15 August 2007

uber-indie: gods in disguise


starring: documentary subjects
cinematography by: Johanna Custer[1]
written and directed by: Johanna Custer
8 min/Pittsburgh, PA

Filmed entirely in Athens, Greece, gods in disguise aims to explore the city's social conditions in the wake of what appears to be some sort of riot or siege by the proletariat. At least that's the impression we're given from the footage of a mural depicting the siege and the outside of a building where it apparently is still taking place. From there, we hear from a tour guide who tells us a little of the context of modern day Athens, coupled with footage of things in the city that look interesting.

The end result is a documentary short that's unfocused and scattered, never spending enough time on any one issue to explore it with any amount of depth. Take, for example, the siege mentioned in the film's opening minutes. Here you have any event that's prime material for a documentary film, the type of happening that filmmakers dream about. But not only do we not see any footage of the event itself, we don't hear from anyone involved or see anything other than a glimpse at the fallout. The siege happened three days ago, but for all we know it could have taken place years ago. Clearly director Johanna Custer couldn't get access (otherwise, we would have seen that footage), but decided to try and bluff her way through a film anyway, opting instead for a tourist's view of Athens, showing us easy to access exteriors and a poorly executed interview with a tour guide that, at times, is almost impossible to hear.

As is the voice-over narration, which is so poorly recorded that the audio cuts out on every plosive. In theory, this should be the film's strong point, as voice-over narration allows for the multiple takes that filming in a foreign country doesn't, but it ends up being the film's Achilles heel. Even if an audience member were willing to watch what comes off as Custer's vacation video, the audio is so bad they'll want to quit well before the end.

[1] Johanna is a regular reader of this blog and contributed to the fundraiser for my latest film.

You can check out Johanna's blog at the lone revue. Also, you can check out her webpage or her MySpace page.

Got a film you'd like to submit for the uber-indie project? Go here for details. You can also read these reviews at TalkingMoviezzz.com.


johanna said...

I'd like to thank you, Lucas, for deciding not to go with this as part of your gravida premiere. I was thinking, as usual, of social consciousness over the quality of the work. Mostly I was just thinking that not enough people think about what's going on beyond their own yards, etc.

Now that I've had several months to regroup after this with respect to the longer, fleshed-out version, I'll be able to get back to this and learning how to esit with some real zeal.

And no longer weeping over my broken nose will really help, too.

But yeah, thanks.

lucas mcnelly said...

a lack of injury certainly makes things easier

johanna said...

the seagulls out here on the casco bay sure do agree with you. i can tell. but the wind is so very something today, i took footage of a garbage bag and a coat jacket on a corner in a duet.

it was a very graceful jacket.