Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Sunday, May 19, 2019
“Hail Satan?” (2019). Cast: Interview Footage: Lucien Greaves, Jex Blackmore, Malcolm Jarry, Michael Wiener, Jason Rapert. Archive Footage: Megyn Kelly. Director: Penny Lane. Web site. Trailer.
Advocates for causes may sometimes be surprised where their support comes from. That’s particularly true when such unexpected backing is notably vocal and passionate. So it is for the champions of several high-profile, hot-button initiatives as seen in the snicker-filled new documentary, “Hail Satan?”
Those behind such issues as separation of church and state, women’s reproductive rights, and same-sex marriage often face an uphill battle, especially in light of the zealous, well-organized efforts of right-wing religious fundamentalists. The proponents of these measures can use all of the encouragement they can muster. But who would have thought that they would receive such support from a source like The Satanic Temple.
In “Hail Satan?”, viewers are introduced to a nontheistic “religious” minority that’s nothing like how it has traditionally been portrayed. Through the mainstream media, Hollywood movies and other sources, Satanists have been depicted as evil incarnate hell-bent on engaging in all sorts of horrendous, unnatural, unspeakable acts. Yet, as director Penny Lane’s documentary reveals, these characterizations are largely juvenile exaggerations, the product of a well-orchestrated smear campaign to distort who they really are and what they’re seeking to achieve.
Members of the Temple freely acknowledge themselves as followers of “the opposition.” But this is not meant so much to be opposition to God as much as it is meant to be opposition to those who contend to authoritatively and exclusively speak for the Divine. In that vein, that would include those who intolerantly proclaim their religions to be the sole, unquestionable truth that everyone must follow to the exclusion of all other faiths, schools of theological thought that they dismissively regarded as nothing more than outright heresy. These are notions primarily put forth by fundamentalist Christians, who look upon other religions with disdain and contempt (and, if they feel that way about mainstream creeds, one can only imagine what they have to say about Satanists).
[caption id="attachment_10709" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Protestors rally against members of The Satanic Temple seeking to promote religious pluralism as seen in the tongue-in-cheek new documentary, “Hail Satan?” Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.[/caption]
Temple members, by contrast, maintain that we should all be free to follow whatever faith best suits us, be it Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism or, in their view, Satanism. They believe their mission is to help preserve that right – for everyone – and to steadfastly challenge anyone who would try to take it away. This belief in religious pluralism, they insist, is essential to a society, such as ours, that claims to revere the formal separation of church and state.
In recent years, however, this principle has come under fire, especially when fundamental Christians have undertaken such initiatives as trying to erect Ten Commandments monuments on the grounds of capitol buildings in states like Oklahoma and Arkansas. Members of The Satanic Temple have countered by contending that, if states allow Christian monuments to be placed on public properties, they must also allow the erection of comparable testaments to other religions on those same grounds. To that end, then, Satanists have sought to have statues of their goat-headed god Baphomet installed alongside whatever Christian monuments might be placed on those properties. After all, in a supposedly secular state, fair is fair, they say.
“Hail Satan?” chronicles these efforts, depicting how these outspoken, left-leaning activists have taken on their sanctimonious counterparts and effectively made them look like ridiculous religious blowhards. Instead of patently malevolent deeds, viewers are shown the cleverly crafted campaigns of this band of comically sinister but basically harmless bogeymen gleefully poking holes in the dogma of the religious right. Like impish frat boys pulling pranks, this amusingly macabre contingent of nonconformists has succeeded in capturing public and media attention, deftly outwitting its opposition at virtually every turn.
[caption id="attachment_10710" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Satanic Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves (standing at podium) speaks to a crowd of supporters seeking to erect a statue of the goat-headed god Baphomet on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol building in director Penny Lane’s “Hail Satan?” Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.[/caption]
According to Satanic Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves, efforts like the ones his organization are pursuing are crucial to preserve the sweeping freedoms set down in the U.S. Constitution and to prevent their hijacking by those with their own narrow agendas. Speaking from the Temple’s headquarters in Salem, Massachusetts, where a number of innocent women were wrongly put to death for their views in the witch trials of the 1690s, Greaves and his followers believe these efforts need to start with setting the record straight about America’s innate secular nature and religiously neutral legacy. They’re particularly concerned about dispelling the fallacy that the U.S. is a historically “Christian nation.” Indeed, viewers may well be surprised to learn how the promotion of this widely held myth began as a Cold War propaganda ploy to counter the overblown and supposedly insidious spread of “Godless Communism” throughout the land. And, in that regard, audiences will likely be tickled (or possibly shocked) at discovering how the campaign to get Ten Commandments monuments erected on the nation’s municipal properties actually got its start.
However, separation of church and state is but one of the Satanists’ aims. As the film shows, they have also taken on such other faith-based issues as the hypocrisy of religious institutions, most notably the Roman Catholic Church and its cover-up of the actions of pedophile priests (something one won’t find among the ranks of the leaders of The Satanic Temple, they contend). In addition, they have railed against initiatives to institute prayer in school and at government meetings (unless, of course, Satanic verses can be included as part of those programs as well). They have even sought the establishment of after-school Satanic groups in locales where Christians have actively sought to launch Bible studies.
[caption id="attachment_10711" align="aligncenter" width="287"]To counter the launching of after-school Bible study groups, Satanic Temple members have sought to establish comparable groups promoting their “religion,” as depicted in director Penny Lane’s snicker-laden documentary, “Hail Satan?” Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.[/caption]
On a more secular level, Satanists have sought to preserve women’s reproductive protections and to promote gay rights, most notably same-sex marriage. Much of the opposition in these areas also comes from religious organizations, such as the insufferably vocal, supremely homophobic Westboro Baptist Church, which the Temple has unabashedly taken on publicly with devilish glee. The measures implemented by Temple members to counter such protests have been just as satirical, thought-provoking and creative as those used in their other endeavors, all designed to raise awareness about the corruption, hypocrisy and self-serving agendas behind these dubious, reactionary initiatives.
Without a doubt, Satanists have been called “dangerous” for what they do. Yet, if this film is any indication, perhaps the most seditious idea they’re calling for is to think for ourselves. And, if that is indeed a vile, distasteful notion, then perhaps it’s high time for any of us with any common sense to consider moving out of the country. But not if the Satanists have their say; they plan to hold their ground. And, because their ideas seem to speak to a broad number of people, they have become one of the fastest growing religious sects in the country today.
Of course, calling The Satanic Temple a religion may be a bit of a stretch. Most of these ideas are fundamentally social and political in nature, though, for tax purposes, the Temple has had itself legally classified as a religion, something more conventional faiths would probably rail against (even though they often do the same themselves). But this is more proof that Greaves and company can beat the others at their own game and get away with it.
From viewing this film, it would seem that much of what we’ve been taught to believe about Satanists is unfounded, that they’re misunderstood and innocent of what they’ve been accused. The Temple has even taken steps to cultivate this image by issuing guidelines to its various chapters outlining what the faith stands for, an attempt to promote consistency and continuity among its members and leaders in educating the public.
However, as often happens with religious organizations, there are those within them who invariably go rogue, deviating from the institution’s doctrines and principles, and The Satanic Temple is no exception. The documentary reveals this through the Temple’s official severance of ties with its Detroit chapter, led by overzealous advocate Jex Blackmore. She believed that progress for the Satanist agenda was coming too slowly and began advocating actions, such as violence, to speed up the process. Given this violation of the Temple’s tenets, Greaves cut off relations with this chapter, calling it a regrettable but necessary action to preserve the Temple’s image and prevent the public from getting the wrong impression. In that regard, then, it would seem that even Satanists are not immune to the administrative problems that can hamper the missions of religious institutions.
[caption id="attachment_10712" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Followers of The Satanic Temple gather on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol building in Little Rock seeking the erection of a statue of Baphomet in response to the placing of a Ten Commandments monument in an attempt to promote religious pluralism, as seen in “Hail Satan?” Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.[/caption]
Nevertheless, despite such issues, it would seem the Temple is doing something right to spur its impressive growth. When organizations like this experience such an expansion in a short period of time, they’re usually espousing ideas that have widespread appeal for a large pool of would-be followers. So, in light of the corrupt, hypocritical state of affairs characterizing many segments of contemporary society, as well as the growing number of individuals who are becoming increasingly intolerant of such conditions, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the ideas championed by an institution openly opposed to such circumstances would attract the backing of a number of fiercely loyal, dedicated followers.
At bottom, the success behind organizations like this is ultimately driven by the implementation of the beliefs they advocate, and that’s crucial for their growth and popularity, because those notions underlie the origin and sustained materialization of such institutions. That means of manifestation is at the core of the conscious creation process, the philosophy that maintains we realize the existence we experience through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents. And, considering the intense passion driving the ideology of The Satanic Temple and the fervor of its members, it’s no wonder that the organization has proliferated as it has.
The Temple’s beliefs have obviously struck a chord with many individuals looking for answers to a litany of social ills that conventional religious and secular institutions either, at best, have been unable to provide or, at worst, have directly caused themselves. Satanism has provided a mechanism through which they can channel their energies, enabling them to push through the limitations that hold them back (and, they would hope, to eradicate the ignorance that binds and blinds the majority of society at large). And, through their inspired attention-grabbing ventures, they seem to be getting some results. Indeed, the opposition has arrived.
In considering the foregoing, some might say they have come up with some novel ways of making valid points. Others, by contrast, might easily call them the latest iteration of the silver-tongued con man. But, when looking at the holier-than-thou spokespersons who definitively claim to speak for the Divine and comparing their supposedly unquestionable evangelizing with their often-questionable public and private acts, one quite legitimately has to wonder who the real charlatans are. (After all, weren’t we warned about false prophets?)
This is not to suggest that everyone should scurry out and join the ranks of the Satanists; that’s a highly personal, individual decision. However, in reading the Temple’s seven basic tenets (see below), one finds principles that are hard to take issue with. If those who lead today’s mainstream religions were to earnestly embrace even half of these notions, the world would be a much better place for it. Let’s hope this film helps to set the record straight about these concepts and those who adhere to them, regardless of whether or not one subsequently opts to become a card-carrying member.
This tongue-in-cheek but thought-provoking look at the efforts of committed but misunderstood activists battling duplicitous religious and political institutions with agendas more dangerous than anything they’re proposing gives us all much to ponder. Amidst the many laughs are telling truths that we should all take seriously if we hope to protect the freedoms we have so diligently sought to carve out for ourselves. Anyone who identifies with the maligned outcasts of society will no doubt relate to the Satanists’ message and realize who it is we should really be afraid of. In relating this story, “Hail Satan?” received a well-earned Sundance Film Festival Documentary Grand Jury Prize nomination.
Recent events have shown us that our rights have fallen into an increasingly precarious position, making their protection ever more important. The need for diligence, even with the backing of unlikely supporters, is crucial to preserve them. Indeed, thinking for ourselves shouldn’t be seen as an unnatural state of affairs but as a wholly mainstream concept that we all enthusiastically embrace – no matter who advocates it.
The Seven Tenets of The Satanic Temple
- One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.
- The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
- One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
- The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo your own.
- Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.
- People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.
- Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.
Copyright © 2019, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.
Thursday, May 9, 2019
“On Her Shoulders” (2018). Cast: Nadia Murad, Murad Ismael, Amal Clooney, Borys Wrzesnewskj, Michelle Rempel, Barack Obama, Ki-moon Ban, Simone Monasebian, Ahmed Khudida Burjus. Director: Alexandria Bombach. Screenplay/Translation: Hishyar Abid, Nawaf Ashur, Deniz Ekici, Yousif Haskan and Shahnaz Osso. Web site. Trailer.
For those without a voice, it’s often difficult to be heard. In those cases, it generally takes someone with the courage and resilience to step up and make the case for them, not the easiest of undertakings. But, when an advocate with the right qualities emerges, incredible results are possible. So it is with an unlikely envoy for a little-known aggrieved people as seen in the stirring documentary, “On Her Shoulders,” available on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and video on demand.
Speaking for refugees whose story has largely gone ignored is difficult enough, but, when the spokesperson is one of those refugees herself, the burden can be a lot to carry. So it has been for Nadia Murad, a passionate advocate for the Yazidi people of northern Iraq, a religious and ethnic minority whose homeland was overrun by attacking ISIS forces in 2014. Through an orchestrated campaign of carnage that included murder, rape and sexual enslavement, the insurgents quickly overran their victims, including a 19-year-old Nadia, who was held captive for three months before escaping. Her ordeal became her cause, which is now told in director Alexandria Bombach’s documentary.
[caption id="attachment_10699" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Former ISIS captive Nadia Murad details her painful experiences and those of her fellow Yazidis in the moving documentary, “On Her Shoulders,” available on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and video on demand. Photo courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories.[/caption]
The film follows Murad as she seeks to make the story of her people known to a world that has heard precious little about them and their plight through mainstream media channels and official sources. Through visits to Canada, Germany and Greece, the film documents Nadia’s efforts to inform the public through interviews, personal appearances, and meetings with both refugees and political figures. In addition to increasing awareness about this humanitarian crisis and seeking the attention and support of the United Nations, Nadia’s work also includes tireless efforts to bring war crimes charges against the culprits who plundered her community, an initiative backed by human rights attorney Amal Clooney.
But “On Her Shoulders” is more than just a record of Nadia’s official activities. It also depicts the phenomenal pressure that has been unexpectedly thrust onto a young woman who wanted nothing more than to live a simple life in her homeland. This becomes apparent through her nonstop schedule of events to spread the word and to comfort those who were fortunate enough to flee the tyranny of their attackers. It’s also painfully obvious through the media interviews and hearing testimony that she gives in which she recounts in painful detail – over and over again – the ordeals that she and her people suffered at the hands of her enemies. The film thus reveals an individual of remarkable personal strength and fortitude, as well as a committed and eloquent spokesperson for an oppressed community.
Needless to say, all of this has carried a tremendous cost, both at the time of Nadia’s capture and torture, as well as in her constant reliving of the ordeal in making the case for her people. However, given what’s at stake, she refuses to capitulate to these circumstances, continually striving to promote awareness of the genocide and atrocities inflicted on the Yazidis. This is perhaps best reflected during her address before the U.N. General Assembly in 2016, when she stated, “This world was not only created for you and your families. We also want life, and it’s our right to live it. If beheading, taking women as sex slaves, raping children and the displacement of millions will not move you – when will you move?”
[caption id="attachment_10700" align="aligncenter" width="300"]With Yazidi activist Murad Ismael (second from right), former ISIS captive Nadia Murad (left) addresses a crowd in Germany in director Alexandria Bombach’s affecting documentary, “On Her Shoulders.” Photo courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories.[/caption]
Based on the foregoing, it’s easy to see how this unlikely champion of her cause is an embodiment of courage and inspiration. She’s firmly rooted in her convictions, convinced that she must carry through and fulfill her mission. These traits and ambitions are clearly indicative of someone well versed in the practice of conscious creation, the philosophy that maintains we manifest the reality we experience through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents. And, regardless of whether or not she’s consciously aware of the existence of this discipline, her actions and efforts nevertheless faithfully reflect its principles.
This is particularly true when it comes to the concept of value fulfillment, the principle that maintains we live out our beliefs to be our best, truest selves for the betterment of ourselves and those around us. Given what Nadia has undertaken, it’s hard to imagine someone more devoted to justice and the well-being of her people. Despite the tremendous personal pain she has suffered, she has carried forward fearlessly with an unshakable faith in her convictions, determined to see things through. We should all be so committed to our endeavors.
Thanks to her efforts, word of the plight of the Yazidis has finally begun to gain recognition. This remarkable young woman should be commended for everything she has accomplished thus far. Let us hope that we don’t let her down now that she’s made her case and gotten our attention.
[caption id="attachment_10701" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Speaking to Yazidi refugees in Greece, Nadia Murad (second from right), spokesperson for her displaced people, learns of the experiences of her peers in the stirring documentary “On Her Shoulders,” available on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and video on demand. Photo courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories.[/caption]
This incredibly moving documentary can be a difficult film to watch at times, but its impact is undeniable. One can’t help but feel for the fate of the Yazidis, as well as Nadia’s personal pain, accomplishments attained through Bombach’s masterful direction. The filmmaker genuinely earns our heartfelt emotions without becoming manipulative, maudlin or gratuitously graphic. “On Her Shoulders” is authentically affecting in a way that many other films telling similar stories fail to achieve.
For its efforts, the film received a number of honors and awards, most notably the National Board of Review’s prestigious Freedom of Expression Award. In addition, the picture earned two Independent Spirit Award nominations, including nods for best documentary and the competition’s Truer Than Fiction Award. It also picked up two Sundance Film Festival documentary nominations for best director and the Grand Jury Prize.
It’s truly unfortunate in this day and age that we still need advocates like Nadia Murad. But, as long as we as a species continue to engage in the kinds of atrocities like those committed against the Yazidis, the stories of these horrendous crimes must be told. Thankfully, we’re fortunate to have courageous souls who are unafraid to speak up and make the truth known in hopes that we can keep such horrific episodes from happening again.
Copyright © 2019, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.
Tuesday, May 7, 2019
“Dogman” (2018 production, 2019 release). Cast: Marcello Fonte, Edoardo Pesce, Nunzia Schiano, Adamo Dionisi, Alida Baldari Calabria, Laura Pizzirani, Aniello Arena. Director: Matteo Garrone. Screenplay: Ugo Chiti, Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso, Marco Perfetti, Giulio Troli and Fratelli D’Innocenzo. Story: Ugo Chiti, Matteo Garrone and Massimo Gaudioso. Web site. Trailer.
Few among us would deny the attraction we feel for a sense of personal power. It enables us to direct our destiny and shape the existence we want for ourselves. But it also comes with a temptation, one that can easily get out of hand if left unchecked. And it carries consequences, especially if we misuse it in our dealings with others or our community. It’s an issue that the residents of a neighborhood past its prime wrestle with every day in the tense new dramatic release, “Dogman.”
Life in a rundown Italian seaside community has its residents on the edge, thanks to the relentless crimes, bullying and intimidation of Simoncino (Edoardo Pesce), a former boxer with anger management issues and a serious cocaine habit. He does as he pleases, trashing property, burglarizing homes and businesses, and beating up the vulnerable, including his own mother (Nunzia Schiano), whenever he feels like it. The locals fear him, but they also believe that something has to be done about him, given that authorities do nothing to stop him. It’s like living on the American frontier in the 19th Century, a story that brings new meaning to the term “spaghetti Western.”
It doesn’t help matters that Simoncino has enablers who let him get away with what he wants. Whether they act out of self-preservation or the promise of rewards for their assistance, his shady colleagues quietly help him out when the need calls, often despite publicly condemning his actions. That’s most true of a kindly but weak-willed dog groomer, Marcello (Marcello Fonte), whose conciliatory gestures are mostly intended to keep Simoncino from unduly picking on him. Sometimes Simoncino throws a bone to his coerced cohort, but it’s often paltry and usually less than promised.
[caption id="attachment_10692" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Marcello (Marcello Fonte), a sensitive but weak-willed dog groomer in a rundown Italian seaside community, does his best to carve out a living while fending off the neighborhood bully in the tense new dramatic release, “Dogman.” Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.[/caption]
Marcello’s willingness to help Simoncino seems puzzlingly out of character. Given how he dotes on his canine clients and lovingly cares for his young daughter, Alida (Alida Baldari Calabria), his readiness to go along with the bully’s schemes come across as wholly anomalous. At times Marcello’s actions appear aimed at quelling the tension. Sometimes they’re efforts to save his own neck. And occasionally he sees opportunities to potentially get something out of these schemes. But, most of the time, his involvement is inexplicable. One can’t help but wonder what he’s thinking.
As time passes, Simoncino’s offenses grow increasingly unpredictable and ever more despicable. Meanwhile, Marcello’s responses become progressively more desperate and humiliating. He even takes the rap for crimes he didn’t commit. And, as all of this plays out, the neighbors are losing their patience with the entire situation. But what can be done? Marcello’s faced with quite the dilemma, but he knows a resolution is desperately needed – and soon.
As much as Simoncino looks to profit materially from his antics, he’s obviously most concerned with the acquisition of power and control over his neighbors and community. He actively asserts himself to amass these commodities, while those around him (particularly Marcello) routinely and willingly hand them over. Understanding that dynamic is thus crucial to appreciate why each of these characters experiences life as they do.
[caption id="attachment_10693" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Simoncino (Edoardo Pesce, left), the neighborhood bully in a rundown Italian seaside community, intimidates Marcello (Marcello Fonte, right), a sensitive but weak-willed dog groomer, to get his way in director Matteo Garrone’s latest offering, “Dogman.” Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.[/caption]
Simoncino succeeds in his efforts because he believes he can get away with them. He envisions what he wants and then makes sure he acquires or develops the means to get it, all of which are products of his thoughts, beliefs and intents. These are the cornerstones of the conscious creation process, the philosophy that maintains we employ these manifesting tools in materializing the reality we experience. The neighborhood bully understands and makes use of the power behind these metaphysical building blocks all too well, even if he’s unaware of the existence of this process or what it’s called.
By contrast, Marcello and the others in his neighborhood cower in fear, believing there’s nothing that can be done about the local nemesis. In embracing that belief, they create a reality based on that notion; they give their power away, leaving them with nothing to defend themselves against someone who wields it so effectively. Thus it should come as no surprise why they’re subjected to such intolerable conditions.
With such circumstances in place, one might think that all is lost, that remediation is impossible. But, given that conscious creation makes any conceivable option attainable, futility need not be inevitable; change is indeed possible. However, it requires an alteration to the manifesting beliefs that are creating these conditions in the first place. Nevertheless, as long as the prevailing thinking is allowed to hold sway, nothing will change; new beliefs must be formulated and implemented to make that happen.
Of course, it takes more than just new beliefs; they must be followed up with action. That means beliefs must be put into place envisioning both the nature of the sought-after change and how it’s to be achieved. For much of the film, that latter consideration seems to be the stumbling block to seeing new possibilities realized. If area residents really want something different for themselves, they must devise plans that get results and go beyond mere wishful thinking.
[caption id="attachment_10694" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Marcello Fonte gives an award-winning performance as a sensitive but weak-willed dog groomer in a rundown Italian seaside community in the tense new dramatic release, “Dogman.” Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.[/caption]
This is where power again comes into play. Marcello and his neighbors must insist on taking it back and putting it to use to attain what they want. The question in this, of course, is, do they possess the personal fortitude to see this through? That means ditching any fear-based beliefs that they cling to, embracing the courage necessary to implement plans for change (and, in this case, change that’s inherently radical, far different from the circumstances to which they’ve grown accustomed).
For the results to be truly meaningful, they must also consider how personal integrity factors into the mix, for it will have tremendous impact on the nature and quality of the results. In Marcello’s case, for example, he’s a sensitive, thoughtful, caring individual, so, if he’s to come up with a plan that sincerely satisfies him, he needs to figure out how he can achieve results without violating his own code of personal conduct. However, that may prove to be a tall order under the circumstances.
Can Marcello indeed make that happen? That remains to be seen. It’s something that will require quite a feat of creativity, one that employs options that may not have been previously contemplated, surpassing the limitations of easy answers that could be construed as personal compromises. Should he resort to convenient fallbacks, he could well end up disappointed with the outcome, one that’s not in line with his standards, disappointingly demonstrating that he’s no better than the foe he’s attempting to vanquish. It’s something we must all heed when faced with situations like this, for the results might easily expose who the real “dogman” is in these circumstances.
I must confess to having a love-hate relationship with this offering. While the film presents an interesting premise that’s well constructed during the first two acts, it seems to paint itself into a corner as it heads toward the conclusion, not quite sure how to wrap up the story. To avoid losing the essence of its central message, the picture regrettably resorts to predictable, conventional means to accomplish this goal, creating something of a letdown in light of the originality depicted at the outset. Sensitive viewers should also be aware that the film features some violent and disturbing sequences. They never get gratuitously out of hand and are generally presented in context, but they’re far from tame, and those who are easily upset by such images should bear this in mind. “Dogman” has been featured at many film festivals and is currently playing in limited release in theaters specializing in independent and foreign film.
Despite its shortcomings, “Dogman” has received its share of accolades. At the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, director Matteo Garrone’s latest earned Fonte the best actor award for his portrayal of the timid dog groomer, a role in which he comes across like an edgy version of a young Jerry Lewis. In addition, the film captured the Festival’s Palm Dog Award in recognition of its outstanding canine cast, as well as a nomination for the Palme d’Or, the event’s highest honor. What’s more, at the BAFTA Awards, the picture picked up a nomination for best foreign language film.
An old adage maintains that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Based on the story presented here, it’s easy to see how that can happen, too. But personal power need not become a runaway carriage; it can be tempered and focused into productive pursuits, provided that we make the effort to funnel our beliefs in that direction. And, if we should get off on the wrong path, it’s something we earnestly should consider doing before our lives go to the dogs.
Copyright © 2019, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.