Sunday, March 18, 2007

continued sxsw 2007 catch up - billy the kid

I kid Roseana about how much she must hate this blog since she stopped emailing after I sent her the url. The director of the new nonfiction feature, Billy the Kid chimes in, "Ooh, what blog? Will you blog about my film?" I explain I don't review films but she's interested anyway. She wants the attention. So this is my two cents about Billy the Kid. I found myself a bit in reserve during the screening. I was surprised to hear the complete gushes all around as the lights went up. I was even more surprised and moved to observe the tears and shared admissions in the lobby, "Billy's just like my brother....my father...my son...."

This film clearly touched a nerve. The jurors awarded it its prize for "a haunting and intense cinematic experience that truly allows the viewer to enter the world of its all too easily misunderstood protagonist." In the Q&A, the director described Billy as a hero - a boy who is so strongly who he is, regardless of the pressures to be otherwise. She loved that he compromised not one single bit.

So why did I feel resistance ? I appreciated the film, why didn't I love it? The romantic thread alone is one for the ages. As a mother, am I too aware of the reality of Billy's life? Is making him the hero, too simple minded for me? Of course, if he were my child, I would love him fiercely, and only hope I could be as calm and understanding as his mother appears to be. But is this 8 day immersion the whole story or just a shiny gloss? Why do I have this nagging feeling that something is missing?

4 comments:

castleshadow said...

Maybe because you were in a documentary yourself and you know how much is NOT revealed....

Anonymous said...

I fell in love with this film but am exasperated with the film's director, who only seems interested in finding money and distribution for her film and making her outcast subject into a misunderstood hero.

Hartstein said...

I understand the infatuation with Billy the Kid. Getting to know and rooting for Billy is F-U-N!. He's smart and his POV is preternaturally mature while also wholly innocent. What bothers me is that it does not seem like a legitimate portrayal of his life. I don't even think it's a movie. It's more a portrait than anything else. Ultimately the filmmaker gets out when the going gets tough and is satisfied to give you what she got. The film ends when act two begins. End title card says something like "Billy was kicked out of school for his violent tendencies and then reinstated." Sounds like act two and three to me.

I had a similar reaction to another
doc in the fest (which I liked a good bit more), Fish Kill Flea. Another great portrait, but the film ends with act two. The Flea Market is closed. Where do these people go? What do they do next? Maddening.

I'm starting to think filmmakers are too quick to get the product out the door and start the festival circuit without actually thinking about STORY. Oh well, they did make for fun screenings.

grainyms said...

extremely interesting interview with the director at: http://stillinmotion.typepad.com/still_in_motion/2007/06/interview_jenni.html