With so many releases coming to me at all times, when one stands out a little more than the others I can't help but take note of it. This happened to me recently when the MovieWeb powers that be passed along a selection of DVDs called REEL INDIES (www.reelindies.com). As I started to go through them (they sent 8 titles in total) I realized that rather than review each title separately, I think it would be much better to throw a light on the entire REEL INDIES catalogue. I felt this way for a few reasons. First of all, if I did all of these releases separately, chances are they would be spread out. The site gets so many DVDs weekly that, sadly, certain titles don't get all the coverage they rightfully deserve. Secondly, what better way to underscore what REEL INDIES is trying to do than by doing a piece on all the movies in this collection? I feel that by looking at these releases as one monolithic venture, rather than merely the sum of their parts, I think it could get interested parties more excited about what REEL INDIES has going on.

The Films

Movie PictureInto the Air

Kiteboarding anyone?

This documentary sheds some light on one of the more extreme sports that are available. Filled with a lot of breathtaking photography and interviews with the people engaging in this sport, we are given a very up close and personal look at why the people do this have gotten so into it. The film was shot on location in Puerto Rico and what really struck me was the richness of all the images. Some extreme styled sports really don't translate that well to the medium of film or video. What makes kiteboarding different is the fact that it seems like the participants have a bit more control. They don't seem so at the mercy of their elements. That they are able to do the things they do (and do them consistently well) is probably what is most impressive.

Also, let's not forget the camerawork. The whole time I was watching this piece I kept wondering to myself how in the world the camera-person had been able to get as close and as involved in the action as they were? While I can't say that I was initially drawn to this film because of the subject matter, I know that should I see this sport on TV I will certainly think twice before changing the station.

Movie PictureLittle Man

Imagine that you and your significant other are waiting to have a child. Its everything you've ever waited for and something that is sure to be seen as a blessing on your family. Then, all of the sudden, that child comes early. Over three months early and its apparent that the situation is going from bad to worse really quickly.

Nicole Conn has made such a personal documentary that I actually readjusted my feelings toward the film about 10 minutes in. At first I imagined this to be another indie documentary where a filmmaker, under the guise of working through their pain, prostituted the problems of their loved ones in the interest of telling a good story. This was my initial assumption and as a filmmaker myself its something I've always shied away from (at least in documentary form). Well, as I sat watching this movie I couldn't believe the turn of events. There are so many times it seems like things should go one way, that the people in this film should do something else and then all of the sudden something completely unexpected happens.

I guess in the overly crowded marketplace of indy films the majors probably didn't see the right numbers when thinking about releasing this one. I guess it takes companies like REEL INDIES to get the important films (and not just the bottom line padding ones) out to the people.

Movie PictureMend

This was an interesting film because I honestly didn't know where the story was going. Just when I thought I had a foothold on what was happening within this story, I would be completely shaken up by my new assumptions. It isn't that Mend is hard to follow, or that its so esoteric in any department. It's just not your typical story. It follows a depressed sort named Wesley (Jay Sullivan) who tries to change his life and his ways by taking an experimental drug. He ends up forming a bond with Harold (Tom Sawyer), someone he used to work with but it soon becomes clear that Harold might have other reasons for offering to help him.

What strikes me as the most telling about this film is just how much it has stayed with me after viewing it. It is one of those movie that you can watch again, even when you know everything that is going to happen, and you still hope and think that things could turn out differently.

Movie PictureThe Dogwalker

Who knew that there was a dogwalking scene in Los Angeles?

Then again there seems to be so many things happening there that I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Of all the films in this collection this is probably the one that I had the hardest time connecting to. It was interesting in so far as it dealt with characters who have many eccentricities and they were trying to make their lives better. I could go into the specifics of the story, but I think that viewers might be better served knowing about its themes. It deals with abuse in relationships, how we can never truly know someone and the effects and bonds that we gain through our relationships and interactions with pets. All in all the ideas being discussed are pretty heady stuff. There are no simple answers or simple solutions, and I did like how these characters almost seem resigned to this fact. They aren't trying to get a quick fix and they aren't trying to be anybody they aren't. The story itself just takes a little while to get there.

Basically, The Dogwalker is a tale of two people who find one another when they need that person most.

Movie PictureFellowship of the Dice

Fellowship of the Dice is an interesting film in that it tries to bridge the gap between the nerdiness of youth (well, at least of some people's youth) and the challenges of adulthood. Elizabeth (Aimee Graham) is a party girl who is trying to change her ways. So, one night she is asked to be involved in a role playing game called "Wizards, Warriors and Wyrms." What ends up ensuing as a night of high drama as Elizabeth encounters a world she never knew about. We see very grown people behaving in ways that might best describe lunatics and its all in the name of a boardgame! Suddenly, Elizabeth's old life doesn't seem so bad if the alternative is this crowd. As the night goes on, Elizabeth begins to reassess her situation. She seems to get involved in the game and it when all is said and done, it seems like she might even have a place amongst her new group of friends.

This film certainly has a select group of people who will be interested in it. There are those who don't care anything about role playing games, and thus, they should probably avoid this film. However, there is an audience for this movie, it is certainly sizable and something tells me that they will be happy to find this movie any way they can.

Movie PictureBoone Style

I am sure that this film has been compared in a lot of ways to Little Miss Sunshine, and to be quite honest those comparisons are not ill warranted. An 8 year old girl is at the heart of this story which focuses on "Your typical, semi-dysfunctional, midwestern, family reunion" (so says the DVD cover). That is a very appropriate nutshell of the ground that this movie covers. It takes place over the course of a day as old feuds, arguments and stories brim to the service. Overall, this film seems to have a solid cast but there was something about it that I found troubling. I know that every family, if you really look at it, is eccentric, weird, or quite simply not all there. I just thought that things might have been a little to over the top. Now before you start saying that I don't like, understand or get independent films, I also felt that way about Little Miss Sunshine (which I also enjoyed and lets be honest, isn't really that independent).

I liked Boone Style. I think in a lot of ways it was original. I just don't know that it needed to have so many characters and so much going on all the time.

Movie PictureTrona

Moody, impressionistic and seemingly inspired by the indie films of the 1990s, Trona is an original piece of filmmaking that should find itself a lot of fans, especially those who would consider themselves part of the Garden State set. The film follows a man in his underwear and the odyssey he goes in the desert. While I am sure that it is making many statements about life, consumerism, our need to be and not be with people, if you are one of those that needs the beats of a story to happen when McKee's screenwriting book says it should, you will probably have a hard time with this film. However, should you be one of those that likes your entertainment to challenge you (with or without eventually paying off), if you enjoy being obliviously confused and don't mind long periods where it seems like nothing is happening, than Trona might be right up your alley.

I will admit that I wasn't entirely clear how I should take this film at first. I wanted certain things that the movie just wasn't giving me. Then, as I settled in, like the works of John Cassavetes, I realized that there was stuff happening even if it wasn't readily apparent to me as a viewer.

Movie PictureShorty

Closing out the show is Shorty. This inspirational tale of Walter "Shorty" Simms centers around this man having his 56 birthday, on the same day as the his Hampden-Sydney Tigers face off against the Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets. Also on this day, Shorty is being inducted into the Hampden-Sydney College Athletic Hall-of-Fame. The Game as it is known hails back to a 108 year rivalry between the teams, and it is one amazing bit of kismet that all of this stuff is culminating on the same day.

What I really liked about this movie is that it focuses on Shorty, a man with Down syndrome, yet the story isn't really about him being that way. It is more about a person who has a wish (to see Hampden-Sydney College win The Game), and also about the kind of person that Shorty is. It doesn't go down a lot of the same roads that we usually see in these kinds of films. He isn't fighting against some sort of bureaucracy that's trying to change his life. He isn't dealing with people who don't understand him. Walter "Shorty" Simms story is a simple one and that makes this film stand out all on its own.

For more information about these or any of their other films please visit www.reelindies.com.

Evan Jacobs at Movieweb
Evan Jacobs