Broken Kingdom and Kingdom Come
Directed by Daniel Gillies (Broken Kingdom) and John Lyons Murphy and Paiman Kalayeh (Kingdom Come)
Starring Daniel Gillies, Rachael Leigh-Cook, and Seymour Cassel
Earlier this March, the independent film Broken Kingdom was released on iTunes. The film caught my eye because it was written and directed by one of my favorite actors, Daniel Gillies, who also stars in the film. The movie itself was fascinating — the story builds around two separate narratives, leaving the audience to wonder if these narratives connect. One follows a spiritually lost and self-loathing American writer and a poor teenage girl in the slums of Bogota, Colombia, while the other portrays the life of a Hollywood-based daycare teacher who suffers because she hides a tragic secret.
The cinematography was striking — half of the movie was shot in Bogota and it felt so real, so human. The scenes and dialogues were gritty and filthy. I was considerably impressed by writers and directors, who created and controlled human chaos and despair in a constructive artistic manner. Gillies certainly did an impeccable job.
The story and characters drive this film. As an audience member, you want to know why the main character seems to have thrown away his life to befriend a poor teenage girl in a foreign country. You like the daycare teacher, Marilyn, but there’s something just off about her and you want the movie to help you figure out what that is.
But the film doesn’t tell you anything. Like a film ought to, it shows you. Unlike many popular movies that come out of big studios in Hollywood, it doesn’t hold viewers’ hands by dropping obvious clues about characters and plots. Gillies clearly respects the art of film and his audience enough to let the movie genuinely speak for itself. And I think it is so much better that way.
Whether due to the drastically low budget or impeccable management of the writing and shooting of the film, it struck me that there was no wasted shot or line in the movie. It seemed that every scene contributed to my emotional attachment to the movie and understanding of the story the film told. Either way, it was incredibly refreshing.
I chose this movie as the first for this column because it was almost never made. Sadly enough, this is the case for many films, and many great scripts never reach the big screen.
But while Gillies was unsure if Broken Kingdom would ever finish filming, he was determined to get something out of this. That project became Kingdom Come, a documentary detailing the struggles of creating an independent film.
This documentary really brought the issues related to creating independent films home for me. Gillies detailed his trek through the US and Europe, seeking and struggling to secure funding for production of his film. Filmmaking is an unpredictable and volatile business, and the production of Broken Kingdom certainly showcased those challenges. But Broken Kingdom was an indie film at heart. Perhaps it makes sense that new directors and writers might have a difficult time actually making their vision a reality. But what shocked me about Kingdom Come was that it showed that this isn’t a problem only new filmmakers experience.
The documentary brought in well established actors, directors and producers including Mark Ruffalo, Don Cheadle and Morgan Spurlock, who all spoke to the reality of filmmaking: most films never get made. Sometimes a movie is never more than a script and a story. Other times, films are forced to shut down mid-production because funding is suddenly pulled for one reason or the next.
Independent film is important because it is story-driven — it represents the artistic and communicative nature of film, and is not necessarily economically motivated, as clearly shown by Broken Kingdom. Actors are more likely to be cast because they are a great fit for the role rather than because they bring “guaranteed returns” to the film.
It seems to me that it is in the nature of independent film to do things for the right reasons, so to speak — to make films to tell stories, to share a vision and to make a meaningful impact on the audience. This is the vision behind this column — to explore how independent film can help to fix this problem and address this imbalance in media production.
I hope this column will get you to begin to think about independent film. I strongly recommend the films Broken Kingdom and Kingdom Come — they are both excellent exhibits of culture. Broken Kingdom recently debuted on iTunes or you can buy both movies for just $8 at http://brokenkingdomfilm.com.
Editor’s Note: Indie Fix is new weekly column about recent independent films and their contributions to the cinematic arts.