Wednesday, 29 April 2015

HOT DOCS 2015: MISSING PEOPLE Review By Greg Klymkiw ****

Missing People (2015)
Dir. David Shapiro

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The art of Roy Ferdinand is bathed in the blood, sweat, pain and fears of the New Orleans mean streets. It pulsates with life (and yes, death). His rich, crazily skewed work is so vital, vibrant and unique that he'd be a natural for any obsessive to get obsessed over. Martina Batan is just such a person. She has a huge collection of Ferdinand's art in addition to a few of his personal effects; nothing too odd, but the smelly socks balled up in a pair of boots might not be everyone's first choice to tingle the olfactory nerves.

On one hand, her obsession makes sense. She is, after all, the director of one of the coolest galleries in Manhattan. Ronald Feldman Fine Arts has hosted more than its fair share of astonishingly original work, so her taste in all things artistic is top of the line.

Martina, does have other obsessions, though. She doesn't sleep much and most nights she's up past the witching hour constructing a massive Lego sculpture in her living room, a project she's been working on for years and which, she admits, seemingly has no end in sight.

I can accept that.

However, she has one other obsession. Well, perhaps not so much an obsession, but rather, a mystery which has haunted her for over 35 years. Her little brother Jeffrey was brutally murdered and the case has remained unsolved all these years. There's been no closure on this horrific loss and if anything, her sleeplessness, Lego construction and almost mad love for Roy Ferdinand's brutal depictions of the New Orleans underbelly might well be tied to the tragedy which plagues her.

She's reached a breaking point and hires a private detective to investigate her brother's murder.

As the amiable gumshoe goes about his business, Martina heads down to the Big Easy to track down a number of Ferdinand artworks she's yet to lay eyes upon herself. She's also determined to meet with Ferdinand's surviving family members to get more insight into what made him tick.

Yes, Ferdinand is dead and somehow, these are all pieces of a deeply disturbing and ever-complex puzzle which director David Shapiro follows as closely and obsessively with his lens as Martina now delves even deeper into the world of an artist whose unflinching eye for violence on the filthy, grim pavement of New Orleans mysteriously parallels her own baby brother's brutal end on the equally mean streets of Queens.

Violence has touched Martina and followed her her whole life. The artist she loves more than any other was also irrevocably tainted with the ruthless, vicious barbarity of a world where life is as cheap as it is precious. Somehow, this must all converge. The journey she allows us to take with her is both harrowing and moving. It's an odyssey to find answers, and in so doing, we are faced with terrible truths which also betray the deepest depths of humanity.


Missing People has its World Premiere at Hot Docs 2015. For info click HERE