Hot Tickets: the first film from the YouTube generation?
Because I spent most of my years in high school with a video camera in my bag, gathering b-roll footage of football games and collecting stiff interviews of school officials holding forth on the school lunch program, I was glad to see that the high school video production classes of the aughts are not so different than those of the 90s. In 25-year-old newcomer Antonio Campos’s debut feature Afterschool, it’s clear that the channels of distributions have changed, that’s all—instead of a weekly close-circuit video broadcast, today’s teens have a much greater number of channels for their output—not just YouTube, but also Facebook and MySpace.
The opening montage of Afterschool tosses together a piano-playing cat, the camera-phone rendering of Saddam Hussein’s execution, and a particularly sadistic bit of low-rent pornography before laying out its disturbingly off-kilter coming-of-age trajectory. While films like the Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield have made a stunt out of the DIY aesthetic that has been so much a part of the adoption of low-cost video technology, Campos insightfully explores the implications of a world those hilarious cats and gruesome executions have similar weight. His hero, Robert, a soulful, feminine-featured loner, is more of an observer than an actor, and thus becomes a particularly revealing lens on an amateur video-saturated culture.
Robert is conducting a pan of his prep school hallway when the two most popular girls in school careen into the frame, bloody and convulsing. His reaction—or lack thereof—is a jumping off point for the filmmaker to explore the moral disorientation of young people well-versed in trading video clips in lieu of actual face-to-face communication. One of the best moments in the film comes when Rob presents his cringe-inducing video memorial for the fallen twins. “Is this some kind of a joke?” asks his teacher. In his quest to put together, to borrow his terminology, “little clips of things that seem real,” it’s clear that Rob has failed to weave a sufficiently sentimental narrative. Relying heavily on artless, static compositions and long takes that are so reminiscent of the genre of amateur video he’s depicting, Campos provides a film that’s difficult to digest, but nonetheless remarkable for its insights. And miles away from those videos of piano-playing cats.
Tickets to Afterschool are still avaliable:
This entry was posted on September 24, 2008 at 6:27 am and is filed under festival dispatches, hot tickets, new york film festival, on @ the walter reade, what's on. You can subscribe via RSS 2.0 feed to this post's comments.comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.