On Feb. 20, a special screening of Iosua Tai Taeoalii’s new film Darkroom was presented at the Gateway’s Megaplex 12. I was amazed at the amount of attendees who arrived. From the numbers, you’d think they were showing a sneak preview of Ben Stiller’s new action flick starring an animated unicorn voiced by Mia Farrow. (Please don’t steal that idea. I’ve been working on Winged Vengeance for over three years now).
As a native Utahn, Iosua Tai Taeoalii has been working the local film scene for the past 12 years. He has previously worked on three feature films, several television commercials, and various corporate videos. His latest short film, Waiting, was accepted into the 2006 Slamdance Film Festival. As a University of Utah film school dropout, Iosua Tai Taeoalii continues to prove that a college degree is not a requirement to create art.
Before I start the review, I want to give Taeoalii credit where credit’s due. There are a lot of individuals in Salt Lake calling themselves “filmmakers” and don’t do shit. They talk the talk, but when the time comes for action…nothing. Whether you like Taeoalii’s art or not, you have to admire the fact that he’s out there doing something. And, hey, if you’re a “filmmaker” who doesn’t like his work, make something better. There’s nothing wrong with some friendly competition. On to the review!
Darkroom presents the story of David (David H. Stevens), a film developer whose marriage is falling apart as he fantasizes about having various relationships with individuals in the crime scene photos he develops for the Salt Lake Police Department. This part of the review could be considered a spoiler, but because it’s posted on the official website, I don’t feel bad. The fact that everything is a “fantasy” doesn’t reveal itself until the last 10 minutes, which makes the majority of the film not only confusing, but annoying. The whole “it was all a dream” factor has been done to death. It started with The Wizard of Oz, moved on to Alice in Wonderland, and continued to Brainscan (and there were some others in between). I was really hoping for a great ending that tied everything together and left my jaw hanging, but was left shorthanded and cheated.
As for the acting, it’s really hard to give a solid answer. Andrea Lockhart not doubt stole the show with her performance as David’s wife, Coy, but the rest of the cast was topsy-turvy. There were a handful of scenes where each actor performed brilliantly, but a minute later it was like watching an amateurish home video. The same goes for the cinematography. Plenty of shots had great angles and lighting, but cut to the next scene and it’s filled with awkward setups and out-of-focus images, and not in an artistic sense. I don’t know if they were having an off day, or they let the Spy Hop students take control, but something was definitely amiss.
While not the best thing to hit the local film circuit, Darkroom will hopefully push Taeoalii and other local filmmakers to continue making films for the pure joy of filmmaking. On a side note, I’ve always had a problem with local films deliberately mentioning local landmarks. I know local pride is amusing, but come on. I can almost see the actor saying “I was hanging out at Urban Lounge last night,” turning to the camera and winking. It’s unnecessary. Let the story carry your words, not the city. Now, I’m off to get some delicious and reasonably priced coffee at Coffee Garden….WINK!