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Friday, April 25, 2008

FIRST GLANCE FILM FESTIVAL part 2

First Glance Film Festival
Reviews By Linda Overly

Dakota Skye (87 min, CA)
Directed By John Humber

Before I begin this review let me warn you that Dakota Skye is a film about a girl in high school. Now you must erase every beloved high school movie of recent decades such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club, American Pie, etc. from your mind. Now, if you can, imagine a high school film that is so honest and engaging that you wish it wouldn't end.

Dakota Skye is a teenager with problems similar to most girls her age, except she is cursed with a super power she hates. She knows whenever someone is lying to her. The opening scene of the film is Dakota's graduation day. But her story begins with a flashback of the year before.
In her junior year Dakota is disillusioned by her boyfriend's narcissism, and bored with her friends' obsession with SATs and the future. She is like a walking time bomb ready to explode from the all the deceit. Although she resents each of them, she holds on to them because they are all she's got.

Nearly at end of her rope, a miraculous incident occurs; Dakota meets Jonah, the first person she's ever met that does not lie about anything. Immediately the two are attracted to each other but there are a couple problems. Jonah is her boyfriend's best friend and despite the fact the she tries to deny it, Dakota is falling for him. Jonah feels the same way and tells her. Now Dakota must decide if she should stay in her completely uncomfortable comfort zone or take the risk and trust Jonah with her heart.

This film was my favorite of the festival. It was worth every minute of my time and I believe that many people will feel the same way. It is no wonder that this film won the festival's award for Best Ensemble Cast in a Feature Film.

Partially True Tales of High Adventure (12 minutes, CA)
Directed By Murphy Gilson

Fresh and pithy, Partially True Tales of High Adventure just 12 minutes long but nearly everything about it is clever and memorable. Charlie is a mid-Western Irish, self –admitted drunk, and writer with his last chance to get his first break in Tinsel town. After pitching his script he is told that his work is merely a rip-off of the classic sitcom Cheers.

Charlie's sanctuary is a true blue dive bar complete with red velvet wallpaper, a smart and sassy waitress, and obnoxious regulars. It is here that he takes in brews, burgers and banter with his ever supportive buddies.

Just when he is nearly convinced that he should buy his bus ticket back to Indiana, a chance meeting with the industry's "It girl" and a slick bar room showdown, Charlie realizes that he may have finally captured the formula to make it big in Hollywood.

The only flaw I found in the film is that Shannon Elizabeth plays herself and is the "It girl." While Elizabeth looks great, in reality she has never achieved this coveted title, unless you count the brief attention she received from a naughty three minute scene in the popular teenage flick, American Pie released nearly a decade ago.

Oh, but wait-she is currently a competitor on "Dancing with the Stars." To me the show is simply a cheesy vehicle for has-been celebrities trying to make a comeback. One never knows however, Elizabeth may be just one step away from sweeping all of us off our feet and end up with many more minutes in the spotlight.


Beanie Baby Soldier (10 min PA)
Directed By Larry Mendte

It has been said that if you want to change the world then start with yourself. This proverb or a similar belief may have inspired Corporal Stephen McGowan to begin a crusade that would change the lives of hundreds of thousands of children.

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, many people were left with the devastating loss of loved ones and the entire country felt utter pain, confusion, and despair. There were scores of brave individuals who did not give a second thought to rise to the challenge of protecting, serving, and saving lives, as well as trying to keep hope alive for fellow Americans.
Among these countless heroes was McGowan. The 26 year-old enlisted in the army and when it was time for soldiers to go to Iraq, he volunteered. Selflessly, he felt obligated to go before men who had children.

After arriving in Iraq, the fear and innocence he saw on the faces of the country's children transformed him. He wanted to bring them joy and to show them that Americans are good people. So instead of Christmas gifts for himself, he asked his mother to send toys he could give to the children and the easiest gifts to take on missions were Beanie Babies. McGowan began passing out the small, lovable stuffed animals to the kids and before long he became known as The Beanie Baby Soldier.

I found this short film to be extremely moving, the kind everyone should see. To me, the message is that people should take actions, large or small, in the spirit of McGowan's that come straight from the heart and are purely in the name of kindness.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

FIRST GLANCE HOLLYWOOD

First Glance Film Festival
Written By Ian Cappelletti

Driving through Hollywood on Melrose Ave is usually fun and evokes some ooo’s and ahhhh’s at the sights in boutique windows – except the experience becomes positively hellish when you’re already late for the only screening you’re supposed to attend that day and the traffic makes you want to claw your eyes out. After finally getting to Raleigh Studios for part of the Saturday sessions for the First Glance Hollywood festival, I had to call the big boss and ask where the hell the entrance was to this thing; Raleigh didn’t exactly hang a banner for anyone.

Once inside the gates, I eventually found the Chaplin theater but of course ran into some trouble with getting a pass to the viewing session. Shane to the rescue once more.

Fortunately, I somehow only managed to miss two of the five shorts presented at that screening.

Messages
Directed By Gabor Tarnokl



The first one, “Messages”, was a foreign film about a young Hungarian girl’s persistent imagination. It was short and sweet, but nothing too exceptional – I felt direction detracted from the message (hurr) of the story.

Get On The Bus For Mother’s Day
Directed By Jennifer Farmer



The next entry “Get on The Bus for Mother’s Day” was a short documentary about a state-sponsored program to promote visitation between children and their incarcerated mothers. Frankly I found it boring and in need of some heavy editing. That and Carol Potter introduced and closed the documentary – man, 90210 was that long ago?

The Colony
Written and Directed by Steven List

“The Colony”, however, was an excellent short thriller that, of all things, has its basis in reality. The script is tight, employs flashbacks in a refreshing fashion, and focuses on the characters’ emotional hardships rather than the conspiratorial nature of a Chilean quasi-Nazi colony – I was impressed. The dialog needed some work and Sarah Clarke (the only billable name in the piece) phoned in her performance, but overall an indication that Mr. List definitely has some talent.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

BRILLIANT LIGHT FILM FESTIVAL

Brilliant Light Film Festival
By Rowan Harrison



Being relatively new to the independent film festival market, it has been rather exciting covering festivals at various venues throughout the So. California area. Such is the case with the 2nd annual Brilliant Light Film Festival, which takes us to the hub of the film making industry, Hollywood. Located on Melrose and N. Van Ness Ave across the street from the Paramount lot and the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, sitting on an 11 acre lot is the Raleigh Film Studios.

The 12 sound stage studio, one of the largest independent film studios in the nation and a leader in promoting and assisting visionary artists in film, television and commercial production, is the host to this years event. Having a rich history in the film industry the studio first established itself in 1915, with renovations in 1979 it has since become a studio preserving the best of its Hollywood traditions.

Screening a wide range of features and shorts, most of the action during the weekend, I was able to catch the Friday night, North American Premiere of Yai Wanonabalewa – The Enemy God. After a brief sign in at the security gate, a little stroll through the studios lot, and a pleasant greeting from festival hosts, I casually made my way to one of two screening rooms. Now, these are the lavish, modern screening rooms that Hollywood execs, producers, film makers and big name press affiliates congregate to view the most current productions, before being released to the mass market, accommodating to say the least.

Yai Wanonabalewa – The Enemy God
Written and Directed: Christopher Bassett



On with our review, living in almost complete seclusion in the Amazon rainforest located in parts of Brazil and Venezuela, are the Yanomamo people. The pre Columbian forest footmen commune in small bands or tribes, having little contact with the outside world, their numbers continue to thrive as well as their cultural and religious practices, which is the primary subject matter in the new film, The Enemy God.

With a very limited film crew and support from surrounding tribes people other then the Yanomamo, writer and director Christopher Bassett tells the true story of Bautista a Yanomamo shaman. Well, it’s not actually Christopher’s story, its more Bautista’s story, and in a much broader sense, an account of his people, and a fascinating story it is.

The film wonderfully photographed by John Petrella is deeply rooted in religion and shamanism, which for many indigenous culture, there everyday lives are based and dictated by such practices, which for many of us we often forget or overlook this one aspect of humanity. Superstition, theism can be the basic foundation is determining the daily living and the fate of its believers.

“The trails of my memory are stained with blood” a revenge killing on the red blood village, “we will attack at dawn” these are the opening sequences narrated by Bautista himself. We find a small group of men from Thriving village, carefully and meticulously trudging through the thick green moist dense Amazon jungle. Like a clandestine covert operation the men armed with spears, slowly trek their way to the unsuspecting village, guided by forces beyond the cosmos. No one is spared and the village is burned down, like prized trophies they capture a few women and bring them back to their village.



The film with its narrator moves back and forth between the past and the present, it is the 1990’s and the people still have large memories and stories being told. Since he was small, the spirits have had a profound impact on Bautista’s life, calling out to him and guiding him into becoming a shaman leader. It is these same good and malevolent spirits that guide him and his people on a daily basis. The spirits as beautiful as they are can be just as evil causing calamity, illness and death to its yielding followers.

Beyond all the shamanism and tribal warfare Bautista’s story thickens like the jungle, as a young woman from a neighboring village named Yellow Petal, begins a relationship with one of his villagers. Divided over traditions and customs, tensions boil over as Yellow Petal wants to stay in Thriving Village and leave her abusive husband.

In the confrontation between the two villages which is in the present, different parties emerge out of the green thicket, one being the government. The other an American family that has taken residency with the Yanomamo people, dedicating their time and their lives in helping the Yanomamo carry their way of life in the Amazon jungle.

By no means is The Enemy God a national geographic, anthropological study or approach on a large native tribe in South America. Instead what we have is a well developed plot involving character change and confrontation as it explores the Yanomamo’s domestic relationships, tribal customs, and beliefs.

On the surface The Enemy God, runs on similar ground as the 2001 release of The Fast Runner a story regarding the Inuit people in the Canadien Artic. Yet, unlike The Fast Runner, which their story is developed and centered around an Inuit legend, The Enemy God is rooted on the actual true life story and events that shaped and characterized a shaman’s life and his people.

Coming from southwestern Native American cultures (Navajo and Pueblo of Isleta) it was easy to gravitate and relate to all the different aspects of the Yanamomo’s religion, some based in animalism. These are aspects that are explored in the daily routines of the indigenous people, and this element was well manifested through out the film.

Even as the last frames, brings the film to a conclusion, there is definitely a palpable feeling that this story doesn’t end, and it doesn’t it. There are many parties and characters that surround and support Bautista’s experiences, take for example the English family, the Dawsons, their fifty year residency with the Yanamomo, is a story worth exploring all on its own. Thanks, to film maker Christopher Bassett and most of all Bautista, for bringing his story out of the jungles of the Amazon and into the conscious platform of the American movie going audience.

Rowan

17th PHILADELPHIA FILM FESTIVAL Part 3

Philadelphia Film Festival
Written By Camryn Hansen

Darling
Directed By Johan Kling



A quietly heartbreaking film by Swedish director Johan Kling, Darling tells the story of two very different characters who, simultaneously forced by circumstances off of their chosen life paths, each struggle to find meaning, and comfort, in compromise. Eva (Michelle Meadows), a gorgeous but icy young clerk at a Gucci boutique, is a rising star of the Stockholm social scene until a one-night stand (perhaps the most nonchalant in the history of cinema) puts an unwitting end to her relationship with her popular boyfriend at the same time that her unsolicitous attitude at work gets her fired. Bernard (Michael Segerström), an impossibly sweet sixty one year old who has been struggling financially ever since his wife left him for a younger man, is having a terrible time finding an employer who will agree to take him on. When both of these characters, lost, lonely and desperate for money, ultimately decide to work at McDonald’s, their lives connect, and gradually, the two form a delicate friendship that allows them to find unexpected joy in an otherwise bleak situation.



It is difficult to give enough praise to Darling, a film which has garnered much deserved recognition in Sweden, winning, among others, the Swedish Film Institute’s awards for Best Actor (Michael Segerström) as well as Best Cinematography (Geir Hartly Andreassen). In its combination of pitch-perfect writing, inspired acting, lush cinematography and visionary directing, Darling at once revels in artistry and brims with humanity. In his infinite dignity as a neglected but loving, even doting, father, the character of Bernard evokes a sympathy irresistible to even the hardest of hearts. His fledgling friendship with the seemingly hard-hearted Eva is thus alternately inspiring and devastating to watch. The backdrop of the story, a modern Stockholm where McDonald’s is the only place a hard working, over-qualified, older man like Bernard can find work while more or less unskilled beauties like Eva float in and out of the work force on looks alone, also provides a valuable commentary on the nature of employment (and unemployment) in contemporary European society. Johan Kling is most definitely a director to keep watching, and Darling, for anyone interested in experiencing dramatic cinema at its finest, is an absolute must-see.

Bad Habits (Malos Habitos)
Directed By Simon Bross



The worst rainstorm in Mexico since The Flood sets the somber, surrealist mood for Bad Habits, director Simon Bross’s sumptuous debut feature which peers at the elaborate rituals and devastating effects of eating disorders among three interconnected female characters. A film with very little talking—out of the 104 pages of script, only 21 contain dialogue—but lots of eating, and not eating, and eating, and not eating, Bad Habits crafts together bite-sized episodes of obsessive behavior that, when taken together, make for a picture of contemporary women’s relationships to food that is as stomach-churning—literally—as it is tragic. Through an emphasis on religious imagery and symbolism, it also says a cryptic thing or two about the influence that faith and devotion (and/or the lack thereof) might have on social attitudes towards eating in the modern world.



We first meet the character of Matilde as a child, when she believes to have saved her father from choking on a fish bone by reciting the Lord’s Prayer. As an adult, Matilde goes on to earn her medical degree, but immediately after graduation, decides to join a convent. Convinced that the violent rainstorm is God’s punishment for humanity’s sin of gluttony, Matilde covertly takes it upon herself first to consume inedible food, and then to quit eating altogether, as penance for the wrongdoings of those around her. In a somewhat parallel scenario, one of her young communicants, a pudgy girl named Linda, struggles with a ballooning food obsession that her control-freak mother, Elena, is powerless to reverse. Self-starving in her daughter’s place, the already svelte Elena adopts an anorexic’s regimen of water, cigarettes, and exercise that slims her down to meticulously manicured skin and bones—and sends her fed-up husband, Gustavo, clandestinely into the ample arms of a young Peruvian gourmande who shares his appetites for indulgent food and sex.



With its fantastical food montages, its moody, watery settings and its sensual focus on bodies of all kinds, Bad Habits makes for a luscious visual experience. In its artistic interpretation of eating disorders, it also introduces into serious film a subject more typically relegated to cloying teen magazines and after school specials. On a psychological level, however, I don’t believe that it succeeds at going much further beyond this introduction, to explore what actually makes his characters tick. The film spends so much time watching people interact with food that we are led to believe that their inner lives consist of nothing else; that the scope of their every desire and disappointment begins and ends with the way they eat. There is little humanity left to empathize with; little reason to care why these otherwise anonymous women are hurting themselves. While Simon Bross has created a beautiful film about eating disorders, it does not quite succeed at being a film about people with eating disorders.

Camryn Hansen

Saturday, April 12, 2008

MALIBU FILM FESTIVAL

Ninth Annual Malibu Film Festival 2008
Friday April 4, 2008
Written By: Linda Overly

The Run
(87m, United Kingdom) Dir. Tania Meneguzzi



Young, beautiful, and in love, Amanda and Rowly have big dreams. She is an aspiring musician and he is a student/ bartender content as a working class stiff. On the opposite of the spectrum, Amanda is frustrated with the roadblocks in attaining fame and fortune. In an attempt to get there more quickly, she convinces Rowly to traffic cocaine from Costa Rica into the United Kingdom.

After a few smooth runs and deals, the couple rapidly becomes addicted to their new found flow as well as snorting up their profits. Soon their reality becomes so sick and twisted that it leaves them hanging on by the skin of their teeth instead of the having the world at their fingertips.



Mentally beaten and physically worn and left with no choice, the two are forced by their distributors to do another run. Finally, both Amanda and Rowly realize the rock bottom lives they have created for themselves.

The feature film draws audiences into the dark, horrid underworld of drugs and dollars signs. Many may find it shocking while others may find it right on the money. In either case, after all the couple has been through, even the most cynical of viewers will find themselves hoping that Amanda and Rowly will come out clean from their downward spiral.

Some say hope burns eternal and everyone deserves a second chance, while others believe that poor judgment deserves punishment to the full extent. The Run simply asks the hard question: How much humanity are Amanda and Rowly worthy of?

Friday, April 11, 2008

HD/DV FILM FESTIVAL -LA

HDDV FILM FESTIVAL-LA
Written By Kim Jindra

GARRISON
Written and directed by Kerry Valderrama

Garrison follows two soldiers as they search for their AWOL superior. Valderrama, who served with the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan, got the germ for his movie after his father sent him clips of happenings at Fort Bragg, NC. Valderrama said he had seen a lot of war movies but none had ever gotten it just right especially when dealing with Post Traumatic Stress. He admitted he made the movie for his fellow soldiers. He said he hopes the movie is well received at the G.I. Festival in July.

Garrison takes place over three days with a few occasional flash backs within flashbacks for relationship purposes. The use of black and white is effective. I admit I am not a military person, so the chain of command stuff was a bit confusing but maybe for a military audience it makes the film more realistic. Another quibble is giving too much plot information too soon. The audience knows what happens before the military. It would have been more suspenseful if the audience and soldiers, McManus and Cain, discovered the clues together. There is only one twist at the end.



The movie wasn’t sentimental or gung ho. Plot wise the movie covered old ground, i.e. spousal abuse, recruit hazing, soldiers looking after their own etc...

The locations seemed authentic even though Valderrama admitted finding old hospitals, classrooms etc... to shoot in San Antonio was a bit of a challenge. He had no access to actually military sites. The film was shot on a Canon XL2 and scored by Douglas Edward. I didn't care for the songs over the credits but the score accentuated the movie.



This was not an easy film for me to watch since I have two family members who have either been to Afghanistan and/or Iraq and another nephew who leaves in June. But I'm sure Valderrama knows his audience.

DEPLOYMENT STRATEGY
Written/directed by Mark Cheng



For me this film was a cross between Plan 9 From Outer Space and a poor imitation of the television series La Femme Nikita. It is set in 2055 but the look was cheesy sometimes and downright 2008 at others. It was especially the latter in the big end scene. The plot is the age old man versus machine and for me the most interesting character was the Sex-bot. There were too many characters and the conflict between the humans was overwritten, trite and at times overacted. But, I felt the Major was winking at the audience during his scenes.

AFTERBIRTH
Directed by Scott Belyea

On the surface, Afterbirth appears to be a lab mistake gone even more wrong when the stuttering, and belittled janitor is left to dispose of a beaker of mysterious blue liquid and a fetus from a back room abortion. The end result is murder and mayhem in the standard horror mold.
In a running time of nine minutes, AFTERBIRTH, takes a stab at abortion and stem cell research or does it? See it and decide.

THE HOUSE
Written/directed by Douglas Elford-Argent

The House, revolves around a brother/sister burglary team and a dead body. The pair is interrogated separately but the police has a hard time convincing each of them to give the other up. Not much new here, not even the twist. It felt like the eight minutes it lasted. The script wasn't exciting but the actors gave it their best. The camera work was good though!

Monday, April 7, 2008

17th PHILADELPHIA FILM FESTIVAL Part 2

17th Philadelphia Film Festival Reviews
Written By Camryn Hansen

American Teen
Directed By Nanette Burstein



Set in the small, one high school town of Warsaw, Indiana, Nanette Burstein’s documentary American Teen explores the lives of four very different Midwestern teenagers as they each make their way through the last ten months of high school, negotiating the harrowing social struggles of day-to-day suburban life while making the important decisions about what to do after graduation that will either solidify or sever their hometown ties. In quick succession, we meet Hannah, the spunky, stylish social outcast with artistic aspirations; Megan, the all-American Homecoming Queen with a hidden inner rage; Colin, the eager-to-please basketball star whose only hopes for college rest on a sports scholarship; and Jake, the video game-obsessed geek who, despite his most fervent efforts, can’t seem to keep a girlfriend for ten minutes together.



Herein lies what seems to me to be the primary allure of American Teen: in its up close and personal look at the dreams, disappointments, romances, triumphs and embarrassments of each of these teenagers’ lives, it allows us access to the inner workings of social circles that to the average American, aren’t particularly exotic or unfamiliar. For many of us, becoming a fly on the wall of the Homecoming Queen and the star of the basketball team fulfills a real-life fantasy that at one time, back in those better-forgotten pimply-braces-glasses years, we actually had ourselves. As far as juicy tidbits go, American Teen doesn’t fail to disappoint. When Hannah’s boyfriend of two years dumps her unexpectedly, she falls into a depression so debilitating it may get her kicked out of school. Colin appears to be buckling under his Elvis impersonator father’s pressure to get recruited by college coaches, and may fail to get a basketball scholarship altogether. Though Megan’s entire family has gone to the University of Notre Dame, she’s not sure she has what it takes to get in. Jake, who in his own estimation, “sucks at life,” might do a lot better with women if he just stops hating himself. It’s difficult not to get wrapped up in these stories, to the point where we’re biting our nails at Colin’s sectionals game; tearing up as a bright-eyed Hannah imagines her future at film school; clenching our fists when Megan’s Notre Dame letter arrives in the mail; and cringing when Jake says to the girl who’s breaking up with him across the table, “This table’s covered with grease…because I had my face on it.”



This being said, it is worth asking whether despite its narrative intrigue, this film is really bringing anything distinctly new to the table. As though to suggest that technology has somehow overhauled the high school experience in recent years, it not only liberally quotes text messages and emails on screen, but occasionally plays out characters’ fears and fantasies in animated sequences reminiscent of contemporary comic books and video games. Overall, however, it is not my impression that anyone who actually went to public high school in America in the last thirty years would feel like he or she learned anything new about the current generation from American Teen: for the most part, it felt pretty much the same as I remember it.

Stuck
Directed By Stuart Gordon



In Stuck, an agonizing black comedy by writer/director Stuart Gordon, one character’s bad luck unexpectedly collides one night with another’s bad decision-making to produce the most unrelentingly gruesome story to hit the screen in a long time. It’s a typical Friday in Providence, Rhode Island, and Brandi (Mena Suvari), a young, hard-working nursing home attendant, has just been offered an important promotion—with the one condition that she prove her dedication to the job by coming in early on Saturday morning. Both to celebrate and to unwind, she makes plans for a night out with her co-worker/friend Tanya (Rukiya Bernard) and drug-dealer boyfriend Rashid (Russell Hornsby). Over the course of the same day, the recently laid off Tom (Stephen Rea) not only gets kicked out of his apartment, but loses a crucial job interview and is forced to spend the night on a park bench. Ordered out of the park in the middle of the night by the police, Tom, complete with newly acquired shopping cart, makes his way on foot across town to the homeless shelter. At a dark, quiet intersection, the now thoroughly soused Brandi, driving home alone, hits what she believes to be a homeless man with her car. Tom’s head crashes through her windshield and blood drips liberally onto the seats. Brandi screams, and panics. And then she drives home…with Tom still on top of the car.



In the farsical aftermath of the accident, Brandi attempts to cover up her irresponsible behavior and still earn her promotion by hiding her car, and with it, the brutally mutilated Tom, in her garage…eventually planning to kill him with the street-wise Rashid’s help. When Tom, far from dead, realizes he’s a prisoner and tries to escape, a battle of wills ensues. As it progresses, it becomes one of the bloodiest, grossest, and ultimately most ludicrous battles of will imaginable, as Brandi develops progressively sicker and more elaborate ways of taking revenge for the accident on her victim, Tom, who simply refuses to die. While the sheer audacity of these two characters sometimes affords a laugh, the film seems much more hell-bent on making the audience sick to their stomachs in a way that does not, contrary to various claims, teach us about the nature of humanity vs. inhumanity. I was not particularly thrilled to be stuck in the theatre for 94 minutes.

17th PHILADELPHIA FILM FESTIVAL Part 1

Opening Night Film Philadelphia Film Festival
By Camryn Hansen

I Feel Nice. Like Sugar and Rice.


Young@Heart
Directed By Stephen Walker


At first, it was hard to know what to make of the ninety two year old woman in a tuxedo shirt and jeans whose deadpan rendition of The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” made up the opening scene of Stephen Walker’s courageous new documentary, Young at Heart. I had heard of the film only as a charming, feel-good piece about a chorus of quirky seniors who performed rock and roll songs with the implicit message that growing old doesn’t have to keep a person from pursuing her dreams. For me, however, the reality of experiencing a ninety two year old woman singing “Should I Stay or Should I Go” was instantly more complicated than that. It was a little bit morbid. It was a touch uncomfortable. It imbued me with a sense of impending doom. And then I laughed. And laughed again.



Indeed, Walker’s debut film, which documents the lives and co-operative efforts of Young at Heart, a chorus of twenty four seniors aged sixty nine to ninety two, to prepare for their upcoming “Alive and Well” concert with the help and encouragement of chorus director Bob Cilman, does not hesitate to embrace the darkly humorous side of this group’s unusual and oftentimes insurmountable-seeming enterprise. At moments it also appreciates as well as dignifies the daily struggle of many of the chorus members to simply show up to rehearsal three times a week, let alone master the diverse and challenging pieces that the charismatic, rigidly un-patronizing Cilman prescribes. (For “Alive and Well,” these include James Brown’s “I Feel Good,” Sonic Youth’s “Schizophrenia,” and Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can,” a song containing a daunting 71 iterations of the word “can.”) When shortly before their concert, two key chorus members die unexpectedly of health complications, the film strikes a remarkable balance between mourning the group’s losses, and finding honest inspiration in the resolve of the remaining members to carry on with the show in spite of them…or, as we discover, perhaps because of them. For this reason, it is difficult to unequivocally condemn the occasional off-notes of what seemed to me to be ill-placed humor, chiefly in the film’s collection of MTV-style videos featuring clownish, caricatured performances by the chorus of such hits as “I Wanna Be Sedated,” “Staying Alive,” and “We’re on a Road to Nowhere.” All told, this is a film which explores a way of growing older that most of us didn’t realize was possible. Like most things worth doing, it doesn’t always feel good. It does, however, feel real.