• Vitor Miranda

Tribeca Film Festival Review #1 - The Integrity of Joseph Chambers / An Act of Worship

Robert Machoian's new film has several similarities to his previous film "The Killing of Two Lovers", from the immaculate sound design to Clayne Crawford's terrifying performance, everything here is calculatedly executed. The film follows Joe, a family man who decides to go hunting on his own. Much like The Killing of Two Lovers, the plot here is simple, as Machoin seems to care more about the chilling atmosphere of the story than with his characters, which can often make the plot development feel a little uncertain. The film unravels as Joe gets more confused with what is happening around him, leading to a tragic event that will change the course of his day. Machoin is a master at turning any action into something terrifying and even before Joe starts going crazy, the atmosphere already sets the tone of the character. One of the great things that contributes to building up all the mental confusion around his character is the sound design, which makes us question whether everything we hear is really happening or if it's just Joe's demons getting the best of him.

The film works so well because Clayne Crawford's skin crawling performance is as both disconcerting and hypnotizing. The spiraling feeling that the character faces as he falls deeper and deeper into mental insanity is brutally felt as Joe becomes increasingly vulnerable and aggressive. The film doesn't bother to explain what is happening to Joe, and from the moment you stop wondering why, the film becomes incredibly fascinating and deeply bleak. Oscar Ignacio Jiménez's cinematography (who also worked with the director on The Killing of Two Lovers) is cold and introspective, showing the hunting scene as a harrowing and oppressive place where death is unescapable.

The story of The Integrity of Joseph Chambers is safe and simple, but the psychological development of the characters and the hopeless and brutal approach of the film reaffirms Robert Machoian as one of the best filmmakers in modern cinema, and one that you should surely keep your eyes open for.

“Why do you have to be so different?” was a question asked to a Muslim girl right after she was attacked for wearing a headscarf. This question may be nonsensical and pointless, but it changed everything for her. America has a big problem accepting different things from what they're used to, for some, it's shocking to have to deal with people who are and have completely different ideals from theirs. These entrenched prejudices would already reach several minorities over the past few decades, but in recent years it has been increasingly frequent with Muslims and immigrants. Since 9/11, the perception around Islam has changed radically. What was once seen as just a religion with different views of Christianity has become something extreme and radical to the perception of a huge part of the nation. "An Act of Worship" deals with all this social change that Muslims and immigrants have had to deal with over the years.

Director Nausheen Dadabhoy achieved something extremely important with this documentary. Dadabhoy was able to capture all the social pressure that Muslims have to face on a daily basis. The film follows several stories of Muslims who report how their lives are affected by the major events taking place in the United States. The director shows the despair and oppression caused by fear after 9/11, the hope of a concrete change after the election of Barack Obama, and the fear, the exclusion and the bleak reality after the election of Donald Trump. The suffering that Muslims and immigrants had to face during Trump's term often seems to have been omitted from history. Whether with documentary images, animated recreations or cinematographic reenactments, "An Act of Worship'' is able to turn all these experiences into something that attracts us into the stories being told. The moments of earnestness never come without a sense of hope behind it.

Whether for its completely resonant social message or for its innovative cinematic vision, “An Act of Worship” will go down as one of the best documentary features of the year. The story told by Dadabhoy is as relevant as it is inspiring, and it serves as an example to be followed for anyone who wishes to achieve such artistic greatness while still being truly enthralling.