brisk-pacing that makes the short never boring or didactic. A short like this could've easily been a feature-length documentary profiling numerous people. Instead, the approach Morris takes is interesting if a bit too simplified and short given the depth of the subject.

Yet I prefer to look at Morris and his work through an optimistic lens rather than one that criticizes the length of the short of all things. For one thing, Morris does what eight minutes what some documentaries struggle to do with eighty to one-hundred. He establishes a story, an extractable idea and theme, sympathy, perhaps even empathy in some cases, and even structures the short so that it could be equal parts light-hearted and resonate with one emotionally. Morris's skill in terms of structuring, pacing, and his utilization of unique film techniques is something to truly marvel, and "Survivors" would be a beautiful introduction to the ways of a intriguing and underrated documentarian.

Starring: Carson Daly, Martin Landau, Tom Green, Scott Hamilton, and Laura Juliane May. Directed by: Errol Morris.


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