Doc of the Day: Message From Red Hook Review - Dan Schindel

Doc of the Day: Message From Red Hook

Posted in Days of Docs by - July 28, 2012

A brief meditation on urban decay and youth in crisis.

Dir. Kat Keene Hogue, 2010, 2 min, Viewed via SnagFilms

Yes, a two-minute film. Actually, it’s really only a minute and a half. I had a very busy day. It was either this or neglect my commitment to this blog. And I am nothing if not committed. You can go ahead and watch the movie right here, if you are so inclined.

But practical concerns aside, delving into super-short film lets us explore the bottom limit of what we can consider a “proper” narrative. I’ve done six-minute docs before for this blog. Just how much time is needed to convey a message cinematically? Really, the time needed for any work of art is subjective to the point of quantum unquantifiability. A painting exists as it is, suspended in a moment, and can affect someone whether they stare at it for an hour or just glance at it in passing. If there is a feeling or an idea to transmit, all a movie needs is however much time it wants. One minute? Why not? You could make an argument (and I’ve heard it made) that Sallie Gardner at a Gallop, a three-second series of 24 photographs, constitutes a movie.

Message From Red Hook features Shaina Harrison, who leads us on an extremely brief tour of her neighborhood, the titular Red Hook in Brooklyn, New York City. The very brief impression she gives is both grim and hopeful. She shows us abandoned basketball court, a playground with no parents, and a vacated building that once gave hope to the youth of the neighborhood. Many sources of relief from the troublesome aspects of life here have move on, but Shaina herself is resolved to stay. She wants to be a role model.

I don’t really want to comment too much on the quality of the movie itself, mainly because it’s an extremely small one, not just in length but in production. Sure, it’s been “put out there” and is technically fair game for critiquing, but it just wouldn’t feel right. I will say that the movie left a stronger impression on me than more than a few docs eighty times as long that I’ve viewed for this blog. So there’s that.

Watching Message From Red Hook was more an excuse to consider the definition of art (as well as, yes, an act of mild desperation as my midnight deadline approached). But it turned out to be a good little (little!) film. It almost seems besides the point to urge you to see it. If you can’t spare a minute (literally!) of your day, then I don’t know what to say.

This post was written by
Dan Schindel is a writer and editor. He lives and works in Los Angeles.
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