Prayers To The Gods Of Guerrilla Filmmaking: Review
If you have already seen films which appear to be documentaries or mockumentaries, but are in fact fiction, or the reverse, prepare yourself for this ambiguous tale. A straight-talking Italian writer/director named Marco Brunelli goes to Hong Kong, a humming and intriguing city, hoping to blend in while making his film.
He’s spent everything on it and is now cashless. He has warned the five cast and crew, who he has flown in for the film, principally from Canada, that they’ll be staying in a bad place, that there will be a tight schedule, and they’ll be paying for their own food and transport.
Inspired by Wong Kar-Wai’s 1994 film Chungking Express, Brunelli moves them into the windowless Chungking Mansion building in Hong Kong’s Kowloon, and bizarrely brings along a film crew to document the process, led by Johanna Taylor. This is either 1. Selfies gone mad, or 2. A master class in low budget film making.
Marco Brunelli’s mantra goes a bit like this: “This is like the Nouvelle Vague in the 60s when people went to Paris and just started to shoot.” The key to this guerilla method is no permits. If you look it up, it’s true. Hong Kong is one of the few cities that does not require a film-permit to film on the streets. So, he chose the right place.
In December 2011 the six strangers arrived to shoot the feature film – The Night Of The Great Chinese Lottery – in three weeks. A terrible pitch, according to one of the three actors, Andrew, perhaps the worst pitch in history, but still the actors showed up because, as they said: we weren’t doing anything else at the time. This is a small budget movie apparently trying to look like a big-budget one, whatever that means.
Andrew, in the role of ‘Patrick’ appears throughout in his natural role of smug twenty-one-year old male constantly mocking the director for amongst other things his style, script, receding hair-line and scarf. You can see where this is going. One of the first lessons of guerrilla film making is that there is a significant disadvantage to not paying your actors. You can end up in the terrible position of dealing with their petulance, arguments and innuendos amongst a constant string of expletives.
And in this case while having it all filmed! The anxious and difficult-to-read Marco did bring it on himself by choosing a person he declared both ‘obnoxious and annoying’. Andrew (Patrick) certainly plays to type, even calling himself a stubborn smart-aleck. Good luck with that.
Second lesson: Marco needs a producer. As he runs around madly location-scouting, finding fixers, taking risks, being insulted, and making sure the schedule is being adhered to, the viewer begins to understand the role of a producer. Essential. This is a great film for understanding the nitty-gritty of filmmaking.
Third lesson: Comfortable beds. Faced with a grotty hostel, low budget, and annoying people, this situation would appear to bring out the worst in anyone. And we know that lack of sleep is a form of torture. By the end even the lovely sound-producer Alejandro, has no shame in calling the director lazy. The impression I get of this film is that lazy is definitely one word that doesn’t describe Marco Brunelli.
Apparently, guerrilla film appears to involve little pre-preparation. Spontaneous and stressful for the director as well as the frustrated actors who feel as though their time is being wasted. However, it’s hard to confirm this when none of them was acting professionally. `Fourth lesson: Employ people you like. Mutual respect usually brings out the best in people. Mathieu, in the role of Eli, will be getting jobs all over the place after Prayers To The Gods Of Guerrilla Filmmaking is released.
The worst and most intriguing part of Taylor’s film is her invisible presence. Without it the film crew would have nobody to complain to, play up to, or witness their graceless arguments. Yet, Prayers To The Gods Of Guerrilla Filmmaking is an interesting study of making something out of one person’s vision. And Marco Brunelli and cinematographer Francisco Fuentes (//www.birdothebird.com) certainly have that. In the end it’s hard to know whether this is a film inside a film or just one film. Did Brunelli’s 2012 film get a screening somewhere, or is this it?
Prayers To The Gods Of Guerrilla Filmmaking is out now.
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