One of the more ignored stories of the last few years is the disappointment of made-for-cheap digital filmmaking, which in spite of Jafar Panahi’s prediction, has turned out almost no serious new directors. Like most DV films, Liberty Kid is visually flat, comprised mostly of point-and-shoot setups on street corners, yet it announces a social perspective that’s truly independent. Eschewing the histrionics of United 93 and World Trade Center, writer-director Ilya Chaiken observes the ways in which a low-wage Brooklyn neighborhood repeatedly and casually intersects with America’s post-9/11 political climate. Derrick (Al Thompson) loses his job hawking junk at the Statue of Liberty after the twin towers collapse, leaving him to take a GED test, help his best friend push drugs, and contemplate signing up with the military recruitment officers who hover just outside the frame. Like Charles Burnett’s Watts working men and women, Chaiken’s characters seem doomed by a future that’s at once personal and political, but Liberty Kid still strains for the lyricism and intricate drama of a film like My Brother’s Wedding. Derrick has to make choices, navigating the codes that reinforce race, class, and nationality in everyday life (at two different points he is embarrassed at having to reveal his lack of citizenship to a romantic partner), but Chaiken’s forced allusions to the federal government quickly turn into shameless liberal pandering, as when a recruitment officer says, “Iraq War? Not gonna happen.” Unanswered questions about Derrick’s kids and Spanish-speaking mother abound, and their all-too-infrequent interactions point to a hard-knuckled realism about post-9/11 New York that begs to be seen.
- 92 min
- Ilya Chaiken
- Ilya Chaiken
- Al Thompson, Kareem Saviñon, Raquel Jordan, Rosa Ramos, Anny Mariano, Johnny Rivera, Rayniel Rufino
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