Art imitates life, or is it the other way around?
Shadow Zombie takes us on a surrealistic journey through the life of a small town drug dealer, Kim. Life is rough living in a shack-like house with his father in rural Louisiana. Kim snorts pain killers and rambles around town writing poetry and selling weed to skater kids. By night Kim paints his face and goes out as his alter ego, Shadow Zombie.
Director Jorge Torres-Torres takes an interesting approach to film making. It's like a mash up between reality television and a surrealist film. All the characters are real - they're playing themselves using their own names. Most of the story is real too but interjected with staged occurrences. Cinema, in it's essence is about the reproduction of reality, right?
Here we get a glimpse of some very harsh small town reality. Kim is our hopeless hero. You feel sorry for him. When he re-meets a girl from his high school who also paints her face you really kind of hope this is going to be a happy love story. Cookie is a registered nurse who likes to play dress up, too, only she paints herself up as a clown. She lives in a huge mansion and is from the "better part of town." From the get go you're like, "wait a minute, what's she doing with this guy?" You see them get acquainted through a couple of dates and it's almost a match made in heaven. But Cookie has some issues apparently. Give the guy a break why don't ya? Not in this movie, that would be too normal.
I met with Jorge this morning to discuss the film. It was really interesting because once I knew how he made the film I had to know - "So was that part real...was that part real?" Kim's house and father, that's real. Cookie's house and dead parents, that's not real. The zombie-like gal that shows up to haunt Kim - of course that's special effects, but we do learn that his mother was murdered - that's real. It's an interesting approach - to start out with a real person, a real cast of people and then kind of let their story direct where the film is going to go, adding bits and pieces along the way to make it more interesting or to drive the story along.
Shadow Zombie was shot with no budget, no actors, no extended crew, and no script. Jorge and his fellow producers, including Jason Banker and NOLA local Bradford Willingham, come from a documentary background which is why they go about making films the way they do. All the good stuff comes from real life - what we see is fleeting but what we capture with our cameras is forever. The reason they make films this way is that they kind of have to. When you're trying to make films DIY with absolutely no budget you have to get creative. I'm liking their approach. To me it's pretty damn inspiring.
In their description of the film the producers state that it was "shot in almost documentary type conditions," but if you didn't know that you could never tell. It's just weird enough with the makeup and ghosts for you to suspend disbelief. Tear all that away,though, and you're left with these characters' lives. Happening every day. Day in. Day out.
The kind of life where nothing ever happens. But actually - that's not what life is like. Everything happens. It's all happening right now. At least I think it does. Who's imitating who again?