REVIEW: 'The Mentor', (2020) a dark comedy feature by Wind in a City Films
Official poster for THE MENTOR, A Wind In A City Films release. Photo courtesy of Wind In A City Films)
The Mentor by Wind in a City Films, in association with Legacy Pictures and by debuting feature-film director Moez Solis, tells the story of one Nilah Williams (Brandi Nicole Payne), a wannabe screenwriter and filmmaker in Oakland, California. She happens to stumble across her movie director idol Claire Adams (Liz Sklar) and convinces her to be her mentor for the day. Things take a strange turn when the pair are kidnapped by an enigmatic gang- known only by the names of the various bird masks they wear who are looking to exploit Claire’s talents as Nilah happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Usually movies about the filmmaking industry come off as pretentious and self-indulgent and The Mentor is those things but intentionally so. The film looks to poke fun at the industry and makes plenty of use of insider talk and filmmaker banter that those wise to the industry will appreciate. Even if you’re not, there is enough quirky humour and intrigue here to keep your more casual movie-buff in their seat.
(Santiago Rosas, Michael James Kelly, Julie Dimas-Lockfeld, and Mike Bash in a scene from THE MENTOR, A Wind In A City Films release. Photo courtesy of Wind In A City Films)
Mr. Owl, Mr. Raven, Mr. Emu, Mr. Pigeon and Mrs. Hawk (Mike Bash Michael James Kelly Santiago Rosas Corey Jackson Julie Dimas-Lockfeld) are a joy to watch as they ramble on like they’ve memorised every wordy poem that they’ve ever read and recite the vocabulary in their daily conversation. We watch them struggle to agree and their plan fall apart as they begin to self-destruct, painting a picture reflective of what Solis’ says of the industry:
“To become a success, many artists teeter on the edge of a maniacal, self-centred, egotistical attitude that can lead to the exploitation and possible ruin of others and themselves.”
Although some of the acting is a little stiff, their poetic way of speaking suggests that this may have been intentional.
(Brandi Nicole Payne in a scene from THE MENTOR, A Wind In A City Films release. Photo courtesy of Wind In A City Films)
Brandi Nicole Payne does a great job as the law-abiding-filmmaker constantly referencing “the books” and all of the ways in which her screenplay uses all of the necessary techniques needed to be successful. However whilst she does stick to the rules of the industry, Nilah is trapped within its constraints and desperately needs a way out, unapologetic for her persistence and summed up by the Werner Herzog quote:
“If you need air to breathe and you are locked in a room, you have to take a chisel and hammer and break down a wall; it is your absolute right.”
(Liz Sklar in a scene from THE MENTOR, A Wind In A City Films release. Photo courtesy of Wind In A City Films)
Liz Sklar is the standout amongst the cast as her tough demeanor embodies what it takes to make it in the harsh industry that The Mentor is focused on. What’s interesting is that neither she nor Nilah ever seem to really acknowledge that they are in any real danger and despite their attempts to escape, never seem to demonstrate any real fear of the assailants.
The Mentor is not going to be for everybody; as stated, the constant nods to the industry and the humour at its expense will require some filmic knowledge. It starts off a little slow and a little difficult to follow as it attempts to establish itself as different to a lot, or perhaps to anything that you’ve seen before. It is difficult to categorize as it blends so many different elements into its meta-narrative puzzle, slowly allowing itself to unfold into unexpected mystery-thriller territories as Solis asks:
“How can a filmmaker or an artist commit severe crimes against others and still garnish the love and respect of his community?”
(Mike Bash and Michael James Kelly in a scene from THE MENTOR, A Wind In A City Films release. Photo courtesy of Wind In A City Films)
In a lot of ways,The Mentor unfolds into what could be described as the perfect indie movie; completely self-aware, honest and untouched by big-studio restrictions. It’s a film that requires at least 2 viewing to appreciate everything that it has going on.
WATCH 'THE MENTOR':
"I'm interested in the idea of a film within a film, a meta-narrative that allows for thematic investigations. I want to leave a movie with intrigue. For my audience, it is the same. If I succeed, they will need to watch The Mentor again to discover what they missed. I made it with the hope that viewers feel, what Diane Arbus says about photographs: “A picture is a secret about a secret, the more it tells you, the less you know."
- Moez Solis (writer/director of The Mentor) __________________________________________________________________________________
Crew: Written, Directed, & Produced by Moez Solis Executive Producers Moez Solis, Cary Woodworth Co-Produced by Mark Vashro Associate Producers Matthew Boyd, Saida Solis, Amy Hogan, Chris McCaw, Noor Adatia Starring: Brandi Nicole Payne (Instagram) (Twitter) (Facebook) Liz Sklar (Website) Mike Bash (Website) (LinkedIn) Michael James Kelly (Instagram) Santiago Rosas (Website) (Instagram) Corey Jackson (Instagram) Julie Dimas-Lockfeld