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quietearth [Celluloid 04.05.10] movie review experimental

Year: 2009
Directors: Patrick Doan
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Rick McGrath
Rating: 3 out of 10

My first damning thought about Openland was, “ya know, I could do this better” – and then I realized even if I could do it better, I wouldn’t want to. Yeah, this flick is that bad, although afterwards, when I found myself thinking about how oddly immature and unsophisticated it was, the idea did briefly occur that this might be the point.

Very briefly.

Openland is a kind of youth documentary in which the morality, humanism, social awareness and tribal excesses of the 1960s are suddenly reborn from the mouths of today’s 20-somethings, who reveal two things: (1) all that crap still sounds neurotically idealistic, and (2) the youth of today are woefully under-aware of damn near everything.

For about an hour we briefly see, but mostly listen to a seemingly interminable lineup of young idealists who either chide us for our inhumanity or babble on about their own personal epiphanies – about as interesting as listening to someone recount a golf game. While the kids are confessing we basically watch montages of artsy shots, some cool, many crummy, with quite a few simply rented from image banks.

OK, it’s like this: you have about an hour’s worth of talk on a tape, and about the same amount in artsy abstract shots… try to match the rap with the images as best you can, and there you have it: Openland.

Doesn’t sound that bad? The problem is really with the content. I found myself laughing out loud at the naiveté and disturbing ignorance of these self-righteous kids. And what really got me was the tunnel vision displayed: these pampered, narcissistic, middle class morons have little or no idea of life outside the West. They’re whining away about self-realization and living the altruistic life while the overwhelming majority of the people on earth live miserable, day-to-day, scrabbling existences. You want existentialism, baby? Go to Africa.

On the other hand, if you live in the US and you can’t find Canada on a map, if you tend to hang out in the self-help section of bookstores, if you actually know who Tolle Eckhard is, or if you think an analysis of pop culture actually means anything, then you might dig this sadly un-ironic look into the messy minds of moronic idealists. Think I’m kidding? Here’s one example: a ditsy debutante from Connecticut gets a job in New York… she’s on her way to work the morning of 9/11 when she approaches the hordes running from downtown. Someone says the attack came from the “middle east” and she immediately assumes… Israel! Duh! As the day goes on she finds out what happens and then gleefully announces she had “matured 10 years in one day”. Obviously that maturation had no effect on her intellect.

Openland is a bit of an auteur’s piece, too, written, edited and produced by Patrick Doan, a fellow Canuck, who lives in Montreal (that explains why all the dialogue is in French – hope you like subtitles) and is a design student at a local university. It also explains one of the few “nose thumbing” pieces in the movie, where a Montrealer rants away about English Canada having no culture because it doesn’t operate from a tribal basis, unlike French Canadians. On the other hand, Quebec culture – apparently only represented by dance, music, and movies – can be seen from the “outside” as obsessive ghetto gasps from a history-bound culture that seems intent on making itself a sort of French theme park for American tourists. That knife cuts both ways.

Openland. That’s actually an ironic title, as most of this movie wants to enclose all behind a wall of morality constructed by the pack-thinking of obsessively-social youth – who basically reveal their lack of experience and sadly-simplistic outlook on life over and over again. With Openland I’m gonna switch the old mantra: never trust anyone under thirty.

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brett (10 years ago) Reply

Wow! It sounds like the film equivalent of BoingBoing


Anonymous (10 years ago) Reply

Frankly, I think you went a bit too easy on this narcissistic tripe. Here is how it is described on its site: "“Openland” is a cinematic docufiction guided by issues surrounding micro states and its derivative definitions. Through intertwining interviews, meta-narratives, and digital landscapes, Openland unfurls a dialogue between consciousness, individuality, and collectivity." Three stars is more than this gibberish merits.


Anglebender (10 years ago) Reply

WOW! I've found the comedy I was looking for in a "docufiction"! Sounds like a laugh-a-minute that tries to make you feel guilty for feeling good. Gen Y finds the REC button then whines about it... I've gotta see this!


chuck (10 years ago) Reply

brett- +1 I'm dreading the day that pathetic hack Corey Doctorow's work gets optioned for a film. He either made a deal with satan or he has a photo of his publisher screwing a goat. His success leaves me baffled.


patrick defasten (10 years ago) Reply

Hi Rick!

this is a long one, but i wanted to cover as much ground as possible and give a thoughtful response, to respect your point of view, in the review! lol

But that was quite the review, and I’m not sure if I should take it seriously or not, as it seems you’ve on the whole misinterpreted the basic meaning and connotations the film depicts! Clearly, the film has you irritated. And seemingly in a fit, you’ve instead chosen to make gross, distorted caricatures and over-simplifications on almost all the content, completely dismissing many of the metaphors and layered significance the film alludes and references - in irony, might I add - not to mention that in your review, many of the “facts” and assumptions you pull from the film are sadly wrong and inaccurate! For example: the interviewees all being in their trendy twenties, when only 2 of 6 of them are in their late twenties, while everyone else is certified iso-900 to be their late thirties and over, lol. These inaccuracies and fallacies you’ve drawn up in turn informs your un-nuanced critics on the film’s proposal and also, lol, on myself as the director; I didn’t know I was still a design student at a local university in Montreal? Didn’t the dvd provide enough background information instead of having to make cursory google searches? lol! All that said, it makes me wonder if you have actually watched the film in its entirety, lol. If anything, your review makes me smile with its needlessly aggressive and grumpy tone :)

I get the sense you’re a man of action who, fittingly, is consistently annoyed with direct intellectual and philosophical discourse, finding it superficial in its own right, and are disillusioned about the world through experience to the point you’ve become jaded with The Far West, for one, and the people who populate it. Yet ironically, in your spare time, you review genre films that can only originate from the consumptive excess and ease of the West? Myself, I’ve worked in Africa – Burkina Faso, Ghana, Morroco, South Africa - and have lived in a few places (being of mixed cultural + racial background), some difficult areas, some not. But I’ve made some decisions – none of which are entirely final - about how I see the world. It allows me to extend my tolerance, if a bit by way of some “healthy” cynicism with my own cultural upbringing.

There are a few aspects I agree with in your review, and let’s assume they are right, which they are, according to your logic. So accordingly, running on your reasoning and conclusion of the content, wouldn’t that then be interpreted as symptomatic of a culture running itself to the ground, by way of its flawed optimism and thus, blind naiveté? This is exactly what the film essentially takes direction from, and observes, comments on, among other things. Post-colonialism as a factory living in a myth of endless production: the crisis of culture. It asks questions, listens to possible answers from the people born from its culture, and living in its borders, which leaves me to regret a more vast pool of interviews from people of very different backgrounds (more on that later). On the other hand, there would be something wrong with our culture if its people stopped asking questions about today, tomorrow, before, and after. It’s one of the strengths of our culture – self-analysis, cultural criticism, etc. If, as you say, these idealist issues existed and have been recorded in the 1960s, then they very well have existed before then, and well before any of us. And because they have existed for long time without a clear conduit, it doesn’t mean they will cease to exist today, or tomorrow, long after you and I are gone, as if we’ve all “coped” with it and learned from it, moving into an era of “informed modernism”. If that’s the case, might I argue that it would be naïve to believe so, and to drug yourself into thinking that life can solely be quantified by your (next) actions, when in effect, a consideration should be made that a lot of what happens inside, in the unconscious mind, justifies a significant amount of how someone manifests themselves socially, culturally, politically, idealistically, etc. Whether they do so consciously or not is another story. So the ability to potentially be able to think of difference and change without necessarily acting upon it, can in effect inform the way an individual manages the world around them.

I’d like your thoughts on that last paragraph, but if it was too much for you to handle and you found it patronizing, then I guess I’ve lost you long ago, and I’m afraid your analysis of the film is, by your standards, quite accurate, lol! Unfortunately due to the lack of time and resources, I cut out 3 interviews in German, Mandarin and Japanese, which would’ve helped expand the scope of opinions from the American English and French speakers, specifically with one from Quebec, the others from France. And speaking of accents - it seems like you didn’t pick up on the retort/metaphor to the (flawed) Quebec argument and relished in finding it offending instead! It was clearly juxtaposed right before the Parisian’s observations about the US to highlight and put the emphasis not on what the Quebecer was saying anymore, but about the implication and context of what he meant; in other words - the weakness of identity. Thus, this juxtaposition clearly nullifies the provincial “outlash” and puts the Quebec argument in its place! Look at Belgium, Switzerland or even Taiwan to some extent for countries dealing with multiple/blended identities within the same country. In any case, coming back from living in Paris and Berlin, I can tell you Quebec has more in common with the monoculture of Canada and the US than it would like to admit, which makes the Quebec drama really absurd, yet relevant to my film’s thesis, lol. I don’t know when was the last time you visited Montreal, but it isn’t like in the 1960s anymore, come see for yourself, lol.

Thanks in advance for reading, I appreciate your time, and thanks again for watching the film!



MOTH3R (10 years ago) Reply

I completely disagree, Openland is a work of genius. Everybody should have an opinion but on your place I would not discuss the genre that I don't understand. I don't know Patrick but it is obvious we are talking about just amazing work.

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