41 (2007) / Revealed: Portraits from Beneath One’s Surface (2011)

I received two documentaries from the same filmmaker, Christian de Rezendes, on two subjects that are in some ways very different, but in some ways very similar.  They seemed a fitting double feature, so here they are.  You can check out more from De Rezendes at his production company’s site, http://www.breakingbranchespictures.com/



Description (from the IMDb):
In the winter of 2003, a catastrophic fire erupted in a Rhode Island concert club, ultimately claiming 100 lives. For this state of just over a million residents, the devastation was profound, leaving unanswered questions and deep scars in its wake. But out of the ashes of the tragedy arose an equally profound story of hope. One year after the fire, a community theatre in the small city of Woonsocket gathered together to perform a play written by the fire’s youngest victim close to the end of his life – a play that many felt could only be described as prophetic. “41” tells the story of Nicky O’Neill, the young actor, writer and musician who left the world at age 18 but who left behind a message. “41” weaves together the story of a life cut short, the saga of a community in mourning, and a family finding its way out of the darkness.

Special Features:
Deleted Scenes, February 20th 2006, Trailer

Directed by Christian de Rezendes & Christian O’Neill

41 is the sad tale of the life and death of Nicky O’Neill, one of the youngest victims of The Station Fire in 2003.  I remember hearing about this fire when it occurred, and had completely forgotten all about it until watching this film; what a horrific event.  I could not imagine what it must have been like to be stuck in a small, dark, crowded club and to watch the stage erupt into flames, more so I can not imagine how the band manager for Great White thought that pyrotechnics in a small, dark, crowded club would be a good idea.  While the fire is the event that caused the death of O’Neill, 41 is not about the fire, it is about Nicky’s life and legacy.

A drawing from one of Nicky's notebooks

O’Neill was a very talented young man.  He was a guitar player, a songwriter, and even wrote a play.  The strange thing was, in retrospect, he seemed to know that he would die young, and wrote about it often.  His play even seemed to about his own tragically short life.  The number “41” was a significant number to him, and after his passing many of his friends and family began to see/hear/notice this number in many places that seem to be connected with Nicky.  Though many of his family felt this was Nicky’s way of communicating from beyond the grave, I tend to agree with his half-brother who does not feel that the number is meaningful.

Nicky O'Neill and his band, Shryne

Apophenia is “the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data,” or basically your mind will find the connections that your mind is looking for.  There are a ton of examples in the movie of O’Neill’s friends and family seeing something with the number “41” or having something happen at the 41st minute of the hour, or whatever, that they then attribute back to him.  Maybe it is him, and maybe if I were in the situation myself I would agree, but I really feel that they just notice the random “41” because they are subconsciously looking for it.  Either way, it is kind of creepy how much that number occurs in this story.

Paranormal occurrences aside, 41 was a great documentary.  Weaving together interviews, home movies, news footage, and written pages from Nicky, 41 builds a greatly tragic story with a true emotional connection.  It’s been a while since a documentary actually made me tear up; I don’t know if it is because I am a dad and I could not imagine this happening to my family, or if it was the raw power of the story itself, but 41 touched me.  I was actually pretty sad for the rest of the day!

The Station Fire

On the technical side of things, 41’s quality varies.  With much of the movie being home video and older broadcast footage, it is easy to understand why the video and audio in these sequences vary.  The audio of the interviews had a bit a variance to it as well; in most places it was good, but there were a few instances where it was either too loud or too soft.  In the grand scheme of things, this is a very minor complaint.

Overall, 41 was a great film.  Emotionally moving, thought provoking, and well made, I really don’t have a lot of negative to be able to say about it.  I highly recommend 41 to anyone interested in the event (The Station Fire), the person (Nicky O’Neill), or just looking for a gripping documentary.

Overall 8.5 / 10

41 on the IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1053792/

41 for sale: http://store.nehst.com/42.html

41 site: http://www.41themovie.com/

41 (2007)


Revealed: Portraits from Beneath One’s Surface

Description (from the IMDb):
Photographer Scott Indermaur creates one-of-a-kind portraits of 11 individuals who have been given the unique challenge of symbolically capturing their essence and spirituality in a small box.

Special Features:
3 extended photo session films by the director, 1 NEW session with a subject not included in the film, Previously produced This I Believe REVEALED short films by Scott Indermaur, 2 NEW short films about the work of REVEALED subjects from the film, “Revealing REVEALED,” a short film from Director Rod Weiner about previous REVEALED sessions held in Kansas and New York City, REVEALED Trailer, Trailers of previous films by Christian de Rezendes

Directed by Christian de Rezendes

Scott Indermaur’s concept for “Revealed” is quite interesting: give a person a box, have them put in it whatever they want that represents them, and then take some pictures (in the dark).  The images that come from the photo session vary from funny to sad, from very obvious in their meanings to very obscured.  Christian de Rezendes chose this art project as the focus of his documentary REVEALED: PORTRAITS FROM BENEATH ONE’S SURFACE, which sheds more light on what went on behind the scenes.

The "Revealed Box"

While 41 connected to me on a deep, emotional level and made me truly care about the people involved, R:PfBOS did not.  Don’t get me wrong, there was still some drama to be had in the stories told by the subjects, but it just didn’t move me.  I think this can be easily explained by focus: 41 is 112 minutes all about Nicky, while R:PfBOS is 42 minutes in which a multitude of subjects stories are presented.  Their stories were still interesting and dramatic, but there was too many of them in too little time to really “feel” much for the people presented.  R:PfBOS seems more like a television show, more of a journalistic piece about a local artist than a full-fledged documentary in its own rite.

Kenneth Chabert's Portrait

The production quality of R:PfBOS is much higher than 41; there is no home video to deal with and the camera used appears to have been upgraded since the interviews for 41 were shot.  The audio is great, there is never an issue hearing or understanding anyone, and it is extremely well mastered.  I really enjoyed the editing as well; de Rezendes does a great job of moving between the various people’s stories, Indermaur’s story, and his own take on what the project is.

A close-up of the interior of one of the boxes during the shoot

Overall I really enjoyed R:PfBOS.  It was a well-made look at a very interesting art project, and a small glimpse into the lives of several of the subjects of that project.  I wish it had been longer, more in-depth, but I did enjoy the entire 42-minute peek it provided behind the scenes of “Revealed.”

Overall 7 / 10

R:PfBOS on the IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1924360/

R:PfBOS for sale: http://www.revealedproject.com/the-revealed-film/

R:PfBOS site: http://www.revealedproject.com/the-revealed-film/

Revealed: Portraits from Beneath One's Surface (2011)

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