New movies raise existential questions in more ways than oneby Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio
This weekend the Oak Street Cinema in Minneapolis will showcase new films by two local film makers. "Fade" and "There nor there" are both dramas which explore the philosophical side of the human experience.
The films share some striking similarities - but only to a point.
Minneapolis, Minn. — This is one story about two films and two film makers.
First there is Jennifer Prill who made "There Nor There." She says it's a story about four college friends who fail miserably when they look for work after graduation. After one of them dies, the others embark on an surreal adventure in the Badlands of South Dakota. Prill says is based in part on Dante's "Purgatory."
"So it's really fun," Prill says. "It's kind of three friends running through the Badlands coming in contact with all these crazy characters."
In the film, a character called Jessie, remembers reliving the Robert Frost poem about deciding which path to take in the forest.
"Standing there at the fork on the road, the only thing that was apparent to me was one went right and one went left," she says. "And I - I went left. Apparently left was the wrong way." Prill and her crew actually shot the film five years ago.
"And then it took four years to edit it, and get all the music done and the sound done and then we finished it in March," she says.
Meanwhile Christopher Beer was also working on his film called "Fade."
"OK, the basic premise is, it's about a worker who seeks to transcend her existence," Beer says.
"Fade" is set in what Beer calls an Orwellian hospital compound where Chloe lives a life of unquestioning obedience. The people in charge insist she take a drug to keep her placid.
"You want to keep us happy, Chloe," says one of the men in the film. "You want what isn't right for you. Why do you want to stop taking the pill?"
"Her life is mostly based around accepting things at face value," says Beer. "One day she meets a woman named Anna who inspires her to leave the compound and embark on a Waldenesque journey."
Beer shot his film in 2006 and has been working ever since to get it edited. Sound familiar? He also finished early this year.
"I've noticed some people get it, and some people really get it. And some people just get lost," he said.
There are some other parallels between the movies.
Both Beer and Prill worked on their films while studying at the University of Minnesota. Both films had their world premiers at the Suburban World Theater in Minneapolis.
But here's the strange thing: even after all these common experiences, working for years on the same kind of project on the same college campus, each had no idea the other existed.
"I didn't, until Oak Street called and mentioned her name," Beer says. "And I don't think she'd heard of me either."
Beer says it was a staffer at the Oak Street Cinema who suggested putting the films together as an existential double bill.
And here's what's even stranger: Jennifer Prill says they still haven't met.
"Well I actually e-mailed him for the first time last night," Prill says. "We've had a couple of e-mails back and forth. And I think I missed him by 10 minutes at the Suburban World. But I haven't come in contact with him, or met him face to face or anything like that."
They will meet when they both introduce their work at the Oak Street. And that's another thing - they haven't seen each others films either.
And what if they hate each other's movies? Prill admits a little concern.
"But I'm sure we'll be fine," she says.
Whatever happens, both Jennifer Prill and Christopher Beer are sticking with movies for a while.
Prill is going to spend the next year on the festival circuit with "There nor There."
Beer is about to head to Prague to finish his U of M Bachelors by studying at the film school where "Amadeus" director Milos Forman once studied.
- Morning Edition, 08/08/2008, 7:24 a.m.