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February 18, 2013

Cinequest 2010


Writer/Director Alejandro Adams returned to Cinequest for the third year in a row to astound the SJ Repertory Theater audience with the World Premiere of his film BABNIK.  After last year’s controversial CANARY, many in the audience last night were not sure what to expect from Adams third film, but BABNIK is a perfect blend of suspense and Adams’s trademark confusion.  BABNIK is a winner.

Adams has a great gift for infusing an intense amount of drama and fear into one simple, dialog-free shot.  The closing scene of CANARY was one example of this, but in BABNIK he has given us a film chockfull of these scenes, keeping the audience on edge until the final excitement filled conclusion.  If you have a preconceived idea of what Alejandro’s third film will be like, you will be taken by surprise with BABNIK.

The film is ostensibly about Russian sex traffickers, however it really focuses on one particular character who has been laid off, has no insurance, and owes a great deal of money.  You see, the economy has made it difficult even for these criminals.  Our main character also has no real penchant for being a tough Russian gangster, so there are frustrations between him and his employers as they try to give him training in kidnapping so he can repay his debt to them.  Meanwhile we watch as the bad guys give the most simple yet terrifyingly creepy instructions to the young girls who have come for what they believe is a modeling session, and we watch and wonder what is going on with other females in the movie who appear to be well aware of the business that supports them.

The film is quietly terrifying and many scenes are overlain with an intense sound somewhat like a heartbeat which gives the viewer a feeling of horrifying dread of what is to come.  The sinister Russian characters make the viewer very uncomfortable as you watch them trying to be gentle and supportive of the new girls.  And yet there is also a lot of humor in this movie, and the audience laughed several times.

Adams likes to leave as much as possible up to the imagination of the viewer, and he walks a perfect line with this film.  Instead of leaving the audience scratching their heads in confusion and frustration, in BABNIK he gives the audience just enough information that we can follow along and yet still draw our own conclusions.  After 75 minutes of quiet terror the film suddenly shifts into high gear and hurtles the viewer through its action packed final scene.

Alejandro and his cast were there for an engaging Q&A after the film, and everyone was extremely charismatic and charming.  There was much excitement and relief in the Repertory Theatre last night as the film turned out to be not 90 minutes of drawn out confusion (as with CANARY, for some) but instead an intense and enjoyable crowd-pleaser.  Although Adams seems to take pride in making very complex, thought provoking films which are not suited for the average film viewer, this time he has turned in a complex, thought provoking film which anyone can enjoy.  I am very confident in recommending this film, in fact I whole heartedly urge you to put it on your must-see list.

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