Monday, May 6, 2019

Tribeca with Abe: Skin

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which ran April 24th – May 5th.

Directed by Guy Nattiv
Spotlight Narrative

It’s an unfortunate reality that hate exists in the world today, as evidenced by the all-too-frequent acts of violence and terrorism rooted in the notion that certain people are inferior to others. One of the ways that perpetrators are led to such horrific expressions of destruction is through indoctrination and being taught a culture of hate, based upon the demeaning of races, cultures, and religions. Through all of the darkness, it is affirming to hear of the all-too-infrequent stories of those who come to see the error of their views and choose to do something more productive to combat the spread of such harmful beliefs.

Bryon Widner (Jamie Bell) lives in Ohio as a high-ranking and respected member of a Viking Neo-Nazi club. Quick to anger and eternally loyal to his adoptive parents, Hammer (Bill Camp) and Ma (Vera Farmiga), Bryon wears what he feels on his body with many tattoos. When he meets Julie (Danielle Macdonald), a mother of three with her own family connections to white supremacy who has decided not to live her life that way, he begins to question what he believes and professes, considering for the first time the possibility of reaching out to Daryle Jenkins (Mike Colter), who works to help those steeped in extremist movements make a break with a community they now find destructive.

Director Guy Nattiv won an Oscar for Best Live Action Short this past year for his film of the same name starring almost entirely different actors, with only Macdonald appearing in both. That extremely disturbing film felt needlessly violent and brutal, and the extra time afforded to this film proves entirely worthwhile, containing unsettling elements wrapped up within a more compelling and accessible story. It is still dark and unnerving, but its characters feel like real people, and its narrative is both frightening and involving.

Bell, who began his career with “Billy Elliot” nearly two decades ago follows up his role from earlier this year in “Donnybrook” with another harsh turn, though this character feels immensely dynamic and watchable. Macdonald, who appeared in “Paradise Hills,” is once again terrific, enhancing a role that wouldn’t otherwise be among the strongest in the film. Camp, from “The Night Of,” and Colter, from “Luke Cage,” both fill their parts well as ideological opposites vying to influence the impressionable. This film has some similarities to “Burden” and “BlacKkKlansman,” painting a picture of a dark world containing a few people capable of difficult, transformative change.


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