ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON DORK SHELF
Straying off California’s “Bigfoot Scenic Byway,” Jim (Bryce Johnson)—an avowed Sasquatch believer—and Kelly (Alexie Gilmore)—his less-than-convinced girlfriend—take in the surreal sights of Willow Creek. The tiny community is a stone’s throw from where the infamous Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot footage was shot in the 1960`s. After lunching on “Bigfoot burgers,” admiring comical murals and listening to balladeers celebrate the ‘squatch in song, the couple embark on an ill-advised venturing into the woods in search of the unknown. When they inevitably find themselves lost the beast of the forest quickly descends upon them.
Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek is quite the anomaly. The first half of the film is an almost excruciatingly paced examination of Bigfoot culture which features our leads wandering aimlessly performing interviews and filming first hand footage incessantly. No momentum is gained until the pair is in their tent, lost in the woods, and camped for the night. The following 19 minute steadicam shot (with only a single edit in the entire piece) is masterfully executed and directed, and it ranks among the tensest scenes of the year. The performances from Johnson and Gilmore sell the story perfectly here as their work is almost entirely ad libbed and totally believable.
The seaside town of Oxnard, California, was shattered in 2008 by the shooting death of Lawrence “Larry” King, a 15-year-old biracial, gay/transgendered student. Who was the killer? Larry’s 14-year-old classmate crush Brandon McInerney. The question became was this a hate crime, a retaliation against unwanted advance or something much more complex? Did flamboyant Larry, who liked to crochet, wear makeup and don heels, push his attacker, an emerging white supremacist, over the edge with his advances? It sure made for catchy headlines and drew attention to the plight of LGBT teens, as well as the overwhelmed educational and juvenile justice systems.
Director: Marta Cunningham
Valentine Road is a masterfully crafted documentary and one of the highlights of this year’s Hot Docs lineup. The film manages to be heart wrenching, maddeningly infuriating and inspirational all at the same time. (more…)