31 August 2015 | christian94
American Dream and Real Life
Takeshi Fukunaga's promising first feature film focuses on Cisco, a complex character who is revealed throughout the movie with good writing, contemplative directing with a vision and inscrutable non-verbal acting. Liberian-born Bishop Blay plays Cisco with all the right cues and he will, like the character he portrays, come to America for the first time to film the New York part of the story. As fate would have it, he is still in the USA now as the 2014 West African outbreak of Ebola who greatly affected Liberia prompted him to try to make his life there and try the acting scene.
Takeshi Fukunaga himself came to America from Japan in hopes to find a better life more than a decade ago, even though in no way to the same disillusion and desperation as is seen in Liberia and most of the third world. He examines this false American Dream and land of opportunity or "land of milk and honey" very well. Another film to life parallel is that as the director's long time collaborator, cinematographer and brother-in-law, Ryo Murakami, came to Liberia to film both the documentary on the rubber plantation workers and this feature film, but came to pass from complication of malaria he contracted there.
Coming back to the movie, it offers nuanced scenes in Liberia with powerful dialog and a documentary visual style very close the the action and actors and non-actors. In New York, the focus is switched (metaphorically and physically as Owen Donovan has to take up the lens to capture the metropolis' chaos) to delve into Cisco's demons, dreams and fears. Two new important characters are introduced, a pimp and a whore, to bring about the perspective of past, present & future as well as pleasure & pain. Economic and emotional realities and restrictions reach the screen but with a distance like the Atlantic ocean who separates Cisco from his wife and children.
Fukunaga's achievement is in staying in the subtleties without losing the viewer's interest or intensity. While the engagement may be more intellectual at first, the underlying emotions, messages and thought- provocative portrayal are longer coming, but perhaps also longer-lasting.
USA & Liberia 2015 | 88 mins | Montreal World Film Festival | English & Liberian Pidgin (English subtitles)