Monday, July 27, 2015

Fantasia 2015: The Shamer's Daughter Reviewed

In a film landscape crowded with folks struggling to re-create the magical formula that made The Avengers a success, I can always count on my favorite film festivals (like the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival) to provide me with original stories set in unexpected places. To put it bluntly, if you've found yourself looking at the local cinema's movie lineup and moaned that you'll just wait for the next must-see blockbuster to come out, then start watching film fest lineups, make notes on what critics are saying are the strongest offerings and then watch for releases. With the phenomenal growth VOD and new DVD distribution outlets popping up every day, the chances of catching awesome indies is improving by the second! Foreign films can be counted among these newly accessible titles as well, and The Shamer's Daughter is the perfect example, with lush atmosphere, a not so warn-out landscape for film and an original thought that is well executed, all poised to grab your attention from the first minutes.

Dina is a little girl living in relative squalor during the already difficult medieval era. Normally, she could look forward to being married off at an early age and aspire to raise babies until she is too old to reproduce (YAY!), but she is the Shamer's Daughter, cursed/blessed with a gift to look into a person's soul and make them relive their private, less honorable moments. She experiences these moments as well, and this causes all who come across her to turn their heads and avoid her gaze. No one wants to be reminded of their secret disgraces, whether inflicted upon them or due to their own despicable acts. More often than not, it is the latter, which seems to be one of the overlying messages of the film. They say the truth shall set you free, but sometimes the truth is not convenient for the mob, and so, they ignore it, and will do all they can to make it disappear. It is the modern way of things. Those who force the truth tend to disappear along with it.

In this story, the king, his wife and young son are murdered in the night and blame is pinned squarely on a prince's shoulders. Since he will not confess, the Shamer is called to look into his heart and pry the truth free. When her powers do not reveal what those in power are looking to hear, they call upon Dina to use her own considerable gifts, which somehow include making people do what she wants through the power of SHAME! Without spoiling the very thin plot, those with ulterior motives reveal their true intentions, Dina is forced to go underground for about 3 minutes and there is a major confrontation in the town square in which the power of SHAME will decide between life and death. OH! And there are DRAGONS!  Well kind of. They are non traditional, smaller dragons who don't fly and are a bit menacing until they get stabbed in the neck, but hey...dragons.

The Shamer's Daughter gets by on the power of charisma alone, with actors that are very appealing and a setting that is fantastically believable. The story itself is weak and predictable, and the length of the plot couldn't fill a Disney visitor pamphlet, but what they have to work with is put to good use and is never boring. It's just...I've seen this basic story...many...many........many times. Still, the little extra bits of originality (the Shamer powers and dragons, mainly) are like a breathe of fresh air, and much appreciated. Take this as you will! We aren't breaking any new ground here, but in a sea of carbon copy premises, The Shamer's Daughter stands out.

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