DIRECTED BY: Hamilton Sterling
FEATURING: Jeff Hawk, George Gerlernter, James Geralden, Cassandra Joy, Noel Webb, Clement Blake
PLOT: A satiric parable wherein naive innocent chimney-sweeper Charles is schooled in the ways of the world and business by a cynical benefactor, Nick, who encourages him to bring back the tradition of ‘climbing boys’ when a rich client expresses a wish for ‘the old days’. Charles complies with the exploitation of a child, but at a cost to himself and those around him.
IS IT WEIRD?: Not really. Pretentious, certainly; but there’s nothing new brought to the table in terms of weirdness.
COMMENTS: At first glance, Faith of Our Fathers appears to be very timely and prescient, considering that the film was completed in 1996, went out on the festival circuit where it did get some very good critical notice but no release until 2013, when it could be seen as an “I-told-you-so” roadmap to the current economic/political/cultural climate (much like how Richard Brooks’ reviled Wrong is Right from 1982 turned out to be a not-that-exaggerated look at what the Millennium-Ought decade held in store for everyone). It’s really hard to fault the filmmakers’ intentions, as there is a concerted effort on everyone’s part to make this a meaningful project.
Unfortunately, for me those intentions fall short in the experience of watching this play out. I suspect those who would enjoy watching this film would also be rabid fans of hardcore symbolic European art-house films, which are usually very slowly paced, populated with metaphors instead of characters and with degrees of inscrutability. My failure to connect here is probably a failing of this viewer. It’s a film that I really wanted to like, especially since items like composition, nuanced acting and craftsmanship are usually in short supply in the majority of work that gets the “Underground” label. But honestly, I just couldn’t enjoy it, despite the impressive craft on display (the cinematography, score, and a performance by Gerlernter as fallen priest/satanic provocateur Nicholas Nickelby).
It also doesn’t help when you have this as your logline:
” …this surreal and politically prescient film deconstructs the language of religious and economic America, finding artistic alternatives within the ethos of art.”
If this sentence gets you pumped to see what might follow, instead of rolling your eyes from the stench of pretension, then you’ll enjoy the journey. Much as I wanted to, I couldn’t get past it—so fair warning.
Faith of Our Fathers was self-released by writer/director Hamilton Sterling on DVD and Blu-ray, and the presentation is of very high-quality. One thing missing is a director’s commentary, which I think really would’ve helped—not that Sterling would’ve needed to spoonfeed us every single symbol in the film, but some context certainly would’ve been appreciated, especially explanations for the jumping back and forth between color and black and white, and sequences such as the one where one of the main characters has a dialogue with Napoleon Bonaparte in the park.
Helikon Sound – Hamilton Sterling’s site. Sterling has worked as a sound tech on films like Magnolia, The Tree of Life, Gangs of New York, and The Dark Knight, amongst others.