17 September, 2012

RIFF: "Hombre y tierra" (***1/2)

Maurice Ripke stars in "Hombre y tierra"

"Hombre y tierra" stood out at the 2012 Rome International Film Festival as both the only Spanish language narrative feature and as a film completely comprised of 'found footage.' Writer/director Christian Cisneros' film, co-written by Richard L. Watson, centers around a wilderness survival show host as he struggles to maintain composure and ultimately make it out of the Belizean forest alive. Maurice Ripke stars as our host, Mauro Bosque, and gives one RIFF's best performances.

Although many movies that feature simulated self-shot handycam footage instantly feel forced, "Hombre y tierra" begins with a very authentic atmosphere. Most films of this nature require the audience to adjust their perspective, eliminating any natural feeling the film could have possessed. After a small introduction that features Chucho, Mauro's friend and producer, the largest chunk of the film features our lead shooting footage for his television show without incident. Even for filming a television show, the script seems a little exegetic. Being fed too many basic survival facts and hearing the same cues too many times would only support the fact that Mauro is filming the show's pilot episode, when we already know otherwise. This doesn't make the monologue unrealistic (many reality shows are repetitive), however, our interest starts to wane. Soon enough, though, mysterious events and Ripke's unflinching charisma transform a modest heart-tapping tension into a forceful heart-pounding suspense.

Once the ball is rolling, the audience is kept riveted until the credits roll. After being taunted by a enigmatic force for days, Mauro is forced through a spectrum of emotions. As the story reaches an expected and terrifying zenith, Mauro becomes fearless and demanding of the audience's breathless attention. Ripke shows tremendous talent in this role and has hopefully caught the eye of many filmmakers as "Hombre y tierra" tours the festival circuit.

"Hombre y tierra" was filmed in both Spanish and English, with each scene being filmed in both languages before moving along to the next. After the film screened at RIFF, Cisneros said that the English version would be released to festivals next, although I question if it will possess the same spark that Ripke brings to the film in his native tongue. Nonetheless, "Hombre y tierra" easily wins the title of the most thrilling film out of RIFF.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

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