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The Independent Critic

Johannes Grenzfurthner, Max Grodenchik, Morningstar Angeline, Chase Masterson, Dan Jovanovic
Johannes Grenzfurthner
108 Mins.

 Movie Review: Hacking at Leaves 
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I'm not sure if Austrian filmmaker Johannes Grenzfurthner is the smartest guy in the room, however, I do know that there's something special about his mind that is willing to question, challenge, provoke, and infuriate conservatives, liberals, and just about everyone else across the spectrum of life. 

Grenzfurthner's intellectual curiosity fascinates and asks questions most dare not ask with a curious willingness to probe deeper for answers that defy popular opinion and media propaganda. With his latest documentary Hacking at Leaves, Grenzfurthner once again dazzles with his unique perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on society. 

While you may be saying to yourself "not another COVID-19 film," rest assured that Grenzfurthner is incapable of making just another film. Grenzfurthner tackles America better than most American filmmakers, partly owing to that aforementioned intellect and partly owing to his own ability to avoid the usual biases that seem inevitable but ought not be. 

If there's a summation to Hacking at Leaves, it's simply this - hope is a luxury. As an activist myself, I've been guilty of the casual declaration that "There's always hope!" 

There's not. There's not always hope. 

In Hacking at Leaves, Grenzfurthner himself portrays a reluctant host whom Uncle Sam (Max Grodenchik, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Rom) forces to create a patriotic film. Despite the demand, our reluctant host is unable to comply and instead delves deeply into regional history, the Navajo Nation, and the horrific impact of US colonialism on these people and their communities. 

Hacking at Leaves also focuses intensely on Ryan Finnigan, whose DIY COVID relief project seemed tailor made as a rather miraculous answer at a critical time. Of course, nothing is ever that easy and, well, you can see it all for yourself. 

Grenzfurthner is seldom, if ever, content with the easy answers. If anything, Grenzfurthner seems to find more questions the more answers he gets. And yet, and now I'm getting back to it, despite the fact that he may very well be the smartest guy in the room he's got a creative gift for presenting complex issues in ways that can be understood for those willing to understand. 

Grenzfurthner is dressed throughout Hacking at Leaves in a hazmat suit, a cinematic choice that at first appears weird until it, well, completely makes sense. Trust me, you'll get it by the end of the film if not much sooner. 

The truth is I'm not always sure I've completely gotten Grenzfurthner's films and yet I've never been disappointed by them. I'm not sure that the word "entertaining" is the right word. Instead, they put me in a place of contemplation, reflection, curiosity, and a determination to commit myself to digging deeper and acting on what I find. 

If you're not disturbed by Hacking at Leaves, you're likely not paying attention or the American media has just plain dumbed you down. The Navajo story is powerful, a disturbing series of truths that to this very moment I can't shake. Even when it appears we may get a glimmer of light courtesy of Science Center's MakerLab, our hopes get more than a little dashed. 

Hacking at Leaves is yet another work of wonder from Grenzfurthner, a film that satisfies both intellectually and creatively yet also a film that challenges us to not be satisfied with the status quo because, in the end, hope is a luxury many cannot afford and until we're willing to face our starkest truths that's very likely the way it's going to be. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic