The German Doctor (Wakolda)

The German Doctor presents a fictionalized and thoroughly whitewashed portrayal of Nazi doctor Josef Mengele in hiding in Patagonia after the war, now plying his trade as a veterinarian. He becomes fascinated with 12 year old Lilith, unusually short for her age due to a hormone disorder (but “harmoniously proportioned”), and then meets her mother Eva, pregnant with twins. Mengele can’t resist a little experimentation on the family, as it may be another chance to prove his theories of racial purity. He insinuates himself into their family, taking rooms at the hotel they own and asking probing questions about their medical histories. He offers Eva prenatal vitamins, and growth hormones to normalize Lilith’s body. Despite Lilith’s adverse reactions to the treatments–one wonders if Mengele gave her bovine hormones instead of human–he not only insists on continuing the treatments, but doubling the dosage, citing the need to achieve more height before puberty.

Only glimpses of Mengele’s former career as Angel of Death are shown; even when Lilith discovers the notebooks with body drawings of his former subjects, Mengele explains it away by saying that in the same way some people paint or compose music about what they love, he likes to take measurements. And when he instructs a nurse to essentially starve one of the newborn twins, it’s under the guise of wanting to help the smaller of the two. I watched the film with someone unaware of Mengele’s history of unethical and gruesome experiments, and she was left with the impression that Mengele really wasn’t such a bad guy. “Look how hard he tried to help that little girl,” she reasoned. And indeed Lilith is a willing subject, hoping the bullying she endures at her German school will stop. But even Lilith becomes aware that the price one pays in pursuit of a more standardized body is to be thought of as little more than cattle.

Cuerdas

The subtleties of Cuerdas are largely lost on me as I don’t speak Spanish, but it’s easy to follow the basic storyline of this animated short film.

Cronicas Chilangas

Cronicas Chilangas is one of those films following several characters whose lives intersect in some dramatic fashion, two with different disabilities. We’re introduced first to schizophrenic “El Jairo” who comes to believe the Men in Black are trying to recruit him; his fellow gangsters try to give him a wide berth, but since he’s related to the bossman he can’t easily be disarmed or taken off the kidnapping job they’ve been assigned. Jairo’s hallucinations land everyone in a load of trouble, though, and his co-workers stuff him and the ransom money in the trunk of a stolen car to try and get him to safety.

Physically disabled Chabelita is first seen lying in bed with her hands contracted, attempting to turn the pages of a book with a mouthstick that may have been an improvised wooden spoon. She does not appear to have any paid home health care, useful work to do, or even a wheelchair, and her aging parents Juvencio and Anita worry about where the next mortgage payment will come from and who will take care of her when they’re gone without including Chabelita in their discussions. She has no idea they’re down to selling their car to make ends meet one more month, or why their dog is barking madly, or who her parents are talking to so urgently in the next room, or what that mysterious thud was. All we can say is, it’s fate.

Unstoppables (Imparables)

Trailer for the upcoming Black Train Films documentary about The Pirates, a bicycling club for people with disabilities.