Bill Weber

The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden (2013, Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine)

The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden has way too long of a title. The subtitle is a reference to something the viewer will probably be unfamiliar with until the epilogue (it’s the title of a book by one of the documentary’s players), but at least it shows a certain engagement from the filmmakers. Their enthusiasm for their project doesn’t forgive its problems, but it does make them seem far more affable.

Unless, of course, one reads about how there are no tortoises on the Eden island, something the documentary implies many times throughout its really long two hour runtime.

Some of the other problems are side effects of the film itself. Directors Geller and Goldfine cut from 16:9 interview and modern location footage to old, black and white 4:3 footage, which they imply was taken by the island’s settlers. It’s always implied (the filmmakers have no presence until the epilogue either), but it eventually becomes clear a lot of this footage ostensibly from the 1930s is just modern stuff run through a filter.

And the titular Affair? The big mystery? It’s nowhere near as interesting as the lives of the people living on the island the filmmakers do interview. These sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters of mostly German expats who went to the end of the world to get away from Hitler (in some cases) is far more interesting than the mystery. The mystery doesn’t have enough information to be mysterious.

Galapagos is long, professional and meanderingly pointless.



Directed by Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine; screenplay by Goldfine, Geller and Celeste Schaefer Snyder, based on books, journals, articles and letters by Dore Strauch, Margret Wittmer, Friedrich Ritter, Hinz Wittmer and John Garth; director of photography, Geller; edited by Bill Weber; music by Laura Karpman; produced by Geller, Goldfine and Snyder; released by Zeitgeist Films.

To Be Takei (2014, Jennifer M. Kroot)

To Be Takei is unexpected, even though everything it presents about its subject’s life is somewhere between common knowledge and readily accessible knowledge. Even though director Kroot opens the film on a jovial note–George Takei (the titular Takei) and his husband, Brad Takei (sort of also the titular Takei), taking their morning walk and bickering about whether they’re walking faster for the benefit of the camera–Takei is serious. Kroot has a lot of fun, but her thesis is it’s serious.

Of course, she also opens the film with Howard Stern introducing it, so she has to work uphill to get to serious. And George Takei’s life certainly has a lot of serious in it. Kroot often saves clips (and discussions) of William Shatner for when she needs to relieve some of the stress in the film.

The film does have a somewhat set narrative; it tracks Takei as he opens his first musical, based on his experiences in internment camps. Along the way, Kroot covers everything else Takei’s famous for–“Star Trek”, Facebook, being gay. The Facebook stuff is almost an aside, ditto the “Star Trek” stuff. Takei’s experiences–both as a gay man in the mid-to-late twentieth century and in Hollywood at that time–are exceptional. Kroot never draws attention it, but Takei’s life is uncommon on almost every level. Except maybe the bickering married stuff.

To Be Takei is surprisingly good. Sure, the protagonists are engaging, but Kroot’s presentation and conclusions make it work.



Written and directed by Jennifer M. Kroot; director of photography, Christopher Million; edited by Bill Weber; music by Michael Hearst; produced by Kroot, Gerry Kim and Mayuran Tiruchelva; released by Starz.

Starring George Takei and Brad Takei.

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