The Darkest Matter – Siff 2011 Movie Review

The Darkest Matter [  USA (English), 2011, 72 minutes ]
Director: James Fox
Principal Cast: Katy Guttman, Bailey Hansen, Matthew Kersman, Christie Call
See it: May 21, 23, 2011 at SIFF (World Premiere)

The Darkest Matter makes its world premiere at SIFF 2011. This film is unique in that the actors and production crew are 6th – 12th graders assisted by industry volunteers over a summer camp where student and mentor worked side by side from pre-production through post-production.

This is essentially a sci-fi film with a Lord of the Flies twist where an escape pod full of kids makes a narrow escape from a catastrophic spaceship accident only to automatically dock to an abandoned space station that is really dark and scary. I was afraid the movie was going to go all Event Horizon on me with spiky faced kids running around slaughtering each other, but it didn’t. The darkness of the set and the ominous music kept me at the edge of my seat.

A bit of constructive criticism:
The opening credits were too long with nothing to keep you entertained. The initial spaceship scenes were obviously green screened with bad panning and focus handling. When aboard the abandoned spaceship, I found the darkness to be a bit too dark. I think that making everything dark gave the production crew some budget passes, but it was too dark. There appeared to be some mistaken edits where there was unintended silence. The acting was fine for the age group and better than many grown up, professional film festival movies I have seen.

Overall Entertainment / Enjoyment: B+
I’ll give the movie some free passes on effects and acting, after all it was an educational summer project for 6th-12th graders. Watch it assuming that your niece and nephew have the starring role and that they had a great summer making it. Now imagine that they have there very own sci fi movie and an IMDB listing. With that mindset and some forgiveness for some mistaken edits where audio was missing, the movie was overall quite fun.

Film Festivalness: A
As film festivals become more and more commercial, films like this have a hard time getting screen space. You probably need a film festival to get access to this film.

SIFF Provided Synopsis:
After abandoning their colony ship, a damaged escape pod full of teens must land on an abandoned space station. Elaine and Avery take the lead, hoping to power up communications and get rescued. After a brief time, a portion of the crew begins to feel that rescue is highly unlikely and put their trust in the headstrong Keiran. As division develops between two perspectives—with one group assembling a plan for rescue, and the other retreats into primitive survival—a member of the group is mysteriously found dead, fueling rumors that they may not be alone. The Darkest Matter is an awe-inspiring work of science fiction shot in five weeks on a green screen set by 20 teens in grades 6–12 as part of the 2010 Starting Arts Summer Feature Film Camp. Under the mentorship of director James Fox and a handful of other teachers, the young filmmakers were involved in every department, and acted in 90% of the roles. This inspiring creation gives viewers a preview of the next generation of filmmakers who have a head start toward the cinematic space beyond sci-fi master James Cameron.

Starting Arts provided information:
Starting Arts is a California 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is the promotion and preservation of quality arts education in public schools. Since 2001, Starting Arts has partnered with school communities and districts in the San Francisco Bay area to provide both during and after school programs in visual and performing arts for children in grades K through 12. Starting Arts actively promotes all four arts disciplines: Dance, Theatre, Music, Visual Arts, and now Film. Starting Arts receives and solicits operating funds from individuals, corporations, foundations and government agencies. Contributors not only help educate the next generation of artists and audiences – they help teach creative thinking skills to the future innovators and leaders of our world.



Provided Film Synopsis

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