The Indies – April 2005
by Oren Golan
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From Gabriel Films (www.gabrielfilms.com) comes the superb indie documentary Liberia an Uncivil War, produced and directed by Jonathan Stack (The Farm). Stack and his co-producer/co-director, James Brabazon, submerged themselves into the Liberian conflict in a way that makes the “embedded” reporting from Iraq seem like it was done from Kuwait. Stack follows government troops and the Liberian president, Charles Taylor. Through Stack’s lens, we can see the evil and cunning lurking behind the somewhat polished exterior of Taylor that ultimately led to his downfall. James Brabazon travels with the LURD rebel army, whose one stated goal is the removal of Taylor from the presidency. An overriding theme to the film is how much Liberians - on both sides and those caught in the crossfires - wanted the U.S. to intervene due to the special relationship between the two countries (Liberia was founded by freed American slaves), but the help did not come despite well-documented atrocities. The most amazing thing about the film, in my opinion, was how it illustrated the utter lack of disregard of the combatants on both sides for the innocent - there is footage of a rebel soldier firing mortars almost randomly, juxtaposed with footage of a safe area where refugees were killed by just such an attack. Liberia an Uncivil War is powerful stuff that deserves any awards that may come its way. www.gabrielfilms.com
In a totally different vein, next up is the 17-minute-short The Salesmen (Paul’s Baby Productions) from writer/producer/director Scott T. Jones. This is in part a send-up of films like Glengary Glen Ross and Boiler Room, and yet also a bit of a tribute to them. The film follows a trainee’s (Alex Gillmor) first day on the job as a small-time door-to-door salesman. But the humor of the film largely comes from his trainer, an experienced salesman who greets the trainee by telling him simply, “You’re with me.” And so is the audience, as the trainer (Peter Sokop) somehow happily goes to offices and shops peddling something fun (Paco the talking parrot plush animal) and something useful (a dayplanner). Sokop reminds me of Kevin Bacon at his best, extremely expressive without going over the edge. The Salesmen keeps things pretty light for the most part, and when it gets serious it doesn’t hit us with the morality stick for too long. A well-acted and well-written comedy that is worth checking out.
From BLB Media comes an indie film that attempts to explore the dark mind of a serial killer. The film is Dementia: An Experiment in Terror, and was made by writer/director B. Luciano Barsuglia, a native of Huntington Beach, California. The story tells of two men who are captured and held captive for nearly three weeks by a homicidal maniac who records every gory detail of the subsequent torture of his captives on over 28 cameras. Currently getting screen time in theatres around Southern California, Dementia is seeking distribution, but inquiries of this grisly and bone-crunching film can be had from their site at http://www.dementiathemovie.com. In the opening scene we see one of the soon-to-be-captured men talking with his boss, a large, muscular male in a bad blonde wig who professes his devotion by promising to get a sex change for his employee. Closing the office door, he pledges his undying love. It’s a very creepy scene and a strong precursor for the weirdness to come. The 80-minute film, which cost less than $20,000 to make, attempts to depict the two captives’ ordeal through a terror-filled experience that has left some moviegoers so distraught they’ve walked out of the theatre, stating, “I think I’m going to have nightmares for the next month.” Definitely a high recommendation for this type of film!
From MTI Home Video comes The Vault, whose packaging summarizes the movie as “kinves, sticks and daggers in this ultimate display of hand-to-hand combat and true martial art fighting!” I’d be shocked if anyone described this movie as the “ultimate” anything unless they were huge fans of Laci Szabo (knife fighting expert) or Bas Rutten (ultimate fighting champion). International thieves take over a museum to steal a huge diamond, but complicating their plan 2 hostages escape and lock themselves in the vault with the diamond. The suspense is generated (or not) because the vault has only 1 hour of air left, and one of the hostages is Kaludes’ (Szabo) daughter. After much posturing, the robbers suddenly remember that they have a truckload of C4 explosives (which they stole early in the flim seemingly for the express purpose of blowing open the vault). Well, there is some fighting, though it’s not that great except for the “ultimate” closing battle. My favorite scene is when the police SWAT team arrives at the museum, after automatic rifles have been fired and an explosion rocked the museum, yet the police have to clear out the outdoor cafe which is somehow still chock full of customers - yes, museum food worth risking one’s life for!
Oren Golan is an attorney in Chicago when he isn’t arguing that Streets of Fire is the greatest movie ever made.
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