December 11, 2007

Red Without Blue: That mysterious thing called family

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Reviewer: James van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): ****½

The mystery of family has received some major exploration over the past few years, particularly in the documentary category: Capturing the Friedmans and 51 Birch Street are two that spring immediately to mind. To these, and others, must now be added Red Without Blue, the fascinating, low-key, painful, sad, funny and majestic true-life movie by Brooke Sebold, Benita Sills and Todd Sills. All three are credited with writing, producing and directing; Brooke and Benita handled the editing and Brooke and Todd the cinematography. Talk about a collaborative venture. However it happened, the end result is rich and nearly seamless in its examination of twin brothers, their mother and father, the lover of one of the twins and a few more assorted friends and family.

As usual, I suggest you go into this movie knowing little more about the facts than what I've just told you because the surprises in store are many and strong. This is a journey for the subjects on view and for the viewers, too, and where it takes us all is pretty amazing. Many narratives and documentary films these days are heralded for being "non-judgmental"; until I saw Red Without Blue, I don't think I had nearly the understanding of that term that I now possess. As with all documentaries, I did find myself wondering, "Can all of this be true? And how would I really ever know?" But then I decided that, were this fiction, I'd buy it just as willingly. Because these filmmakers have found a way to reach out to their subjects and their viewers--and bring us all home.

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Posted by cphillips at December 11, 2007 10:04 AM