Sunday, January 30, 2011

DOGTOOTH: Not for the weak of heart

The critically acclaimed (and Academy Award nominated) Greek film Dogtooth was finally released on dvd in the U.S. this past Tuesday.  The basic premise of the film involves an aging couple who have raised their children to fear that which lies outside the gates of their home.  Playing out like some kind of Freudian nightmare sporting a wink and a twisted grin, Dogtooth fashions a world that is fully enclosed within the repressed fantasies and regressed understandings of those now adult offspring.  As the film unfolds, those characters play an endless series of nonsensical games which only partially discharge the sexual friction that grows between them.  And every once in a while, when the safety imposed upon them by their parents is challenged, the father punishes the offender brutally.

Dogtooth resides in the same darkly tense terrain as films like Todd Solondz' Happiness and Michael Haneke's Funny Games.  Like those past films, it provokes without moralizing, interrogates without resolution and leaves the heavy lifting of interpreting the thematics almost entirely to the audience.  With its primary meaning not at all locked down, a post-screening discussion of Dogtooth is likely to produce just as many interpretations as there are audience members in attendance.  My own reading of the film vacillates somewhere between a fairly standard critique of the family and/or the socialization process as it starts at birth and continues until death.  Yeah,'s just that wide open.

A warning: the film is not for the overly squeamish.  There are some truly shocking moments peppered throughout its run time.  It's plenty disturbing but also funny, engaging and completely original in its approach.


One last note: as a bonus feature, the Kino released dvd has an excellent 12 minute interview with director Yorgos Lanthimos on the production, casting and his overall filmmaking philosophy.  Very much worth checking out.

ALIEN BOY needs your help

Alien Boy: The Death & Life of James Chasse is the new film by Portland documentary filmmaker Brian Lindstrom.  Brian's been at the doc game for quite some time now and maybe you've heard of or seen his last full-length project, Finding Normal:

According to the official website for the film, Alien Boy examines how:

In September 2006 James Chasse was tackled by three law officers on a downtown street corner before a dozen eyewitnesses. James was not suspected of a crime, he had not committed a crime.

The officers beat him, kicked him, broke 17 ribs and his shoulder. They used a Taser on him repeatedly. He screamed for mercy.
The officers thought James was a drug dealer, a homeless person, a non-person, a ghost. They were wrong. James was a poet, a musician, he had a family which loved him, friends, neighbors, dreams and hopes. He was an artist; a small, shy, gentle person. And he was a person with schizophrenia.

James was sent by paramedics to jail. Jail nurses refused to admit him. He died en route to a hospital in a police car driven by the same officers who had earlier beaten him.

A grand jury refused to indict those officers. The City and County refused to terminate or discipline them.

Alien Boy is a feature length documentary film about the life and death of James Chasse. 

A massive amount of local PDX media coverage of the story and its continued fallout can be found here.

BUT...on to the main point of this post:  Alien Boy is in the post-production stage of its existence at this moment.  In order for the filmmakers to be able to present this important story to an audience, they need to raise additional funding for post.  Lindstrom and company have decided to take their need directly to the people via Kickstarter, the popular fundraising website that's being used for the crowd financing of so many creative projects lately.

At the moment of this posting, Alien Boy has received pledges for almost a third of it's post-production funding via this Kickstarter campaign.  More info about the film and how you can join the 70+ backers of the project via a financial donation of anywhere between $1 and $5000 (or more) can be found on the Alien Boy Kickstarter page.

More links:
The official website for the film.
The Alien Boy production blog.
Alien Boy's Facebook page.

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