April 20, 2017
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Aggressive Short Nails Oakland’s Universalism
by Doniphan Blair
Jon Bowden stars in and co-directs 'That's Democracy', a provocative piece exploring Oakland issues in an unnamed setting. photo courtesy J. Bowden/C. Traiman
NO WHERE BUT OAKLAND COULD WE
expect “That’s Democracy”, a hard-hitting film which, in its brief 13.5 minutes, slams us into such loaded subjects as guns at school, Western Civilization, peaceful solutions and more.
Almost from its first frame, “That’s Democracy” (view it
), which was filmed at the Oakland School of the Arts (OSA), using student actors and a gritty bob-and-weave style, reveals itself as a raw ride through Oakland’s most elevated ‘hoods of the mind.
“As if ripped from today's headlines, “ as noted by the film's promo, “That’s Democracy” starts with a realistic dive into what seems like a typical history class taught by one Jeffrey Mohr (Jon Bowden)—pronounced Muir, as if to reference to our greatest environmentalist. Alas, his frustrations with the insouciance of today's youth are hardly green. Indeed, they push him towards teaching a lesson that both he himself and his handsome group of high school seniors will never forget.
Co-directed and lead-acted by Jon Bowden, who does a great job, and co-directed and shot by Cliff Traiman, who's similarly talented, “That’s Democracy” was written by Louis Kornfeld, from a podcast by “
”. In addition to the OSA kids doing fantastic renditions of, well, themselves, the class also includes teen actors from Marin County (making the production itself rather multicultural). The excellently-rendered leading girl, Shelby Smith Moore, is from OSA, while the obnoxious boy, played by Tyler Page, is from Marin, where he is a student of the well-known acting teacher Bettina Devin, who also cast the film.
There are also a bunch of East Bay stalwarts involved, like the inimitable Darcel Walker doing location sound. Whatever you may think, it is quite the ride so “Buckle up...it can be ‘intense,’” as the promo says.
According to Bowden, who did the well-received feature “The Full Picture” (2008, see his
), it all started when his friend Traiman, “sent me a podcast done by The Truth called ‘That’s Democracy’ that simply blew me away.”
Oakland School of the Arts, where 'That's Democracy' was shot, in one long, long day, and which provided some of the actors, notably star Shelby Smith Moore. photo courtesy OSA
“We reached out to the podcast's creator, Jonathan Mitchell, about adapting it for the screen," explains Bowden, and "many months later, here it is!”
Incidentally, NPR's Snap Judgment, which has also featured The Truth, recently noted: "Our friends at The Truth just rocked a film version of one of their recent stories ['That's Democracy']. Dig it!"
“Long story short, I'm super proud of this film,” concludes Bowden, who also requests that “If you've read this far, maybe you like it too? If you do, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, and all the other places I know little about. You can also rate it on IMDb
We at cineSOURCE enjoyed the film, feeling it forefronted many incipient and impending Oakland issues, nestled within the nuance of art. Sure, it could have used a bit more in the black male department or a brief side trip for dramatic tension, like a girl bursting into hysterical tears followed by an other worldly pause, but that's just a thought and the film's overall the effect is biting and powerful.
Keep up the great work Bowden, Traiman and all the astounding actors and filmmakers at OSA!
Indeed, Oakland youth is bristling with talent, as I noticed teaching video with seventh graders, see our mockumentary, "
Behind the Scenes with the Floor Licker
Doniphan Blair is a writer, film magazine publisher, designer and filmmaker ('
Our Holocaust Vacation
'), who can be reached
Posted on Aug 04, 2016 - 10:42 AM