Melissa Navia, Francesco Plazza, Bonnie Piesse, Romy Valentina, James Gill, Terilynne Marshelle-Fleming
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
What do you do?
You've just finished your film, a labor of love that you've constructed with your hard work and heart work on an uncommonly low budget and with incredibly modest resources. You realize it's not perfect, but you watch it and believe it to be the best you could have done given your challenging circumstances.
You watch it. Your friends watch it. Your family watches it. Of course, the cast watches it.
You find yourself wondering aloud "What next?"
A theatrical run?
All of the above?
Then, lo and behold, you win a prize from The Accolade Competition or a similar filmmaking contest. You feel encouraged and suddenly wonder aloud, once again, "What next?"
A web-based campaign?
You send out your "baby" to a few critics whom you are aware have the ability to watch an independent film and look beyond a modest budget and all the inherent tech challenges that go along with it.
Then, the first review comes in. Ugh.
It's hard being an independent filmmaker. You sink your heart, soul and finances into a film then are completely at the mercy of film festivals and film critics as you attempt to spread the word about your film. Sometimes, it's a wondrously joy-filled experience. Other times, perhaps even most times, it's a soul-crushing disappointment.
Written and directed by Joseph Villapaz, Love Eterne is a romantic comedy evolving around Medina (Melissa Navia) and Quinn (James Gill). Melissa is grieving the death of her fiance', while Quinn is coping with having been recently dumped by his girlfriend. Out of their own individual miseries, may very well come unexpected love.
As a film critic primarily devoted to exploring the world of microcinema and ultra-indies, there's no question that I've seen both remarkable cinematic achievements and incredibly unremarkable cinematic duds. I've seen the kindest, most gracious and humble filmmakers in the world who've accomplished absolutely amazing things on paltry production budgets, while I've also seen and experienced the snottiest filmmakers you could ever possibly imagine who've taken a semi-decent "low" budget and turned it into one big ole' heaping pile of celluloid crapola.
Love Eterne is neither a good film nor celluloid crapola. The film is greatly hindered by its technical limitations to such a degree that a good majority of audiences will find it intolerable. Hardcore microcinema fans would sit through the film, finding both its strengths and weaknesses, while struggling to verbalize the positives should cast or crew be offering a post-screening Q&A.
Yet, even despite its fairly low rating here, there are good things about Love Eterne.
The good, or at least the promising, starts off with Melissa Navia, whose screen presence lights up the screen even with the film's sound mix betrays her (which is often). Navia radiates a quality that brought to mind early Marisa Tomei, a sort of smarmy sweetness that makes you want to see her in another project down the road. James Gill is solid, as well, exhibiting a nice, comfortable chemistry with Navia.
The film's soundtrack, as well, is quite good despite, once again, a sound mix that often mutes its effectiveness. Villapaz has chosen his music well for this production and it fits everything quite nicely.
Truthfully, the cast for the most part is decent enough and one gets the sense that their performances would have been even stronger had Villapaz found a way to adequately address his sound issues. While there's no question that tech issues play and challenge nearly all indie filmmakers, it's difficult to understand the decision to release the film given its severe sound limitations and occasional lensing difficulties that include a perpetual fuzziness among other challenges.
Love Eterne received an Award of Merit for Short Film from the Accolade Competition, a likely early validation of the film that may be rewarding its concept as much as it is the actual final product. The film has also screened at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival along with New Filmmakers NY- Anthology Film Archives. Filmed on an estimated $10,000 budget, Love Eterne is a solid example of the challenges that one faces when working with a modest budget and when significant filmmaking connections don't exist. I've seen much better films made on a much lower budget, but usually when it occurs it's because the filmmaker involved worked cooperatively with peers and friends and was able to arrange quality tech on a dollar store budget.
The biggest challenge in reviewing microcinema is the challenge of maintaining hope and exhibiting compassion when reviewing a film that may not work on the level one had hoped but also still remains a labor of love for all involved. While Hollywood studios can survive negative reviews, in fact many of them thrive through it, the independent filmmaker truly needs positive experiences if they have a hope of furthering their film and filmmaking careers.
There are bad reviews where I'd say "Don't see this film!" and there are bad reviews where I lean more towards "Give this filmmaker a chance. He's learning." Love Eterne strikes me as a "teachable moment" film for a new filmmaker learning his way around the obstacles and challenges of ultra-indie filmmaking.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic