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I attended the World Premiere of "Yeast," Mary Bronstein's entry in this year's narrative features competition at the 2008 SXSW Film Festival. Many fans of the unscripted style were in attendance. It is that audience to which "Yeast" will hold the greatest appeal.
This mostly-improvised film follows a few days in the lives of three women struggling to keep friendship alive in the face of a huge challenge -- they know each other too well. Bronstein's character lashes out with aggression, Amy Judd withdraws in silence, and Greta Gerwig's character just wants to have a good time. They get on each other's nerves in a way only best friends can and, as we witness, it's just as easy to love someone who is close to you as it is to hate them.
"Yeast" was shot on Mini DV with a very homemade feel, using mostly intense and extreme closeups. As Bronstein explained in the Q&A after the screening, the use of two cameras enhances the unscripted nature of the film as it does not require reverse shots and multiple takes. It's more a semi-scripted docudrama/reality show than anything. Dialogue was originally written and rehearsed but, when it came time to shoot, the lines were tossed and actors encouraged to simply work out the general scenes. This allowed a more natural reacting style to take over.
"Yeast" exposes the fact that the people you are most comfortable with are the ones who can be the most annoying, and the easiest to annoy. It's a universal dilemma and is painful to watch at times but fascinating nonetheless.
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