|Index||3 reviews in total|
Filmthreat.com review by Doug Brunell (8/28/05):
"Imagine if George Orwell wrote a lesson for lesbians about individuality and finding one's self. That's what first popped into my mind as I watched Jenn Kao's utterly captivating "Outside." Then I thought I may be reading too much into the short film because that's the kind of guy I am ... but I don't think so. I think this film is all about how many people with feelings for the same sex keep themselves closeted because they are scared for one reason or another. They do what they are told, they look for means of escape, and when they finally accept and embrace who they are, they want people to share their joy -- only that may not turn out exactly as planned. Until they reach that level of self-awareness, though, they keep themselves isolated from their true selves, and society is more than willing to help them do it.
That's what I got from this film that centers on Devi (played by the fantastic Courtney Ford), a woman who lives alone in some cell. She eats when she is told to and occasionally looks out a dirty window into the desert. Her contact with the outside world is through a radio, where she talks to other women as they "drop" (slang for taking some sort of drug) and begin to describe their visions of what they're "experiencing" in the outside world. Devi's main contact is Ari (Juliet), who constantly describes being on the beach at sunset. Things start to go wrong when intruders, including one outsider woman named M (Keaton Talmadge), encroach upon Devi's cell. Ari keeps reminding Devi not to look because it only encourages them, but the slightly boyish M has caught Devi's attention, and soon our heroine is feeding M through a hole in the wall. As the film reaches its subtle conclusion, longings are awakened and secrets revealed.
Again, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this film is just a fun little sci-fi tale, but I doubt it. In fact, I'd go so far as to say this should be shown to kids in high school. The kids who are struggling with their sexual identity are going to get it, while the others will most likely remain quite oblivious (thus saving teachers the calls from irrational parents). Even if I'm wrong, maybe someone will see the same thing I did, and it will save them a lot of grief in the future. And, heck, even if I am wrong, it's still a great film, and that's all that really matters." - reposting of review by Doug Brunell, Filmthreat.com (8/28/05)
Jenn Kao's short film Outside is indeed a science fiction film but to call it that risks having it dismissed as one of a thousand non-descript genre pieces that give all of sci-fi a bad name. Outside is really a subtly acted and directed character drama set in a science fiction world. The fact that all of the main characters are women also sets it apart from the typical picture one has of a science fiction film. This film stands out from the dregs of the science fiction genre, dominated as it is by cliché male heroes, over-the-top villains, and formulaic plot. Rather it aspires to the best that science fiction can be. In the tradition of Solaris, 2001, and others it creates vividly original settings and characters. It outwardly explores a strange environment and inwardly explores what it means for a person to be isolated. If you can catch this film at a festival, do so. It's a great example of just how unique a world one can create, even in the short film genre. It has excellent performances, beautiful cinematography and production design, and shows real original talent on the part of writer/director Jenn Kao.
Outside is a beautiful story about overcoming the the fear we have within us for the unknown and commonly denounced. It tells the story of two people from two separate, yet adjacent worlds who discover the inexorable connection of their past and humanity. The characters are simple yet vivid, and the emotional contact of M and Ari's interaction evokes the raw and unspoken passion that we all look for: weakening yet exhilarating, frightening yet empowering. The cinematography is sharply charged with the contrast between the clinical and desaturated life of the inside with the brilliant and living life of the outside. The production design is textured with the isolation Ari feels within. The performances are powerful with yearning and truth. The budding attraction seen on screen is sparse of dialog, but rich with deep and provocative communication. "Outside" is saliently beautiful, in concept, craft and meaning.
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