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Inspired in part by Dante’s Inferno “Shutterbug” introduces us to a successful photographer who no longer finds meaning in his work and urgently searches for something real. The film takes the universal themes of emptiness and lack of purpose and frames them in a very specific and unique setting and circumstance—a New York City Odyssey. The different New York locations aid the film in it’s mystery, it’s intrigue and it’s plot. While the film engages the viewer in the journey, shortcomings in dialogue and acting present moments of staleness.
Alex Santiago ( Nando del Castillo), is a New York fashion photographer who has a meltdown during a shoot and walks out on a very important client. He roams through the streets of downtown Manhattan with his camera, trying to shoot something “real.” But, it is while shooting the sun that gets his first sign, although he doesn’t know it at the time. He starts to see spots that eventually turn into the figure of a woman—his muse. He is convinced that she is real and that he needs to find her. A psychic sends him to Brooklyn, where an eclectic group of strangers set the stage for the evening’s strange and ominous events, all leading up to the realization of his connection to his visions.
Written, directed and entirely funded by Cyprian filmmaker (Cyprian Films, New York) Minos Papas, the film does not look or sound like a typical Indie film. The film looks like it was shot with a much larger budget than the “micro budget” they had— thanks to tricks like construction lights powered by car batteries and mounting a camera on a bike as a dolly. Papas and company used alternative methods to a large capacity, creating crisp images and sounds. They were able to capture obscurity, intrigue and an underbelly world with the dark, and constructed a dreamlike sense of hope with lights and colors.
Throughout most of the film we are met with interesting characters that enhance the plot and actors that enhance their scenes. For instance the exchanges between Alex and his writer friend Nick (Brett Mole) felt pretty real, thanks to the acting and dialogue, especially during Nick’s rant about how photography is essentially plagiarism. Lady Lydia (Anna Gutto) and Harry (Frank Cadillac) are also good examples of good acting in this film, but the scenes with Alex’s girlfriend Barbara (Ariel Blue Sky) fall short. Blue Sky’s performance is flat and there is nothing between her and Del Castillo—no chemistry, no energy, no tension—nada. It leaves a gap in the film, taking away a big element of Alex’s life and does nothing with it when it could be used to understand his character and struggle, since he often comes across as aimless.
The ride is a pretty good one, allowing us to meet several fun and eerie characters, while delving into a surreal New York. But, the essence of who Alex is and what his struggle is really about gets lost. The one constant is his camera, which captures the clear, the ambiguous, the real and the illusory.
Sanela Djokovic is a writer living in the Bronx
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