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Monday, October 3, 2011

The Road to Freedom: Well-meaning Indie Flick Re-creates the Last Days of Errol Flynn's Son

Posted By on Mon, Oct 3, 2011 at 1:54 PM

Oddly, for a movie whose greatest achievement is its artfully composed establishing shots, The Road to Freedom seems to have been created by people with no understanding of photography.

(The Road to Freedom premieres in San Francisco tonight at the Landmark Lumiere Theater at 1352 California.)

The true-ish story of a pair of Western photojournalists taken captive by the Khmer Rouge, Brendan Moriarty's debut depicts news photography as a point-and-click lark, with the film's handsome heroes merely brandishing their cameras in the direction of the action. In one hectic sequence, Cambodian soldiers gun down villagers, and Moriarty freeze-frames--with sudden B&W and some clickety-click foley work--to suggest the shots his photogs are snapping. Merely pausing a digital image, of course, fails to capture the art and craft of photojournalism.

Such Hipstamatic trickery exemplifies the trouble with Moriarty's movie: Despite being filmed in Cambodia with the participation of the Cambodian military, Freedom seems less like an immersion in real-world tragedy than it does a vacationer's snapshots 'shopped to resemble that tragedy. Eventually, these photographers who don't feel like photographers get beaten and captured, which at least gives the actors (Joshua Frederic Smith and Scott Maguire) something to play.

They vow to get the story of what they've seen out to the world. Knowing history (Smith's character is loosely based on Sean Flynn, the son of Errol Flynn) and The Killing Fields, we root for them, but if we just took the evidence this film offers, we might more likely be wondering, "Those blurry freeze-frame shots we saw you snipe earlier of soldiers gadding about in the weeds? You expect the world to make sense of those?"

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Hey, you could do worse than following Alan Scherstuhl at @studiesincrap or @ExhibitionistSF on the Twitter thing.

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Alan Scherstuhl

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