Keeping It Reel

Some folks just have to go retro. That’s the MO for one local filmmaker, John Hartman of Reel Groovy Films, who, after two years of shooting, is ready to release his latest, Reel-Illusionary Zone. Only it’s not the HD-slick, digitally perfect darling you might expect from an emerging director. Instead, Hartman has set the Wayback machine to a century or so ago and shot a silent movie, using super 8mm film that means to capture the look, feel, and unrefined finish of films of the early 1900s.

Much like your grandmother’s jumpy, hammed up, hand-held home movies, Zone showcases drunken cameral angles, heavy vignetting with sepia lighting and a cast of surreal, unearthly characters. Only now we call this “German expressionism” and score it with a soundtrack that Hartman claims is no less than rock-opera.

The feature, adapted from one of Hartman’s earlier shorts, finds a great toymaker at odds with his own creations. The toys just want to go legit, trade their life of fantasy for something more, well, real. Revolt seems the only option. But coming of age is always a bitch, and when mayhem ensues, this motley band finds that crossing over is going to take more than they bargained for.

Reel-Illusionary Zone screens tonight only at the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo Street, as a part of its ongoing “Not So Hollywood” series. Tickets are $5 for the 8 p.m. show; call the Bug at 303-447-9984 for more information or go to for a preview.
Tue., March 10, 8 p.m., 2009

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
R. Kelly Liggin