They call it Homan Square. It's a mysterious "police" station in an increasingly violent American city, Chicago, that is considered to be a "black site" that exempts itself from the usual required police protocols and basic human rights.
I kept thinking about Homan Square as I was watching writer/director Giacomo Mantovani's 19-minute short film Stand Up, a rather fundamental yet thrilling film about Sarah (Olivia Marei) and Eric (Michael Hanratty), two twentysomethings being detained in a decaying interrogation room by Damien (Dean Roberts), a psychotic police officer seemingly torturing them merely for the joy of it all.
Stand Up, to its credit and to its detriment, doesn't move much beyond this scenario. Sarah's strength and audacity will eventually allow for a chance at escape and freedom, though the prospect is harrowing and suspense-filled.
This low-budget indie short is a relentlessly suspenseful film, somewhat exhausting in presentation, though this is authentic and should be commended. The central theme behind the film is rather straightforward - we simply cannot allow anything to get in the way of our protecting our fundamental human rights. Mantovani presents this concept in a gripping fashion not far removed from Homan Square, where it is said those whose protests have "crossed the line" are detained without notice, without legal consultation and without a protection of their human rights.
And you wonder why Chicago is exploding?
Um, I can tell you.
It seems like a similar scenario is building in Stand Up, a beautifully designed film that transcends its modest budget with fine performances by its ensemble cast and stellar lensing by Exiv, who captures the tension and violence without allowing it to become the film's subject. The film is a technically adventurous film, not always a good thing when it comes to working with a low budget, but Mantovani manages to make it all work and the film's grip is solid even when you're exhausted and can't turn away from it. Miguel Bandeira's special effects are, indeed, quite special while Mantovani's ability to pace the film in such a way, aided by Exiv's editing, that we have moments to take a breath adds to the film's overall dramatic impact and enduring presence in our psyche.
I must confess I found myself contemplating the Saw baddie Jigsaw as I watched Dean Roberts' Damien unfolding. Roberts, both spontaneous and calculating, is mesmerizing as a guy without any softness around those edges. Olivia Marei adds some fine nuances to Sarah, while Michael Hanratty is solid in rounding out the core trio.
Stand Up is just getting ready to start off on its festival journey. For more information on the film, visit its website linked to in the credits.