Friday, October 21, 2011

Judas Kiss

What would you do if you were sent back into your own past to change your future?  Would you risk derailing your only career success, if it meant your future might be better?  These questions are at the core of J.T. Tepnapa's new film Judas Kiss.

Struggling Hollywood filmmaker, and former film student prodigy, Zachary Wells returns to his alma mater Keystone Summit University for it's annual student film festival to serve on the film jury.  Zach is hesitant to return to the school he dropped out of after winning the festival 15 years earlier, but after his friend Topher Shadoe's latest film gets financing, he feels obligated to take Topher's place.

From being stuck in the freshman dorm to inadvertently sleeping with a student in the film festival, Zach feels coming was clearly a mistake.  However when coming face to face with his trick from the night before at a finalist interview, old wounds open up for Zach, not just from his time at Keystone, but the years that lead up to his matriculation there.

As the finalist interview begins, Zach is in disbelief that the boy standing before him is claiming to be Danny Reyes, the writer and director of Judas Kiss.  Judas Kiss was the film that Zach had won the film festival with 15 years earlier.  Danny Reyes is his real name, before he changed it after moving to Hollywood to Zachary Wells.

After trying to find an explanation from academic dean Mrs. Blossom (who ironically makes a comment earlier how it is sad that he and Topher had changed their names after leaving school), Topher who is not returning his calls, and the lurking campus guide Mr. Welds, Zach begins to accept that he is in a paradox in which he is reliving his past in the present moment. 

As Zach and Danny try to find a way to co-exist during the remainder of the film festival, each is confronted with choices that will forever affect the other.  From Danny becoming involved with Shane Lyons (who's family is he primary benefactor of the school's film program) at the cost of a budding romance with fellow student Chris Wachowsky, to Zach following the advice of the mysterious Mr. Welds and setting into motion the events that could disqualify Danny's film from competition, the past and present collide and make a most uncertain future.

Judas Kiss is a complex film that deals with more than just a paradox of going back in time to fix a past mistake.  It shows that even though the root cause of a lifetime of unhappiness may be a single event, without understanding the motivation for that mistake, the same end result is inevitable.  By slowly exposing the events that lead to Danny creating Judas Kiss, the film goes beyond what it appears to be on the surface and draws you in and does not let you go until the end.
Judas Kiss is a film that succeeds through a well developed and engaging story, masterfully told through its genuine and sincere performances by its cast, including Richard Harmon as Danny Reyes (recently seen as Jasper on AMC's The Killing), Sean Paul Lockhart (formerly Brent Corrigan) as Chris Wachowsky, and Charlie Davids as Zach Wells.  Shot entirely on location in Seattle, primarily on the University of Washington campus, the film has a visual texture that accents the stories paradox theme by time seeming to stand still.

Judas Kiss won over the Filmfreak Mafia through the touching scenes between Zach and Danny before and after they realize they are living a paradox.  Zach takes on a fatherly role toward his younger self, the kind of relationship both wish they had with their father.  This type of story telling through direct and powerful dialogue, present and centered in the frame, this is what the Filmfreak Mafia searches for in film and wishes more films still offered.  Judas Kiss receives the Filmfreak Mafia's most heartfelt recommendation and is very grateful to the 16th Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival for bringing this film home.

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