June 3, 2019  (Web Review)

Gift

(2018) 90 min. DVD: $129: high schools & public libraries; $349: colleges & universities. DRA. Good Docs (www.gooddocs.net). PPR. Closed captioned.

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

Inspired by Lewis Hyde’s 1983 book The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World (original title: The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property), filmmaker Robin McKenna’s documentary underscores Hyde’s message—that a “gift isn’t totally realized until it’s given away”—through footage of situations in which artistry is shared. In New Zealand, artist Lee Mingwei’s “The Moving Garden” asks visitors to take a flower from a lush garden and present it to someone upon leaving the exhibit. Another Mingwei project puts singers in Asian-inspired clothing to meander through an art museum asking patrons to receive a gift of song. Those who agree are treated to stunning and quite moving operatic performances. The remaining creative endeavors highlight a former sausage factory in Italy that houses 200 migrants who live amidst locally created artwork (not surprisingly, the building owner is fighting to reclaim the property). Another segment spies a young woman, entranced with beekeeping, who builds a huge mobile contraption that resembles a bumblebee that she then transports to the freewheeling Burning Man event in Nevada, where she offers rides and honey-laced drinks to attendees. In the Pacific Northwest, woodcarvers design elaborate masks, and one man sets aside a percentage of proceeds to give to others in an indigenous tradition known as potlatch. Unfortunately, the documentary hopscotches around without connecting voiceover narration to help viewers fully grasp locales and concepts. Still, this might encourage others to engage in creative sharing. A strong optional purchase. Aud: C, P. (S. Beauregard)