Saturday, March 20, 2010

2010 CIFF: Van Diemen's Land

So the Cleveland International Film Festival has kicked off again and for the first time I have decided to volunteer, rather than just patronizing a few of the films. After 6 hours of collecting ballots, tallying patrons, and ushering I was ready to enjoy a film. And although it was a stinker, I really enjoyed the film festival atmosphere (as I sensed the many who came out for it today did) and I would encourage you to come out and support it. Here is my review of the midnight movie I just got out of called Van Diemen's Land, which contains minor spoilers:
     As the film begins, it offers us the prisoner's two choices: enslavement with brutal work and cruel punishment or escape through the harsh and unforgiving wilderness. The men choose the latter and are off on a grueling battle with Mother Nature, but of course they will find that the real enemy is themselves (it doesn't help that the seven men are from opposing British and Irish backgrounds). This film had potential, but soon it becomes a nasty, nihilistic, and gruesome tale that plays out like an And Then There Were None version of Saw. There is no point to all the mayhem and carnage accept for the fact that it was supposedly based on a true story of an 1822 escape by prisoners on the penal colony of Van Diemen's Land in Tasmania. What makes everything worse is the extreme self-seriousness of the story, especially in the narration. A good survival in the wilderness story can be the most fun of films, but not the way this one was handled. It does score points for its wilderness shots, but even the cuts are sloppy and the film shows the sign of its low budget.