15 March 2008 | larry-411
Funny, thought-provoking, and totally original
The World Premiere of "IBID" at the 2008 SXSW Film Festival took me back to the early days of my discovering what independent films are all about.
"IBID" features a frighteningly brilliant ensemble cast, led by the delightfully insane performance of Christian Campbell (Lionel) as a psychiatric patient who has written a play to be acted out by the other patients in the institution. The script calls for them to search for The Book in which they will write the New Commandments (ten wasn't enough). And that's where the fun (and puzzlement) begins. This is a classic road movie with a twist -- we don't know where the acting ends and the reality begins, and neither do some of the characters in the film, as we discover.
Evocative of Kerouac and late 60s psychedelia, as well as more recent festival films like "The Go-Getter" and "Wristcutters," "IBID" is full of the stuff of which great indies are made. First, it has the look and feel of cutting edge film-making, from the haunting soundtrack to the judicious use of hand-held camera, subjective point of view shots, and creative lighting and color processing which bring out not just the nature of the frenetic action but also put the viewer into the minds of the characters themselves. Second, not only does "IBID" make you think, it also challenges as few films can do. Having Lionel write a play which is then acted out within the movie itself is a wonderful device which keeps the audience constantly on its toes.
It should be said that the script never trivializes mental illness or patronizes those who may suffer from it. That's a trap which so many filmmakers fall into and audiences often may not know the difference. The fact that director Russell Friedenberg (who also co-stars as Lionel's buddy Tin) has not done so is a tribute to his own caring and sensitivity about the issue. But make no mistake about it -- "IBID" is laugh-out-loud hilarious and never takes itself too seriously.
Most of all, "IBID" allows the viewer to decide what is real and what is not. The real question posed here is a classic one: who is "normal" and who is "crazy?" Friedenberg has done something few filmmakers can -- create a totally unique and original work. It must be seen to be believed.