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Friday, May 29, 2015

Lack of Conflict and Drama Sink Music Documentary "Can You Hear Me?"

"CAN YOU HEAR ME?" (2015)
Genre:  Documentary
Length- 10:31
Company: N/A
Website: Official

Mary Artiles, also known as the singer Eileithyia, is an aspiring musician recording her new EP.  Daniel Schlett, her sound engineer, does his best to help guide her through a complicated and extremely subjective process.

But what Mary is really searching for is herself.  More specifically, a sense of herself created through her very personal art.

NARRATIVE TRUTH

If you have a horror movie with scares and some tension, sometimes you can coast by on a light story and still have a decent audience reception.  Other genres work the same way: for instance, an action film with a fast pace and plenty of fight scenes can overcome a lack of plot.  A tearjerker drama can get by with melodrama.

Documentaries however do not have that luxury.  A documentary, more than any other genre, needs a mission statement.  Why was this event committed to celluloid?  Why should the audience care about what they're seeing?

With "Can You Hear Me?", a short documentary film directed in a handheld style by Michael Artiles, there is no clear cut answer.  Without a character arc or storyline or any conflict, it comes off as less of a film and more of a capably made promotional piece for an established artist.  As it is, she's a beginner, and while she is a very talented young woman who could very well go somewhere in the music business, "Can You Hear Me?" the film has no hook to make me want to check it out in the first place.

THE GENTLE ART OF CONFLICT

The best documentaries create an engaging narrative around something real and historical.  Some notable examples of musical documentaries done right include Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's Metallica documentary, Some Kind of Monster and even, to a lesser extent, the Katy Perry film Part of Me.  Drama and conflict sell films -- even documentaries.

That's what we're missing here.  Something needs to sell this film to me as an audience member, because I have a million other pieces of entertainment vying for my attention.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 1 / 5.  Documentaries don't have a traditional "screenplay" as such, but they do string events together in a way that tells a story.  There is nothing resembling that in this film.
Directing: 2 / 5.  Michael Artiles' handheld style works, but there's nothing that stands out -- and part of that is because nothing's going on conceptually, so there's no room for Artiles to evoke anything visually.
Editing: 2 / 5.  Jean-Claude Quintyne and Michael Artiles handle editing duties, and do a decent job with the transitions.  The pacing of the film is completely dead, though.  The last three minutes of the film are dedicated to Schlett relating an amusing music anecdote that has nothing to do with anything in this film.  It feels unnecessary and, while humorous, it just pads out the movie even more.
Sound/Music: 3.5 / 5.  It's a professional show from start to finish in the sound and music department.  Mary Artiles is a talented singer and her songs are bright and poppy and easy on the ears.
Acting: N/A.

Final Grade: 2.1 / 5.  

If you like pop music, check out Mary Artiles' Eileithyia project and, if you want a look into her songwriting process, you'll enjoy watching "Can You Hear Me?".



Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!