Film Review: Isip the Warrior
Isip the Warrior
Director: Kenny Riches
Class Laboratory Productions
Shorts are delicate. They aren’t afforded the luxury of time and the subsequent ability to fix narrative mistakes later in the story. The short film is the IV drip of storytelling mediums—if done correctly, it can be a concentrated influx of emotion. Kenny Riches’ Isip the Warrior, featured at Davey Fest 2023, delivers that influx in a brilliant and joyful morsel.
Isip (Scott Fetzer) and Simon (Patrick Fugit) have a friendship that borders on fraternal. They live together, sleeping bed-to-bed in a room that looks too small for even one person. They spend their days at diners taking photos of unsuspecting female patrons with a seemingly simple go-word, “her.” The two men live unfulfilling lives.
This bothers Isip more than Simon, who one day declares his frustration by throwing a chair across a field and calmly saying, “I’m not content.” Simon tries to quell the struggling Isip with a bible; “simple comfort for simple minds,” Simon says. This “simple” gesture sets Isip up for a pilgrimage that’s of not-quite biblical proportions. Those types of expeditions are no doubt reserved for the believers who have had faith for more than a week. Regardless, Isip sets off on his mission. He travels not to spread the word of God or the teachings from any one religion, rather the word of the Bible. Isip’s divine ignorance in the pursuit of a holy career leads to an awkwardly funny and spiritually enlightening quest far different from the one he originally intended on completing.
Religion isn’t usually a light theme, and most attempts of satirical commentary on God feel preachy themselves. Isip the Warrior isn’t preachy. It’s funny and welcoming and delightfully absurd. The welcoming aspect can be attributed to the use of a narrator, Isip’s best friend Simon, which gives the short an almost literary flavor. The film’s opening lines, “I met Isip in preschool. 17 years later we were living together in a small flat in Colorado. He was my best friend,” have an inherently literary tone that helps drive the absurdist humor home.
Isip the Warrior gives the impression that it was influenced by some of the great humorists of this generation. After being turned down by most of the major churches and religions, Isip finds a sponsorship through a local shoe store who will support his mission. It’s a funny, albeit a tad awkward, moment that you could have easily found in a David Sedaris essay or a George Saunders story.
Isip the Warrior truly is a joyful movie. It’s funny, heartfelt, important and awkward. It tries to make sense of the idea of importance. Humans feel the need to do important things. We feel the need to do good work even if we don’t know why. That’s one of the reasons why Isip the Warrior works: It paints a picture of the things we always feel. –Norm Schoff