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ZOLTAN!!

Zoltan is a winter planet. The main exports are iron and [unintelligible]. The temperature of Zoltan is between -20 in July and -238 in January. ISC Agent Thomas Toltec has been sent to Zoltan to assassinate an exiled dictator.Zoltan: The Winter Planet is 33 minutes long and stars local indie rockers Wax Mannequin (aka Chris Adenay) and Vanessa Fischer (from The Barcelona Pavillion).

This is a beautiful lo-fi Super 8 masterpiece. Using friends and found objects as actors and props Morlando Productions has produced an A Grade B-movie the likes of which I've never seen. Some of the acting is inelegant (though most is natural and good), the fight choreography is cautious and the special effects ain't that special but what this film has which is lacking from most recentlow budget sci-fi b-movies (like Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter) is SINCERITY.

Writer/director Chris Barry clearly means every frame of this strip of film. Zoltan may only be an excercise in indie rock filmmaking -- see how far we can get on as little as possible -- but the result is as unique, fun, dramatic and thrilling as Alphaville, and perhaps just as important.

Wax Mannequin's performance as Toltec, the agent sent by the International Space Commission, is tentative and jerky at times, but solid as a block of ice. It seemed to me that all the dialogue had been rerecorded after shooting the film but Wax Mannequin's voice acting is exquisite and gives his character much more depth than a plain tough guy reading of the script would have ever managed.

The story, a covert hunt and assassinate mission, is quite straight forward but Toltec meets many well crafted characters with real backstories of their own and despite the short runtime of the film we are treated with a very involved story.

At one point Toltec visits an informant who claims to have spotted his target at a cafe. When he asks the man how he could be sure of who he saw he replies, "Those eyes! I'll never forget those eyes!!" and proceeds to tell the story of his homeworld's destruction using a series of childish pencil drawings and narration. This story in itself is material enough for a big budget sci-fi epic but rather than humble himself with his limitations as a special effects artist, director Barry makes the right move and takes a much more crafty approach to the scene.

A murky subplot involving Toltec's late wife adds little more than intrigue to the story due to its ambiguity, but the flash backs, or dream sequences were executed with such confidence that they didn't seem tacked on. This is one black and white super 8 film involving lost love that does not stink like a film student's old scarf.

Zoltan: The Winter Planet will hopefully mark the beginning of a NEW indepedent cinema in Canada; one that is not dominated by brooding pretentious sadsacks, but instead is ruled by no one and which knows that the audience is small and more likely to spend $5 in a bar above a small live-theatre than $12 at the multiplex which won't show your film anyway.

So let's make movies for each other, with no money. Let's do it THE ZOLTAN WAY!! Hooray!


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