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Reality & This Closeness

The new film REALITY directed by Tina Satter, is a shining example of how a minimalist approach can be used to create a story that is both gripping and emotionally resonant. The film tells the true story of Reality Winner, a whistleblower who in 2017 leaked classified government documents to the internet, revealing Russian attempts to derail the 2016 election.

Satter's direction and the film's writing are based around actual government recordings of conversations between two federal agents and their suspect. The film primarily takes place during a few hours of Reality's life as law enforcement tears apart her house, shortly after they appear at her car window when she gets home with her groceries.

One of the most striking things about the film is its restraint, which gives us a sense of claustrophobia and creates an intense atmosphere that keeps us engaged throughout. In addition, the hyper-focus on the search and questioning allows the audience to experience the situation in a way that feels deeply disturbed and uncomfortable.

The performance of Sydney Sweeney, who plays Reality Winner, is another highlight of the film. Sweeney anchors the film with a masterful and powerful performance, displaying a massive amount of humanity and care in her portrayal of Reality's quiet vulnerability, as well as her inner strength and anger that are right there under the surface. The real Reality Winner is not the person you would expect to be a whistleblower. She is a gun-owning, pet-loving, cross-fit fan who deeply loves her country and hated seeing what it was becoming under an increasingly problematic and extreme administration, and a completely broken media landscape.

Despite its short runtime, the film manages to pack a punch. It kept me engaged and entertained while also provoking thought and reflection on issues of government corruption and the role of whistleblowers in society. The dream-like quality of the film adds to its overall impact, allowing us to feel Reality's detachment from the situation while processing the implications of her actions.

REALITY is a must-watch film for anyone interested in true stories of whistleblowers and government corruption. It is a masterclass in minimalist storytelling, anchored by a powerful performance from Sydney Sweeney, and is sure to leave a lasting impression.

I recently had the chance to stream This Closeness at the Seattle International Film Festival. The film is written and directed by Kit Zauhar who I had the pleasure of interviewing last year about her film Actual People, which was one of my favorite films of last year and one of my favorite interviews I’ve gotten to do for this show.

This Closeness is a natural progression from Actual People, exploring the depth and complexity of human relationships in even more detail. It is centered around a couple, played by Zauhar herself and Zane Paris, as they go to Philadelphia for his high school reunion. They opt to stay in a shared AIRBNB with a reclusive roommate, who comes off as strange.

The film approaches the line of horror without ever crossing it, the real horror ends up being how all of these people treat each other. The part of the film that works best for me is how often the dynamics change. At the beginning, we think we know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, but they are constantly changing throughout the film, keeping us second-guessing our assumptions and our biases.

We are put in some incredibly uncomfortable scenes as well as some very sweet ones. This is a film that is all about dynamics and expectations. It challenges our expectations on what it is to be in a relationship, on what it is to be lonely, on what it is to be successful, and what it means to be an adult in general. There is a real sense of what I can only call performative adulting in this film. Maybe it's just how I felt at that age, where I was playing grown-up, but it is really felt in this story and in the characters.

The movie is deceptively simple, although the structure and setting give off a simplicity, the actors and the script dive into the depths of humanity and hold a mirror to some really ugly stuff, but without moralizing everything. It is a film that isn’t for everyone, but it is definitely a journey, one that leaves you thinking about the intricacies of human behavior long after the credits have rolled.

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Joshua LaBure is a documentary filmmaker, radio producer and podcaster based out of Omaha, Nebraska. His experience includes having directed and produced several short films, two narrative features and two documentary features, with his works featured at the Lone Star Film Festival, The Bureau of Creative Works and other filmmaker showcases. His most recent documentary had a sold-out premiere and received a standing ovation at the Benson Theatre. Furthermore, he founded the Denver Filmmakers Collective, which hosted local filmmaker showcases, has served on jury for major film festivals and has hosted countless film screenings.
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