Another great feature in the Official Selection at Leeds International Film Festival. Several friends recommended the film, and one opined that she enjoyed it but that she was also surprised by it. I was surprised watching it as well, with great pleasure.
This is like a hip-hop movie, with fast street lingo, rapid cutting and an extremely mobile camera. The characters move constantly, and when the camera is not moving the angles of the shots are changing. It also has a great soundtrack of popular songs.
Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) returns to Los Angeles after a month’s absence and meets her friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor). Over the next eighty minutes we follow both characters and also meet Razmik (Karren Karagulian), Dinah (Mickey O’Hagan) and Chester (James Ransone), plus some of the friends, family and acquaintances. The day is Christmas Eve, but a long way from Bedford Falls.
The film travels round downtown South and West L.A. plus a brief visit to the famous centre. The parallel cutting between characters and their actions has then construction found in Robert Altman films, but with a very different, almost impromptu style. There are occasional unsettling jumps, but for most of the film the narrative carries the viewer along. It is funny and witty with some great lines. Sin-Dee speaks very fast, often tricky to follow, but Alexandra talks in more measured tones; so one can keep up with the plot.
Later in the film, as day passes to evening and then to night-time, the pace calms down and we get a slower dramatic sequence. We also get a music change, Beethoven. This lead into a partial resolution and the various components of the plot fall into place.
The film was shot on an Apple iPhone and then run through an anamorphic adaptor to create the image in colour and a 2.35:1 frame. The director and co-screenwriter, Sean Baker, is quoted in the Festival Catalogue.
“It initially began as budgetary thing. We knew we couldn’t shoot on the high-end cameras. We just didn’t have enough money, and this is my fifth feature, and I wasn’t about to pull any money favours. So we knew we were stuck with somewhat lower-end cameras or DSLRs and I thought if we’re in this realm, let’s make this film look totally original and do something different that nobody else has done.”
Baker and his production team have done just that. This was the last of the Festival screenings, however the film has been picked up by Metrodome so there should be further opportunities to see it, including at the Hyde Park Picture House on December 18th and 23rd.