By Kentucker Audley March 4th, 2014
Nandan Rao's second film begins with a 3 minute phone call over a black screen. We gradually hear something about church and then we cut to a quote from an Apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints: "brethren, encourage our young men to marry." Off the quote, we're at a peaceful Hawaiian beachside where 2 young Mormon men, Nick (Nicholas Boissonneault) & Tor (Tor Kristian Anestad) swing on a rope. Despite the head quote, it's not a quest for marriage but more a struggle of faith. We're never inside a church, never see missionary training, never door-to-door proselytizing. Instead, Rao focuses on downtime, cliff diving, riding mopeds, eating at McDonalds. (cont'd)
Watch the film embedded below...
Rao is patient and the images he constructs are rich enough to hold on. The muted, hazy photography, off-center framing - hallmarks carried over from his d.p. work (including Sophia Takal's Green). Often all we have is the image, or the sound, or a black screen, or we're locked on people who aren't speaking. Minimalism wanders into avant-garde into mumblecore and back again in rotating rhythms - an interesting framework to capture religious people. A personality-focused, beautifully shot sketch depicting a culture outside the context they are normally viewed. Another assured doc/narrative hybrid building off last years The Men of Dodge City (which spawned this remix). Rao is also the founder of Simple Machine, a micro-cinema booking platform that connects filmmakers with venues.