Paul Batiste, Justin Bickham and Joseph Diaz
Zack Godshall, Ross Brupbacher
An official selection in the NEXT Section of the 2011 Sundance FIlm Festival and getting ready to screen at Indy's Indianapolis International Film Festival, Zack Godshall's Lord Byron is a prime example of the innovative and uniquely inspired filmmaking coming out of the micro-cinema scene.
The film's title character, Byron (Paul Batiste), lives with his ex-wife, her kids and her boyfriend while spending his days mostly smoking weed and waiting on one of his several girlfriends to get home from work. Feeling like a cousin to Steven Soderbergh's lower budget Bubble, Lord Byron is an almost no-budget film that utilizes non-professional actors from Godshall's home state of Louisiana. Indeed, it's the film's quirky Louisiana vibe and anti-aesthetic approach that makes it rather endearing and an infinitely more successful cinematic experiment than was Soderbergh's admirable but disappointing film.
The third feature from Godshall, after Low and Behold and God's Architects, isn't likely to see a theatrical release anytime soon but neither is it the type of film that you shouldn't see if it finds its way into a film festival near you. While the film's technical achievements are modest at best, there's an honesty and simplicity in the film that comes courtesy, most of all, of Batiste's relaxed, natural performance that is part inner dialogue and part philosophical ramblings that work surprisingly well because you're never quite clear if Byron is for real or faux real.
If you watched a doc called Shakespeare Behind Bars a couple years back, you're likely to be in touch with exactly what it feels like to be watching Lord Byron, a film that sometimes feels like performance art or a spoken word performance. Byron is a spiritual quest of sorts, a man who has arrived at mid-life and is starting to wonder what it's really all about.
Or is he?
There will be those, most likely in the majority, who can't get past Lord Byron's low-budget tech quality and the remarkably hit-and-miss acting that seems to come with utilizing amateur actors. Yet, for those who embrace cinema without rules, Lord Byron is an involving if not entirely successful film that has deserved a much better fate on the fest circuit than it has found.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic