Film-Forward Review: [CHAIN CAMERA (2001)]

Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Rotten Tomatoes
Showtimes & Tickets
Enter Zip Code:

Directed by: Kirby Dick.
Produced by: Dody Dorn & Eddie Schmidt.
Edited by: Matt Clarke.
Music by: Blake Leyh.
Released by: Zeitgeist.
Country of Origin: USA. 84 min. Not Rated.
DVD Features: Commentary with director Kirby Dick, producer Eddie Schmidt & students Cinammon, Ethan, Amy & Jesse. Deleted scenes & sequences. "Back to School with Kirby Dick" video interview. "Woman with a Movie Camera" interview with producer Dody Dorn. Alternate title reel.

More of an experiment than a standard documentary, Chain Camera began with director Kirby Dick giving out video cameras to 10 students at Los Angeles' John Marshall High School. Following the style of chain letters, the chain camera was passed from one student to another for a year. Each teenager recorded his or her thoughts with sheer candor on prototypical issues - sexuality, drugs, racism, poverty and violence. Because the camera is controlled by the students, the film leaves no room for preachy analysis. The four to six minutes devoted to each teen feel hardly enough; these students are so engrossing that one wishes to see more. The filmmakers are skilled in finding a moment of uncertainty and doubt in each student's footage that takes the viewer right back to their own high school days. The final chapters record the school's prom as well as graduation, in which the valedictorian gives a riveting and surprising speech. Forget the current media's obsession with the rich and the famous - Chain Camera exposes the real fiber of 21st century America.

DVD Extras: The must-see features are the four deleted scenes, most likely excluded for their sexual references. Three girls who did not make the final cut are introduced. Lizabeth considers losing her virginity, Nancy cries over the limited preparation she has had for college and Anna contemplates the sexual appeal of different races with her friends. Both of the individual interviews with director Kirby Dick and producer Dody Dorn focus on the societal and cultural resonance of their project, and the technical aspects of their project are discussed in the audio commentary. However, editor Mark Clarke, who had a significant role in the making of the film, is not included in the commentary. Instead, Kirby Dick and producer Eddie Schmidt argue against the critics who questioned their roles as filmmakers in a project filmed entirely by the students. But what is ultimately most impressive are the personal connections the filmmakers made with the students. Those in the most memorable scenes - Cinnamon, Ethan, Amy and Jesse - are included in the commentary, where they discuss their current lives and comment on how much the project changed them. Marie Iida
July 15, 2005



Archive of Previous Reviews

Contact us