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February 16, 2013

Cinequest 2010


FrICTION played to a packed Repertory Theater on Saturday afternoon, only to have director Cullen Hoback turn the audience’s heads inside out.  Those of us who know Cullen and have seen his previous films were perhaps more confused than anyone, but in the best way possible.  Billed as a feature film gone wrong, FrICTION will leave you scratching your head and wondering just exactly what was real and what was not, even after listening to the Q&A.  FrICTION is simply an enigma wrapped in a mystery and then possibly wrapped in bacon.  FrICTION is the kind of film that Cinequest is all about.

Back in 2007 director Cullen Hoback arrived at the Cinequest Film Festival with his motley cast of actors from his first feature film FREEDOM STATE.  Cullen and his cast didn’t exactly blend in as they had an amazing quirkiness about theirlarge group that was quite evident, but for the most part they stayed quietly in the background those first few days.  However, once FREEDOM STATE finally had its first screening this group became beloved stars of the festival.  I would say that FREEDOM STATE itself had quite a few flaws but was a beautiful film, had some incredibly hilarious scenes, and overall showed that Cullen Hoback was going to do great things in the years ahead.

Returning in 2008 with MONSTER CAMP, Cullen was already well known and recognized at the festival.  Again bringing some of his hilarious but loveable cast, no one could miss them as they held sword battles outside the Camera theaters.  MONSTER CAMP was a documentary that could have been an irreverent look at live-action role playing (LARPing) and the losers that participate, but Cullen was able to turn those documentary expectations on their head; by the time the film ended, those in the audience wanted to find their own local LARP organization and join in.  The audience came away with a different view of those who participate in LARPing, and learned that what looks ridiculous from the outside is actually a business with unimaginable work put into it, and is no more silly than dressing in your favorite team gear to watch football on the weekends – in fact, it might just be more rewarding.  MONSTER CAMP won Best Documentary at Cinequest that year.

FrICTION-jerandamyAnd so imagine our surprise when those of us familiar with Cullen’s work were presented with a very different type of film than his previous work. FrICTION is a very provocative, sometimes shocking story of two married teachers and the 15 year old student who comes between them.  “Teachers sometimes have relationships with students,” we are told at one point on the film.  There was a gasp in the audience – because yes, they sometimes do, and then they usually go to jail.  But this film isn’t just about that.  It completely blurs the lines between what is real, what is scripted, and what is scripted to be real.  As more and more lies are uncovered during the film you realize that, real or not, absolutely nothing is as it seems in FrICTION.

Cullen is concerned that after this initial showing (with our heads in a cloud of ignorance) that future audiences will never have the same experience, so I am not going to go further into the storyline.  I will say that there is a beautiful soundtrack which the audience was very excited about, and that some scenes in the film were so typically Cullen Hoback that I could have picked them out of a line-up.  He definitely has a visual eye for quirky film, and I loved the shots of Amy standing under a tree in the rain, the overhead shot of the three characters on towels, and one of August floating past lily-pads in the boat.

Should you see this film?  Yes, Yes, and Yes.  Don’t read anything further about the film, just sit back and enjoy this crazy ride and try to decipher what is really happening on your own.  And then go pick up the DVDs for FREEDOM STATE and MONSTER CAMP and become a Cullen Hoback groupie like the rest of us.

Now available on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video.

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