(The 2016 Tribeca Film Festival kicked off April 13 and runs through April 24. Hammer to Nail is representing so keep an eye on the site for frequent reviews, interviews and other excitement!)
Picture a group of teen girls in NYC, all limbs and pouty lips, with bodies and minds racing towards adulthood, their lives forced on by pop culture and peers. One girl speaks candidly about her father’s death as her thick braided hair extensions – pink, purple, black – rest against her stylish overalls. Another grapples with the decision to attend college, another with how to talk to a boy she likes. It’s not just the city pushing these young women to grow up too fast, but life itself. Following a handful of friends as they finish high school, All This Panic expresses a clawing for purpose and acceptance; self, external, and even acceptance of the pressing realities of life. The film plunges into visual depths, giving form to emotions with insightful ease; faces become landscapes, movements entire stories, outfits bearers of socio-cultural burden, the camera another subject on screen overflowing with empathy and understanding.
All This Panic captures the anxious hormonal urgency of being a teenage girl through a raw and purposeful aesthetic. Close cropped encounters between this small clan of girls and filmmakers Jenny Gage and Tom Betterton (director and cinematographer respectively) make for an intimacy that moves the film beyond a standard observational doc or impressionistic portrait. One is invited into not just the physical space, a forced claustrophobia thanks to NYC interiors, but the living, breathing physical lives of these girls – their ever changing hair color, their burgeoning sexuality. The filmmakers enter this private realm extracting poetic wonder with skillful fluidity, executing a highly manipulated editing that gently places voiceover and image with care and meaning, importance born with each curated cut. Though Gage & Betterton display a signature style, their vision resonates with the ghostly realities of Jem Cohen’s New York, the harsh, composed realness of Mapplethorpe, and the wandering definitions of feminine ego explored by Cindy Sherman, a confluence of images that transcend simple pictures and move into an aura of emotional experience.
Gage and Betterton hail from the fashion photography world of clean, crisp, vibrant, single frame narratives. One might think that being steeped in commercial photography would be a detriment to their filmmaking, the crossover from still to moving so often difficult, but the opposite holds true here. Betterton & Gage’s succinct ability to craft understanding – to simply convey the feelings and senses – is only heightened by this expansion of media. Their uncanny awareness pushes the film’s aesthetic to near sculptural heights, layering sound/image, gestures/lives to build the essence of their subjects. Gage & Betterton’s visual, exterior awareness becomes a perfect foil for these overly informed, hyper aware teens. Both subject and documentarians know the power they both hold: a ubiquitous control over representation. But this solid film doesn’t become a representation so much as a part of the lives – part of the world – it is portraying.
All This Panic is an artful look into the soul of being a contemporary teen girl in New York City during a brief flicker in time, character, heart and beauty bursting at the edges of every frame. The willingness of these teens to give themselves over to the experience represents the dawning of a post-Millennial age in which lives are projected onto lenses as naturally as they are lived, a mediated existence that is our new reality. During this time of instantaneous artifice, film is becoming increasingly important as an immutable document able to manipulate –even extend – time. Every documentary is a conversation with the present but now, as the camera is a character in our daily lives, documentary can set itself apart from the new media world to become a piece of art, culture and social history. All This Panic tracks the hazy nights of NYC glitter and concrete with all of its wide-eyed, hopeful youth, presenting a truth that will linger long after the profile updates.
– Donna K. (@TeamDonnaK)