Description (from the IMDb):
A trouble, dissipated city youth is influenced by an indigenous spirit to be drawn back home to defend the land of his ancestors against exploitation by oil and mining interests.
For Sale Version Includes:
Written and Directed by Alan Gorg
I actually have sort of reviewed this movie once before. Alan Gorg sent me 3 movies to review back in 2012, and one of them (PROPHECY AND POLLUTION) included part of EARTH SPIRIT. So I had previously seen 35 minutes of this 81-minute movie. I said back then “ES seems like it would be an interesting film… Because of the fact that this is 35 minutes of an 85-minute movie, it was not long at all before I got pretty confused.” (IMDb lists the running time at 85 minutes, but the version I watched was 81:30). I assumed that the issues I had with the plot and story were because I was missing a lot of the movie, but I unfortunately still had major issues, even with the whole thing in tact.
I am going to start on the production quality of the film. There is some good, some bad to be said about ES; I’ll start with the good. There are a lot of very nicely shot landscapes, including a lot of time lapse shots and aerial shots of both the desert and of Los Angeles that give some god production value to ES. Those sort of shots are expensive, and immediately add some gravitas to the film. I also was impressed with the audio quality of the film. The actors were all well-recorded and the dialogue easy to understand, and this is a quality often absent in low-budget film. On the flip side, the video quality looked like it was shot on a late-90s SD digital camera, and then not rendered correctly into whatever editing software was used. The image is stretched horizontally, so everyone and everything looks pudgy and wide. Then the image is letterboxed within a letterbox, so the viewer gets a black box around all sides of the image, which is very distracting.
The film starts with a framing device of “Gramps” taking two Native kids that have no respect for their traditions to the mesa. They are the first of many people to attempt to run away in the middle of the desert during ES. Gramps sits them down to tell them the story of their relative Jesse and how the Earth Spirit came to him and got him out of dark times. From there we go to the story within the story, of delinquent Jesse, and his Mom, Dad, and “Uncle” (actually his Great-Uncle, but he’s seemingly everyone’s Uncle in the movie). Jesse is a bad Native kid living in Los Angeles with his Mom, dating a young Latina girl named Pilar who is undocumented. After a very random raid by immigration, Jesse (who is obviously a citizen, being a Native) and Pilar are arrested and Jesse is sent to some sort of random indoctrination center / juvie hall of some sort. There is an uprising and he escapes, and TOTALLY AT RANDOM finds Pilar who has been busted out by her wanna-be sugar daddy of a white guy boyfriend sorta kinda.
I apologize for being a little wishy-washy here (and for the next few paragraphs), but at this point the plot was getting sketchy and I was getting lost. This guy, who I dubbed The Green Card Fairy (“No green card ‘til I get my lovin’!” is actually one of his lines, like he could just pull a green card out of his… well, back on track) was not in the film at all before this point, but now he has bailed out Pilar (can you bail someone out from INS?) and is riding with his chauffeur when out of nowhere, Jesse who just brazenly escaped from whatever that place was, shows up behind him. A chase ensues, and Jesse crashes, and his Mom says no more – we’re going back to the mesa. I think.
Here we get into the parts of the movie that were edited into P&P earlier. I had hoped that with the rest of the story I would get more into it. I didn’t. Even with seeing the story before, the plot was so full of random events and weird, needless plot twists that I was still getting lost. Jesse steals a horse to run away back to L.A., but then somehow loses the horse and gets lost in the desert for what ends up being a vision quest of sorts where the Earth Spirit talks to him, and when he comes back he’s ready to be a man now. He’s ready to fight for the land from the evil miners to whom his Mom has sold the mineral rights. So then the plot gets weirder – drunk Dad shows up at a protest (just wide enough to block the dirt road) with his gun, and Jesse talks him down from doing something stupid. Then Uncle is hit by a bulldozer (Uncle: standing watching dozer. Driver: “I can’t stop!” Uncle: still standing. Driver: pounds on various levers and pedals. Bulldozer: moving about 5 miles an hour, touches Uncle who rolls to the side. Everyone: NOOOOOOOOOOO! Uncle’s Dead!!!). Jesse then gets his guns and some friends that randomly appear from nowhere to go take out the evil miners, but are talked down by Dad. “We can do this without guns,” he says, and then PROCEEDS TO MAKE HIS VAN INTO A DAMNED CAR BOMB. They blow up the site, and then “pray for peace,” to an Earth Spirit who is now at rest. Moral of the story? If you’re concerned about the runoff from mining ruining your land it’s better to commit eco-terrorism and all will work out in the end. Oh, and after all this, the stupid kids with Gramps still don’t give a crap about anything.
Ok. Let’s back up a little. ES has a really important message. Much like I had commented about Mr. Gorg’s other films, he’s making movies with a message and a point. But much like I had commented about Mr. Gorg’s other films, “I really feel like there is a lot of good information here, but its just not presented in any way… that anyone is going to hear what Mr. Gorg has to say.” There are really important issues at play here. Alcoholism among Native populations, racial discrimination and profiling, the dangers of pollution and greed… there is really A LOT going on here. The problem is that the story not only goes so off the rails so often that it becomes hard to follow and not be distracted by wondering “what the hell just happened?” but also the way in which the protagonists get their revenge or save the world is just so out there. They blow this place up. Seriously. Then the Earth Spirit is happy. Seriously. Blowing up the construction equipment, even if they chose to do it on the weekend when no one would get hurt (except Jesse… I think… somehow, oh forget it), is still what we would call Eco-terrorism. Eco-mf’in-terrorism, and there are zero repercussions. The end is happy as Mom and Dad get back together, Mom gets the rights back because the company did not follow their contract, Jesse and Pilar are back together, and the Green Card Fairy is no where to be seen.
Overall, I was really hoping that I would like ES a lot more than I did. Of all the other works of Mr. Gorg’s that I have seen, I thought this one showed the most promise, and I was hoping that when I finally saw the full version I would really like it. I really like what it is trying to say and what it is trying to do. I like the points it has to make on many serious issues, and that these issues are tackled in a dramatic fashion instead of just preaching. Much like the other films of his that I have reviewed (here), these important discussion are unfortunately buried under ridiculous plot, strange character choices, and wholly unrealistic situations all around.
Overall 4 / 10
ES on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0910870/
ES for sale: http://amzn.com/B00AZBC8OU (though I think this may be the Prophecy and Pollution Trilogy which does not have the full version of ES)
http://www.amazon.com/Earth-Spirit-Alan-Gorg/dp/B006MNIT1Q/ (This is the full version of ES on demand to rent or buy)