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This is what I live for as a film critic.
This is it. This is why I devote so much time and energy to low-budget indie, micro-flix and credit card cinema, those films whose very existence comes at the expense of the blood, sweat, tears and credit cards of their producers.
It takes a special skill for a film critic to review these ultra-low budget films, films that you'll likely never see in a multiplex or in any of the major film festivals around the world. Oh sure, occasionally a film breaks through and snatches its piece of Hollywood glory.
Most of the time, however, these films spend a year or two on the film festival circuit and, with a little bit of luck, nab a DVD distribution deal with a reputable distributor.
I've learned, and I hope that you'll learn, that it is possible to make a damn fine film on a really low budget. It's not easy, for sure, but it is possible.
When it happens, it's better than sex for a film critic.
I vaguely remember sex.
I am proud of The Independent Critic's devotion to independent cinema, a devotion that occasionally comes at the expense of readers who'd much rather catch a scoop about the latest wide-release film or who simply wants to be distracted by special features and razzle dazzle.
Much like your average indie filmmaker, I'd love to find a wider audience. Much like your average indie filmmaker, I refuse to compromise my vision, in this case a journalistic vision, in order to attract more readers.
Then, a film like Tim Busko's Half a Bee comes along and I am reminded of why I remain so steadfast in my devotion to indie film. Having floated around the indie festival circuit since late 2008, Half a Bee has recently been picked up by IndiePix for a DVD distribution deal.
Let me start off simply.
If you are a music fan, you should see Half a Bee.
If you are a fan of documentaries, you should see Half a Bee.
If you are a human being, a person who has experienced life and screwed it up only to find yourself back on track and starting to figure it all out, then you should definitely see this amazingly simple yet hypnotic 60-minute documentary about Eric Morder. Morder is a 30ish man, a small-town poet/musician whose music and musings are strikingly honest, real, simple, entertaining and beautifully presented by Busko's one-man wonder crew.
These documentaries, and washed up/burned out musicians do deserve a documentary sub-genre all their own, can be remarkably pretentious and self-serving.
Think Wesley Willis' Joyrides, a film that took a beloved and gifted man and reduced him to a cinematic cliche' by painting him as a sort of transcendent figure. The approach ruined the power of Willis's story and, along with it, the documentary that bared his name.
Busko, on the other hand, simply turns on the camera and allows Morder to be Morder. Rather than creating anything resembling a dramatized situation or seemingly staged scene, what unfolds in Half a Bee feels like equal parts poetry, musical journey and a conversation with a beloved friend.
The joy of Half a Bee, and the film contains much joy, is that Morder is such a wonderfully straightforward and sincere man who realizes that his story isn't particularly unique. It is simply his story and he's willing to share it through film and in song. Morder is a man you want to get to know, because he feels like a man who could be more, or you or anyone we know.
Filmed in black-and-white with bits and pieces of archival footage, Half a Bee has the look and feel of a folk version of U2's Rattle and Hum, a film that balanced performance with prose, spectacle with personality. While there's not as much spectacle to be found here, scenes of Morder simply talking are typically wrapped around by scenes of Morder performing his music, music that comes alive with more heart and soul than anything anyone has seen on "American Idol" this past season.
Half a Bee is available on DVD, as a download or you can watch it on demand at IndiePix.
On a weekend when Hollywood has force-fed us more unimaginative, over-produced tripe like Sex and the City 2 and Prince of Persia, Half a Bee is a powerful reminder that it is possible for one man and his camera to create a truly beautiful film.
© Written by Richard Propes
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Richard Propes, The Independent Critic