‘#1 Film Documentation!’
Anyone in the business has been here before. “Here” is The Twilight Zone of the runaway production. This is the one where any number of joint producers call the shots without talking to each other and never such incidental types as director and crew. Variations on the theme include: The Producer’s Wife, The Dilatant Investor, and Zombie Production Accountants from Westwood. Ahhh, the life…
‘China only releases 20 foreign films each year…
This is NOT one of them.’
‘When Gil’s wife told me that he was filming a feature length film in China, in Chinese, a language he doesn’t speak, I could almost hear the train derailing in my head.’ Tanner King Barklow.
So saying, it is with abundant affection and a keen love of anarchy that prescient assistant director Barklow follows the doomed project Case Sensitive through visitations of every egregious creative and artistic wrong, including a few of the Ten Plagues of Exodus.
Scrupulously edited by Brian Davis, the timing is flawless and the visual plot shot full of hilarious little details that add a subtlety and intimacy to the comical tone rounded completely with truly funny and inspired contextual and incidental music by Phil Geronimo.
Deliciously compelling Unmade in China is at once and as much a tongue-in-cheek tribute to bureaucratic absurdity as it is a testament to the indomitability of patience and forbearance under the most trying conditions. This wonderful documentary then, is so much more than a one of a thousand ‘The Making of…’ publicity records. Unmade in China is fascinating, funny, engrossing, and just thoroughly, flat out, good filmmaking where, let’s face it, documentaries can be pretty sloppy when the message overrides the medium. The improvisational wit employed in taming this much raw footage into something so seamless it plays like scripted mockumentary takes a staggering talent. Bravo and Bravo.
But here’s the truly wonderful thing: the gentleness of Unmade in China comes from gentlefolk. There are no massive egos testing one another; no posturing, no self-consciousness; nothing whatever precious or contrived. In fact there is absolutely no rancor whatever. Tempers flair, but that is to be expected, and considering how much has to be put up with, Kofman’s one truly volcanic explosion is actually refreshing. So, while we share his nightmare through the passive lens of Barklow’s camera, the entire affair unfolds by turns with such abundant calm, good humor, and good will, that the viewer is compelled to the cause of sticking by our screen hero (mild-mannered director from a great metropolitan film capitol) even should the icy hand of cruel fate close about our collective throats.
Creative temperaments aside, and mild ones at that, no one on this show is feeling sorry for themselves. Where there might be whining, we find bemused speculation, where there is room for ire, only consternation, but overwhelmingly the sense that Kofman and Barklow apply a passive and perfectly childlike curiosity to the experiment of seeing where the whole mess will end, and it’s evident they have no idea; they’re living through it, and we have no idea because all expected, even predictable outcomes are decidedly not what happens, and so the dilemma and its possible resolutions remain an object of fresh speculation throughout the progress of the narrative.
One has heard rumors of Unmade in China, all of them surprisingly vague for such a straightforward film; summing it up should be easy to do in a quick sentence. But such a simple thing can’t be done without qualification because Unmade in China is about so many things that it’s hard to pin down ‘what it’s about.’ No, I won’t let that idea go without explanation but let’s leave it a Zen koan for a brief moment.
One never knows if faith or naiveté compels us to move forward when an abundance of auguries tells us to quit. But I’m glad Kofman and Barklow did move forward because this is the answer to the koan riddle; this is what Unmade in China is about: In a graceless age poisoned by an entitlement mentality, a mature, sensitive, and talented man makes the decision to put his personal desires and needs in line with a host of others who depend upon him, and in so doing, demonstrates the virtues of responsibility. This is a beautiful little film that makes for warm feelings and quiet contemplation—a must-see for all young directors and those who yet feel the world owes them something.
In the end, we close knowing that everyone involved with Unmade in China would do it all again, because, in the end, this intelligent, abundantly talented man takes a plane wreck and turns it into a mobile. And the kicker is Gil Kofman yet has a wily trick up his sleeve so that the whole venture is a win-win for everyone—but you’ll have to see Unmade in China to find out what it is.
Unmade in China will be opening on May 3rd at Cinema Village in New York. For more information about the film, please visit: http://unmadeinchinamovie.com/
Actor, writer and director, Robert Kenneth Dator, worked in feature film and television in the United States and Australia before teaching Film Literacy, Literature and Drama at Oak Ridge Military Academy. Rob and his family currently live in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he attends graduate school at UNCG.
Unmade in China (2012)
Directors Gill Kofman and Tanner King Barklow
Producers Francis Krow and Seth Scher
Editor Brian Davis
Original Music by Phil Geronimo
As themselves: Gil Kofman; Tanner King Barklow; Yuan Zhengfeng; Ady An;
Shone An; Chunjun Jing; Seth Scher; Michael Hersey; George F. Richards; Amy Ziering.
Runtime 87 minutes
DVD (NTSC, Region 1) USA, 2012
Produced by Magnanimity Films, Kearns and Mariande Pictures, Grizzly Peak Films
Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Sound Mix: Dolby Stereo 5.1