Short of the Week

Everything is Incredible

A disabled man named Agustin in Honduras has been building a helicopter in his home for the past 53 years causing controversy amongst his family and community.

Documentary is a tricky thing to curate because there is isn’t the same kind of minimum aesthetic value to judge a film by. Story is paramount at SotW, but when viewing narrative and animation pieces the the amount of thought, effort and skill put into the crafting of beautiful images is a valuable shorthand for how much thought, effort and skill are put into the storytelling. When you watch as many films as we do, these biases are valuable filters, saving time, energy and, ultimately, sanity.

But because documentary is so dependent on its subject — a terrific topic or character can elevate even a bland production — these filters are not as frequently applicable. Take this film, Everything is Incredible. Not to disparage the film’s team, who have told a great story with wonderful warmth and a strong narrative thrust, but compared to the formalist pizazz of something like Always a Fire, it is rather pedestrian. Images have inconsistent lighting, there isn’t a ton of interesting cutaways and most of the story is told through talking heads. These are usually warning signs of a mediocre film. Everything is Incredible isn’t a mediocre film though, indeed it is umm…well, an incredible film. Because, at its heart lies an incredible subject, with an incredible story.

I wouldn’t have even discovered the film if Chris Jobson, curator of the excellent art blog It’s Colossal, hadn’t asked me to help him find it on Twitter yesterday. Through his strong recommendation I overcame my stylistic biases thankfully.  The description tells the gist of things; Agustin, who suffered a nasty bout of polio as a child, is confined to a wheelchair. Despite extreme poverty he is possessed by a crazy dream to build a helicopter. He starts in 1958, and builds the components, by hand, out of trash and the limited materials available to him. Through interviews with Agustin and the local community a picture grows of a strange, lonely man who nonetheless possesses a remarkable nobility. The community is torn, many do not understand the quest, and are unsure of Agustin’s mental state. They worry about how completely he has thrown himself into the project which is now 50 years underway, and fear his disappointment and pain should he ever realize it won’t fly.

It is a fascinating, and nuanced piece that wisely resists taking a purely celebratory angle on Agustin, but instead allows you to decide for yourself  how to feel about the aging eccentric. Certainly it is worth your 10 minutes of time, but permit me to pull out what I think is the critical line. It comes from Agustin himself midway through the film when he talks about his brother, who he terms “an alcoholic and died without reason”. Agustin’s brother would drink himself into a stupor and shout through the streets declaring, “I’m not the crazy one, I’m the drunk! He’s the the crazy one, he’s trying to build a helicopter out of sticks and fly it!”

This parable to me seems especially profound. His brother’s self-destructiveness, wouldn’t that energy be put better to use towards a task? Wouldn’t dark thoughts, be better kept at bay, through thoughtful intense work and study? To live with out dreams, to exist without the pursuit of excellence and craft, isn’t THAT maybe what’s crazy?

~
Co-Founder of Short of the Week, Sondhi lives in Brooklyn working as a Curator for Vimeo. Follow his musings on online video, direct distribution and branded content: @jasondhi.
  • Marco

    I hope someone sees this and lets him ride a helicopter! I wish i could meet him and just have conversations with him.

  • Tyler Bastian

    Thank you for featuring this film. It means a lot to us as filmmakers.

  • rajendra ray

    A great video i have ever seen. that guy is really incredible. i hope for his success.

  • roman

    i’m not sure if this is a cup of coffee or a beer in his picture but it is sad
    that mr sondhi wrote about humans like they are “…possessed by a crazy dream…”
    when describing the documentary ‘everything is incredible’ without realising that this
    is a bit offensive for those of us that are creating and building up things for fellow humans. it is clear that mr sondhi could not fathom beyond ordinary storytelling
    of current comercial cinema. too much intellectualizing about meaning and sense, produces this kind of insensitivity or lack of feelings very commom among academics
    that do not create anew, that are only focusing within interpretation metrics
    away from reality. i wonder what would mr sondhi write about leonardo da vinci if he were there in the renaissance. mr sondhi classifies the documentary as a parable
    unaware that the film is a description of a point of view; made limited by the idea of confrontation with reasonable thinking as a storytelling device, present by priest and brother comments.
    nevertheless this difficult and noisy text i’m grateful and happy that ‘short of the week’ brought ‘everything is possible’ to my attention. films like these make the day less difficult, life beautiful, the sky blue and ‘happy again’ a possibility within reach.
    i’d like to pledge a few dollars to make a donation to a kickstarter if there is one,
    for Mr Agustin in Honduras receive a tour at a helicopter factory, a long interview with a helicopter engeneer plus a pilot, to have him fly within one with photographs and films.
    at least mr Agustin should have access to fast internet conection and watch a lot
    of aeronautics howto build helicopters. perhaps I’d even add some cents more to buy him a grave far away from that priest as possible… with a working helicopter sculpture above. people like Mr Agustin in Honduras are the humans among us that push us forward as creative people. is there any modern museum in Honduras that would buy Mr Agustin prototype ? Mr Agustin’s helicopter belongs in the Smithsonian !
    ps. what about a toy helicopter with remote control ?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasondhi Jason Sondhi

    The filmmakers have set up a crowdfunding campaign to purchase the Helicopter from Agustin to ease his final years and to preserve the piece for posterity.

    http://www.indiegogo.com/everythingisincredible?show_todos=true

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasondhi Jason Sondhi

    My pleasure Tyler. Congratulations on the the love people have expressed towards Agustin and the film. Good work on the crowdfunding campaign, it’s a noble goal.

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    Both sad and inspiring.

  • Jossie Malis

    Wonderful and touching. Thanks for sharing ;)

  • Yasmin

    Great :)

  • emilia bordon

    Me impactó esta película por su contenido y claro que soñar es gratis !!!!!!!! A veces se nos va la vida entera detrás de un sueño…….. y quizás la vida es eso: un sueño!!!!!!!!

  • http://josuemolina.com/ J.Molina

    What a beautiful story. Very inspiring.

  • Aida

    i was so touched by Agustin. I’m wandering how he is doing right at this moment