Starring: Victorya Brandart and Ignacyo Matynia
Written & Directed by Hamza Zaman
Production Companies: Coducive Production and Headless Films
Distribution: Gravitas Ventures
A note upfront about The Institute. This is the first feature for writer-director Hamza Zaman, first feature for both production companies Conducive Productions and Headless Films and first feature for all seven producers listed on IMDb. This being the first feature for these key positions and a ultra low budget (maybe even no-budget), they did great and deserve support.
THE SPOILER FREE REVIEW
The Institute sets a unique tone from the opening of what to expect as ghost hands chase after Marie Sullivan (Victorya Brandart) and that tone is a mix of horror elements in an indie thriller that is focused around a couple unable to bring a pregnancy to term. Marie with her husband Daniel (Ignacyo Matynia) turns to Dr. Lands (Mark Lobene) and The Institute to help them conceive a child. Daniel quickly catches onto Dr. Lands nefarious ways but Marie will go along with nearly anything if it means that she can conceive. The film is primarily a drama/thriller in my mind as the thriller elements felt more developed than the horror elements, which come in heavy in the final moments of the film.
The film itself is incredibly indie and trips up a few times on those standard indiefilm hurdles.
Victorya Brandart and Ignacyo Matynia occupy almost every scene and do well in their respective roles. The beats of their performance that I had issues with I think could have been left on the editing room floor resulting in a tighter 75 minutes than the 90 minute final cut. I'll speak more on that in a moment.
Hamza Zaman's writing and direction doesn't play it safe which is commendable but there are hiccups. Characters show up in the last 5 minutes with no explanation or foreshadowing. Hard rights in tone without motivation and at times going for the cheap trick. That being said, he did tell a solid story, kept me watching beginning to end and pulled off some really great scenes. I see a writer and director that will become better the more he is refined.
The production audio is rough from time to time but it's minimal and forgivable... which could be for a variety of reasons and it's not necessarily the sound guy's fault. It could just as well be the fault of budget, scheduling or a communication breakdown.
The VFX were acceptable for the budget range , but the greenscreen was pretty rough.
The SFX in the film are a ton of fun. I'm a huge advocate for doing things practically and the practical effects in the film shined for me. Well done Beatrice Sniper.
Then the unjustified nudity. I've gotten on a soapbox before about unjustified nudity in indie films as a way to add value because sex sells and not because it adds to the story. I think The Institute would have been good enough on the story alone without some of these segments of unjustified nudity that cheapened the project for me. I don't watch 90 minute feature films for unjustified nudity, that's what Pornhub is for. In the end, ladies I hope you got paid or that it was your idea, because that's a big ask for low budget indie. Again, I'm not anti-nudity, I'm anti nudity that just checks a box to be edgy or add value.
While my review appears very middle of the road there are a lot of solid scenes in this film and it's very well made for a largely inexperienced crew. You don't become great at something instantly and they made a few first time filmmaker mistakes. It's a decent 90 minute film but it probably could have been a much more solid 75 minutes. Us indie filmmakers are always told 90-minutes or more specifically 87 minutes is the magic number because 87 minutes fits into a conventional two hour time slot. I think if this was a 75 minute feature everyone who worked on this project would shine through a lot more. A lot of my gripes wouldn't be talking points if that were the case.
In the end, I'm happy I supported these filmmakers because most of the problems with this film are clearly budgetary and could be fixed with time and money, i.e. fuller production design, better lenses/light package, more rehearsals, a tighter edit and all of these elements cost money and time.
An HONORable Mention
review written by: Christopher James Cramer
I reviewed this film because they followed me on Instagram and thought it looked interesting. They were also distributed by Gravitas which distributed my latest feature "The Seance." I do not know anyone that worked on this project and I was not paid for this review. This review is just part of my new "Go find an indie you like and tell your friends about it" initiative. The title needs work.
***while re-watching the credits I realized I do know someone in the crew. Jared Kirby did the fight choreography and I worked with him on some stage productions in New Jersey. Jared is phenomenal guy and choreographer which is why the fight at the end of the film is great.