Taking his cue from American reality TV, on which he himself once worked, writer-director Daniel Minahan honed this often funny, sometimes unsettling satire at the esteemed Sundance Institute, where he worked on scenes with actors. Pushing this kind of super-dramatic, highly charged TV to its limit, the director has created a particularly nasty game in which six contestants either kill or are killed. They are each given a gun and a cameraman, and let loose.
Following these contestants and their attempts to compete (the American obsession with winning is sent up as both stupid and dangerous) could easily result in a film far too flabby, yet Minahan packs each strand with short scenes, brief moments and rich, telling dialogue, cunningly switching from one character to another just when you want to know more. In addition, he has cleverly constructed the film as an extended TV show (complete with all the conventions of television) so there is no stepping outside the game to follow these folk beyond it. In other words, so as to achieve maximum impact (which he does), the director squeezes all the information about the contestants, their insecurities, needs, and desires into the show itself.
To heighten the reality, the film maker not only employs hand-held camera (of course) but insists on his actors being, for example, self-conscious or over-dramatic, just like real people. You quite properly forget that you are watching performances in an always sharp, smart satire which has its share of startling moments, as when the key contestant enters a shop and shoots someone before asking whether they have bean curd in stock.
"Series 7: The Contenders" is due for release on 1st June 2001.
Visit the official "Series 7:The Contenders" website.
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