Monthly Archives: October 2017

Review: ‘Walking Out’

Cal (Matt Bomer) and David (Josh Wiggins). Photo: IMDb.

Based on a short story by American author David Quammen, Walking Out is a father-son movie produced by Alex and Andrew Smith that takes place in Montana’s Crazy Mountains. David (Josh Wiggins) is a urban teenager spending time in the wilderness with his dad, Cal (Matt Bomer), for a hunting trip. As they start their adventure, Cal finds it hard to connect with his son, but a terrible accident will quickly change the dynamic between the two. As they fight for survival in extreme winter conditions, their relationship leads to mutual growth.

On opposite sides, father and son have to work together to create memories in a technologically connected world that lacks in creating deep, meaningful connections. When David visits Cal, he has to adapt to his father primitive masculine style. Cal, on the other hand, just wants to pass on family traditions through outdoors activities, and eventually create a father-son memory that will stay with David forever. Independent of what the two believe, being alone together creates a connection they did not predict.

The movie was shot almost entirely in the Crazy Mountains. The heavy snow during the movie’s production added some challenge to the project, but it paid off, for the shots in the snow are in accordance to what is going on with our main characters. In the past, when Cal has a problem with his own dad, snow falls to cover an already cold ground. In the present, the snow starts melting as Cal and David seem to start figuring each other out. The weather intensifies the extreme situation they find themselves in, but also plays a beautiful role in the drama.

On that note, Walking Out also stars Bill Pullman in flashback scenes as Cal’s father. The passing of family traditions between fathers highlights the idea of generational masculinity, where fathers take their sons into the wilderness expecting a coming of age experience. For Cal, that experience stayed with him to adulthood, so he believes that passing it on to David is essential to his growth.

The father-son endeavors in the cold, isolated Montanan backcountry is at the center of the narrative, but to talk about Walking Out and not mention the outstanding landscapes surrounding Cal and David is to forget that to live in Montana is to live inside a National Geographic magazine. In Walking Out, human nature becomes as raw as it gets to remind the audience that, more than hunters, humans are also easy prey for life.

Director: Andrew J. Smith, Alex Smith

Screenplay: Alex & Andrew Smith, from a story by David Quammen

Genre: Adventure, Drama

Running Time: 1h 37m

‘Charged: The Eduardo Garcia Story’: Review and Interview with Producer Dennis Aig

Charged offers an intimate view into Eduardo Garcia’s survival story and his quest to reshape himself physically and, most importantly, mentally

Eduardo and Jennifer today. Photo: http://www.chargedfilm.com/gallery/.

Eduardo Garcia, known today as the “Bionic Chef,” received an electrical shock of 2400 volts six years ago that completely changed his life. He was venturing through Montana’s back country when he checked a dead bear cub with the tip of his knife without knowing there was a power line under the animal’s body. Eduardo’s girlfriend, Jennifer Jane, was in England at the time when she heard of what had happened. She booked the first available flight to the United States and, while waiting at Heathrow Airport, she contacted the surgeon who was about to perform Eduardo’s first surgery. The doctor warned Jennifer about the surgery’s elevated risks and advised her to say anything she had to say to Eduardo now, for that could be the last time she could ever speak to him again.

The incident left Eduardo with several wounds and the title of “bag of bones with a heart beat,” which was the Salt Lake City’s Burn Trauma ICU’s description for his state. Holding on to those heart beats, he went through twenty-one surgeries and, after making a hard decision that could end his career as a chef, had his left hand amputated. The doctors warned Eduardo that keeping his left hand could later bring him medical complications. Besides, his hand would not be half of what it once was. Determined to fight for his life, he lost his hand knowing the decision would have a huge impact on his future endeavors.

Jennifer arrived at the hospital and remained by his side during his whole recovery process. Although Eduardo had proven himself unfaithful months before the accident, she chose to care for him because, in her words, “we love who we love.” During his recovery, Jennifer had the idea of filming his progress to later create a documentary on how he overcame this nearly fatal experience. The premise behind the film, she thought, would be to inspire others to overcome their hardships. After receiving many offers to tell Eduardo’s story, they finally decided to get together with some friends in film production to tell a more detailed story than what a fifteen-minute TV interview could tell.

Jennifer’s initial plan was to be directly involved in making the documentary, but Charged’s production team realized her significance in Eduardo’s story, and placed her in front of the camera. She wanted the documentary to inspire others through Eduardo’s experience, but everything they had gone through together was also a beautiful love story. Therefore, she gave all the footage she had to the documentary’s production, and became an important figure in the film.

Charged offers an intimate view into Eduardo Garcia’s survival story and his quest to reshape himself physically and, most importantly, mentally. The documentary succeeds in not only focusing on the survivor, but also in all the loving and caring people who were by Eduardo’s side throughout his hardest times, including Jennifer.

The Art House Cinema & Pub invited Charged’s producer, Dennis Aig, to talk more about the making of the documentary and its impact on the public.

ART HOUSE CINEMA & PUB: When did you first hear about Eduardo Garcia’s story?
DENNIS AIG: I first heard about Eduardo Garcia’s story in late 2013 while we were still working on our previous documentary film, Unbranded. The principal subject of that film, Ben Masters, stayed at Eduardo’s house in Bozeman, and that is how I met and found out about Eduardo.

ART HOUSE CINEMA & PUB: How did you become involved with the project?
DENNIS AIG: We were completing Unbranded, and Phil Baribeau, the director of both films, suggested that Charged be our next project. I became part of the discussions to convince Eduardo and Jennifer Jane to allow us to make the film. Once they agreed, we were fully in production.

ART HOUSE CINEMA & PUB: Jennifer initially wanted to be involved in making the documentary. When did the production decide that she should be a subject rather than being behind the camera?
DENNIS AIG: Phill knew both Eduardo and Jennifer since before the accident. He knew how important she was in Ed’s recovery, and we agreed early on that she would be a significant part of the film. We always intended that Jen’s role as caregiver would be given full weight in the recovery story, since many films about survivors of injury or illness usually give little, if any, attention to caregivers. We also always said this film was a survivor story and a love story.

ART HOUSE CINEMA & PUB: Did the production of Charged face any roadblocks?
DENNIS AIG: We did need to conduct a Kickstarter campaign to initiate the funding and then find additional people who would eventually invest the remaining money we needed. With the material we shot, the archival material, and Jen’s video work, we had almost too much footage. We needed to work through all of it, and, with our great editor, Tony Hale, figure out the best way to tell the story. We screened six versions for small but diverse test audiences until we found the right balance among all the elements.

ART HOUSE CINEMA & PUB: What are some of the biggest highlights you had during the making of Charged?
DENNIS AIG: There were several highlights. The great recovery Eduardo made was one them. The resolution of the relationship between Jennifer and Eduardo was another. Eduardo’s reconciliation with Manuel, his father, was as moving in real life as it is on film. The speech for the Bozeman High School students was stirring and revealed the power of Eduardo’s story. I remember watching in amazement as the young students opened up after hearing Eduardo talk about his experiences. He has an amazingly inspiring effect on people, especially those who are in pain and need to talk, however reluctantly, about their suffering. Wherever Eduardo speaks, that place becomes a safe zone in which people, no matter how young or shy, can expose their raw emotions and begin to deal with them.

ART HOUSE CINEMA & PUB: What do you want the audience to take out of this film?
DENNIS AIG: I would like the audience to see how Eduardo came through an experience that could have destroyed him and found redemption instead. I also hope audiences will see that the love between two people can transcend our normal definitions of a “relationship” to achieve a deep friendship that is truly positive and powerful. Love truly enables us to heal ourselves and others.

Charged will be playing at the Art House Cinema & Pub until October 19th. Do not miss the chance to see this inspiring and powerful film.

Director: Phillip Baribeau

Producer: Dennis Aig

Genre: Biography/Adventure

Running Time: 1h 26m

Review: ‘Columbus’

Columbus, a romantic drama that uses architecture for more than just composition, shows how cinema goes hand-in-hand with other artistic expressions

Casey and Jin in front of the Columbus City Hall. Photo: Elisha Christian.

Jin (John Cho), a translator living in Seoul, South Korea, travels to Columbus, Indiana after his father, a professor who was studying Columbus’ modernist buildings, has suffered a stroke. There, he meets Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a young local woman in love with architecture. After Jin’s arrival, they end up meeting and starting a friendship that not only brings them to the center of the story, but also highlights Columbus’ architectural landmarks.

The movie is Kogonada’s debut feature film, but for a beginner he manages to deeply explore topics such as death, separation, family relationships, and aspirations in a subtle and unique way. The movie uses Columbus’ modern architecture to create stunning compositions that synchronize with the characters through their meaning.

In one scene, Casey takes Jin to see where she went to high school. Jin looks up at the building and gives an insight on its style: “Brutal.” If the ambiance in Columbus were not so relevant, that comment could have passed unnoticed. However, as the story unfolds, the viewers come to understand that Casey’s life during high school, as well as the style of the building are connected in their roughness, their brutality.

The characters’ romance is another nice touch from Kogonada.

Jin and Casey develop a deeper connection that is very different from what is often portrayed in movies. Their affection leaves no place for sexuality, yet their intimacy is acquired through their shared emotions and impressions. When they sit in front of Columbus City Hall, whose architecture features brick beams that extend from either side but do not meet in the middle, the building represents the connection they have, more emotional than physical. For that, it is hard not to fall in love with Columbus, but to praise the movie and not to talk about the cinematographer Elisha Christian would be a mistake. The way he beautifully frames the characters and their surroundings tells more about them than the actual characters sometimes say about themselves.

Sensitive in the way it addresses Casey’s and Jin’s personal challenges, Columbus is a passionate story that takes advantage of the city’s impressive architecture without taking away the characters’ spotlight. If anything, the architecture in Columbus is a character too.

Director: Kogonada

Screenplay: Kogonada

Genre: Drama/Comedy

Running Time: 1h 44m

Review: ‘Gook’

Equally heartbreaking and funny, Gook can get the viewers feeling all the feels, as well as asking all the questions

Eli (Justin Chon) and Kamilla (Simone Baker). Photo: IMDb.

On April 29, 1992, four white police officers were acquitted of use of excessive force on Rodney King. The court’s decision shook Los Angeles, increasing the racial tensions in the city. Gook, written and directed by Justin Chon, explores this day through the story of two Korean-American brothers, Eli (Justin Chon) and Daniel (David So), and a black girl named Kamilla (Simone Baker), who likes hanging out at their shoe store instead of going to school.

A bridge between African-Americans and Korean-Americans, Kamilla has no side in the conflict between the different communities in Los Angeles. When Eli finds his car vandalized with the word “Gook” written it, a derogatory term used to describe Koreans, Kamilla asks him what the word means. Given the choice between perpetuating the cycle of hatred or explaining the literal meaning of the word, Eli tells her the word originated in the Korean War and that “Me Gook” means “America.”

A simple, yet powerful moment in the movie, this scene not only displays the true friendship between a young man and a girl, but most importantly, it gives an insight into race relations in America. Entirely populated by Asian, Black, and Latino characters, Gook delivers reflections on racism and violence without even showing up at your door step. Most of the time, these reflections are subtle, like the scene with the word “gook” or when Kamilla is surveilled in a liquor store by its Korean owner, which invokes the Latasha Harlins shooting, when a 15-year-old girl was fatally shot by Soon Ja Du, a liquor store owner who thought she was shoplifting.

Shot entirely in black and white, a common technique used in photography to concentrate the attention on what’s in the frame, the movie takes away the attention from colors and centers the viewer’s eyes on the story. The absence of colors and the manipulation of light throughout the film makes the story even more raw than it already is.

Equally heartbreaking and funny, Gook can get the viewers feeling all the feels, as well as asking all the questions. Twenty-five years after the Los Angeles riots, the movie presents the audience with the opportunity to take a look back and measure how far society has come, or if it has come anywhere. As for the writer and director Justin Chon, asking those questions seems to be his goal in filmmaking. When asked by Brian Chu from Nerd Reactor about his next project, Chon said, “I don’t know if you’ve seen news of these people who lived here 40 years, and because their parents didn’t do all the proper paperwork, they are being deported. I hope that’s my next project.”

Director: Justin Chon

Screenplay: Justin Chon

Genre: Drama/Comedy

Running Time: 1h 35m