Berlinale Forum 2011 – Utopians

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Utopians
Director: Zbigniew Bzymek
USA 2011
Cast includes Jim Fletcher (Roger), Courtney Webster (Zoe), Lauren Hind (Maya), Arthur French (Morris), Jessica Jelliffe (Deborah), and Sacha Yanow (Agnes)

Roger is arguably the worst yoga teacher in the world, and your home-renovation contractor from hell. But he’s a good egg. A single dad after the death of his wife, Roger’s life suddenly gets complicated when his daughter Zoe returns home from military service, on a mission to rescue her certified schizophrenic girlfriend Maya from institutionalization.

Roger’s increasingly frustrated students start to abandon him as he comes to class later and later, retreats into his own head for rambling, free-associative patter that takes the place of actual yoga instruction, and starts bringing a stray pit bull to class.

Tension grows as Maya is released from institutional care and comes to live/camp with Roger and Zoe. Roger’s friend Morris offers a live-in renovation job in his well-furnished house, and the newly formed family move in and promptly begin to decompensate, as the psychiatrists say, or perhaps just begin to find their way.

A perfect cast is led by Jim Fletcher (recently starring as Gatsby in the Elevator Repair Service’s marathon performance of Gatz), Courtney Webster, and Lauren Hind, with strong support by Arthur French, Jessica Jelliffe, and Sacha Yanow. Courtney Webster and Lauren Hind pulled double duty as producers.

Shot on location in Brooklyn in HDCam, with credits to Woodhull Hospital as well as to key artwork, including one fantastic painting of the fall of Nelson at Trafalgar.

The score is by Harvey Valdes, capturing the cold sounds of madness in one of the “longest-lasting guitar improvisations since Dead Man.”

A feature debut for director Zbigniew Bzymek, who is an associate artist at The Wooster Group, where he makes short doc videos and develops video design for productions, including the space vampire opera La Didone.

Read the Forum essay. Visit the film website.