REVIEW: ReGeneration

22 03 2012

Reynolda Film Festival

If you’re a concerned enough citizen to make the conscientious effort to watch “ReGeneration,” a documentary about the apathy of our culture, you will still be shocked and dismayed by the findings of the film.  It’s depressing to know that even a movie like this only captures the tip of the iceberg and perhaps even more so to implicate yourself in buying into and selling out to the problem.  Writer/director Phillip Montgomery has no desire to sugarcoat our reality, opening the movie with this quote from Martin Luther King: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

In less than 80 minutes, Montgomery takes a sociological look at why the world is the way it is, why it seems to be spiraling out of control, and if there is any hope to change it.  That’s a lot of ambition for one film, let alone one that short.  “ReGeneration” feels sprawling but never cumbersome, a remarkable accomplishment for a movie that tackles some of the most pressing issues of the day.

Montgomery makes the movie’s overarching cynicism about our consumer-driven apathetic culture palatable by collecting a variety of opinions and explanations that run the full spectrum of experience and perspectives.  From Noam Chomsky to STS9 to a panel of high school students, everyone gets a chance to weigh in on the issues.  We value some people’s thoughts more than others, but it’s great to see that everyone gets a chance to speak out and speak up.

Really, it’s the average American that makes “ReGeneration” a standout, stand-up-and-clap documentary.  Whereas “Inside Job,” the only recent documentary I would dare compare this to in scope, was largely a mouthpiece for Charles Ferguson through his narrator Matt Damon, Montgomery hands the microphone over to the people to narrate their own story.  (If you watch this movie to hear Ryan Gosling, prepare to be disappointed; he has at best ten lines in the film.)  It’s an appropriate move on his part because, as the movie points out, our problems cannot be solved by one person acting alone.  It must be us as a community, rising out of our seats, and redefining what it means to be happy, concerned, involved, and free.  A-

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