Orlando Weekly's guide to the 2013 Florida Film Festival
Central Florida’s annual festival of film and food returns for its 22nd year
Published: April 3, 2013
Martin (Paul Eenhoorn) has just moved to Reno, Nev., leaving behind two grown children and seemingly everything else he held dear. Financially and spiritually adrift after years spent devoted to his church, he’s found a new job helping prisoners make the transition from incarceration to freedom. It allows him to honor his faith while keeping a certain distance from it too. Also starting anew is Travis (Richmond Arquette), just released from prison after 12 years, trying to reconnect with his daughter and looking for a friend. He finds an unlikely one in Martin.
With his sophomore feature, director-writer Chad Hartigan has tackled a topic that is anything but sophomoric: facing the world, and yourself, alone. It’s tough to do at any age and under any circumstance, let alone as middle-aged men inventing new lives for themselves. Obvious and a bit amateurish at times, Martin Bonner could have fallen flat if not for Hartigan’s patient, panning camera and the touching and naturalistic, though unpolished, performances of Eenhoorn and Arquette.
Some may find the subtle Christian overtones off-putting or the overall piece passionless, more a photograph than a film. But allowed to slowly develop, it becomes a lovely snapshot. – CM
YEAR OF THE LIVING DEAD
If you like movies in which an intrepid guerrilla film crew cobbles together a low-budget feature – and if you go to film festivals, you probably do – you’ll embrace this fun, informative doc about the making of the original Night of the Living Dead.
Zombie godfather George Romero recounts the creative choices and happy accidents that helped his crew of Pittsburgh misfits take horror in a whole new direction; for reinforcement, scholars like Elvis Mitchell explain how the results both reflected and informed our late-’60s notions of race, age and violence. The analysis is pitched just right, revealing exactly what Night was and wasn’t, and never succumbing to the sort of overwrought bullpuckey that clogs up bad grad theses.
In the most endearing tribute to Romero’s legacy, a modern-day junior-high class in the Bronx attains “cultural literacy” by viewing Night in all its entrails-gobbling glory (“It’s GUTS!”), then enjoys a crash course in the fine art of staggering around like a zombie. Maybe there’s hope for our schools after all. – SS