The way it usually works for me at Film Threat is that I am assigned ten movies to review, which I will then proceed to create a list in the order that I want to review them. I don’t like making up my mind about a movie before I watch the thing, but at the same time you have to sort of categorize them using a system somehow; you have choose which one you’re going to watch first somehow (unless you just watch all of them at the same time on ten different screens. Now that would be a trippy thing… Maybe I’ll try it someday). Anyway, sometimes I just pick them because the title sounds interesting, sometimes I pick them because the story or idea sounds like it could be interesting. Occasionally, just for fun, I go eenie-meenie-miney-moe. You gotta mix it up, you know? Make every new viewing a surprise. I’m not prejudging anything. It’s more like organizing your brushes before you paint, you know?

In the batch of films I got were four movies by Colin Bannon, and I automatically put them off for last. In my defense, they were all almost ten years old and they all seemed like student films of some sort. Nothing against students or student films mind you, but when a person is just starting out in the movie business they tend to um… well… you know… It’s kind of like when a baby tries to walk for the first time. It doesn’t matter if he’s going to grow up to be an Olympic marathon runner, that first time is always a bitch. He’s going to fall down. He’s going to cry. He’s going to shit his pants. Doing something badly is how you learn to eventually do it well. It’s funny to watch, but it’s sort of sad too.

Keep in mind that this is a rule of thumb that shouldn’t be mindlessly applied to every situation. It’s often true, but not always true. Nonetheless, it’s just one of those things that flip on the “dread” button in my brain. I don’t mean to feel that way, but I do.

However, now that I’ve watched True Stories From Rug City I’ve come to a few conclusions:

  1. My system is completely full of shit.
  2. Colin Bannon is a fine filmmaker and I genuinely apologize to the man for putting him last.
  3. I never knew I could enjoy a documentary about Amsterdam, New York.
  4. I never knew there was a town called Amsterdam, New York.
  5. Everything is funnier with a Dutch accent.

Now, to the meat of this review: Editing.

No one ever praises clever editing enough. People will praise acting, cinematography, sound design, music and writing, but rarely editing. Probably because it sounds really lame to say it actually. Praising editing is like praising someone’s nostrils. It’s such an invisible part of the filmmaking process that few audiences notice. Yet, like nostrils, it ties everything together rather neatly. A movie with good editing is like a face with good nostrils. It only takes seeing a bad example to realize how important it is for it to be good.

With a 26 minute running time True Stories is a bit too long to be a short, the visuals are never particularly eye catching, and none of the stories are Earth shattering. Yet it all ties together nicely with the editing. The documentary is always moving forward, always flowing, always finding something new to show us. I was never bored. There was genuine passion behind, and in front of, the camera at all times.

If anything – and this will sound strange coming from me – True Stories reminded me of Michael Moore’s Roger & Me, only without the rhetoric, politics or ideology. It’s strong and smart storytelling that always makes you feel engaged, even if you can’t quite put your finger on why you feel that way.

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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