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Wild Ducks Review: Davis Guggenheim’s IBM Short Reveals Genius

Thompson on Hollywood By Maggie Lange | Thompson on Hollywood June 22, 2011 at 8:37AM

From Davis Guggenheim, the director of Waiting for Superman and the Oscar-winning doc An Inconvenient Truth, comes the fifteen-minute documentary Wild Ducks, which debuted last week on IBM's YouTube channel. The latest IBM Centennial doc focuses on four IBM clients who defied conventional thinking to develop innovative solutions to intimidating problems. Each of the four slices boasts strong visuals that emphasize the particular genius and creativity of the four profiled clients.
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From Davis Guggenheim, the director of Waiting for Superman and the Oscar-winning doc An Inconvenient Truth, comes the fifteen-minute documentary Wild Ducks, which debuted last week on IBM's YouTube channel. The latest IBM Centennial doc focuses on four IBM clients who defied conventional thinking to develop innovative solutions to intimidating problems. Each of the four slices boasts strong visuals that emphasize the particular genius and creativity of the four profiled clients.


The doc begins with Howard Yana Shapiro, who helped to solve the cacao bean crisis that harmed both an indigenous population in Brazil as well as large chocolate companies. Shapiro’s mathematical mind is revealed (much like A Beautiful Mind) by mathematical equations floating outside a car window as he strives to solve Brazil's agriculture crisis.

Wild Ducks also profiles Carolyn McGregor, who innovated technology for neonatal care; Sunil Mittal, an entrepreneur who brought cell-phones to India; and Ahmad Behroozian, who manages the safety of vehicles in Dubai. In one stunning shot, Behroozian's frame is silhouetted by sparkling views of the rapidly growing city.

The four stories are punctuated by a soft, pastel animation of Kierkegaard’s fable Wild Ducks—something that Thomas Watson Jr., the chairman and son of IBM founder, recounted to his employees to encourage originality. The slow allegory does not quite fit with the profiles of the creative thinkers. This group of four solved environmental, urban, medical, and technology problems with an urgency and energy that director Guggenheim brings across in each of their stories.

This article is related to: Genres, Independents, Reviews, Documentaries


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.