Wednesday 3 July 2013

Say What You Want (2012)

Directors: Stephanie Lucas & Josh Kasselman
Stars: Anthony Nigro and Colin Wyatt
This film was an official selection at the Phoenix Film Festival in Phoenix in 2013. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 films.
Here's another one that confused me, but not in the way that Lake Effect did. I don't understand what Lake Effect was trying to tell me and the film lost what impact it could have had because of that. Here, I understand everything going on because it's a relatively clearcut documentary short, outlining the struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder that a musician called Anthony Nigro has gone through and continues to go through. I even like the subject and the people who talk to us about it, most obviously Nigro himself but also his friend and bandmate, Colin Wyatt, now the director of video production at EMI. What I'm confused about is why I should care and why others apparently do. I don't mean any offence to Nigro, but I have no idea who he is or why he warrants his own documentary short. Sure, he has OCD and he's figured out to a degree how to deal with it, but then so do I and so have I. Where's my documentary short? No, I don't warrant one either.

Yet of the ten short films that were selected for the Arizona Shorts set at the Phoenix Film Festival, this is the one that won. While I have nothing particularly against this film, beyond my question of why it even exists, I have to be brutal here and say that I would have ranked it last of the lot. The clear standouts for me were The Violation and Shift, both complex pieces that achieved on quite a few different levels all at once. Screaming in Silence is another film with serious depth that cannot be ignored, Mission Control continues to get better every time I see it and Pensil was a cute little thing too. But this won over them all and I have precisely no idea why. Now, I don't want to give the impression that it's a bad movie, as it isn't. The editing is solid enough to hide how little there really is in the way of footage until we think about it. The gimmicks are kept to a minimum but work well: the use of split screen, animation and photo vs video at points are all appropriate.
But what's it actually trying to tell us? Is it really about Anthony Nigro? He progresses musically from a bunch of kids who didn't really play, through a band who did at least write real songs to a serious outfit who moved from Tucson to Los Angeles in an attempt to find a larger audience than was possible at home. If so, it doesn't tell us much. We only hear brief clips of unidentified songs and are only given the name to one of his bands. Outside of music, we meet his fiancée, Yanira, but the best moment with her is during the end credits when Nigro suddenly realises how short she is. Or is it about what we hear about most, OCD? Here there's some substance, because it's easily applicable to others. OCD isn't rare but most people don't suffer from it to the degree that Nigro does. My case is mild enough to not be a problem but strong enough that I can use it to my advantage. As we see, Nigro's is tellingly and scarily dangerous.

The film's postcard suggests that it's 'a short documentary about Anthony Nigro's obsessions'. So it's not about Nigro and it's not about OCD, it's really about how the two connect and that's not an easy thing to grab us. If directors Stephanie Lucas and Josh Kasselman had chosen either one over the other, the film would have felt like it had a more consistent direction. At least it's engaging. I enjoyed getting to know Anthony Nigro and I did find the cautionary tale of his OCD insightful, but I was kept bouncing from one to the other and back again, so never managed to focus on either. By the end, which isn't very far from the start, I felt a little like I'd been caught in one of those Ambien sourced zombie states that Nigro found himself in when he was addicted to sleeping pills. That's surely not the point, but it does make it easy to move onto the next short in the set without any thoughts lingering on to interfere with it. That's not a good property for a short film to have.

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