Review: ‘The Messengers’

Provocative and often inspiring, "The Messengers" follows a half-dozen artists as they wed varied media to a solid message for change using words, images, music and everyday objects to make a connection to cruelties elsewhere and around the corner. Docu doesn't hide its polemics, but ideology comes a distant second to engagement.

Provocative, often inspiring docu follows a half-dozen artists as they wed varied media to a solid message for change using words, images, music and everyday objects to make a connection to cruelties elsewhere and around the corner. “The Messengers” doesn’t bother to hide its polemics, but ideology comes a distant second to engagement, and it will be a mainstay for school and activist groups looking to find ways to communicate.

Artists always wonder if they do enough to change something, if not the actual world. Politically motivated creators at the center of Helen Doyle’s fast-moving docu won’t settle for less than ruffling of important feathers. Subjects include a French street artist who installs dark paintings in public places, a Scottish musician who sticks in his fiddle wherever possible (Nigel Osborne also supplies much of the well-made pic’s incidental music), and essayist Susan Sontag, who keeps crossing widespread paths with the others. The spirit of Sarajevo — people from all backgrounds bombarded by primitive forces — hangs over the proceedings, which nonetheless offer the hope of making a difference, even with small gestures.

The Messengers

Canada

Production

A La Fete Inc. presentation of an InformAction Films production, with assistance from Telefilm Canada, Sodec, Canadian Television Fund and Rogers Documentary Fund. (International sales: InformAction Films, Montreal.) Producers, Paul Armstrong, Bridget Hill, Benjamin Ratner. Co-producer, Tony Johnston. Executive producers, Christine Haebler, Jayme Pfahl. Directed, written by Helen Doyle.

Crew

Camera (color, BetaSP), Philippe Lavalette; editor, Stephanie Gregoire; music, Nigel Osborne; sound (Dolby), Benoit Dame. Reviewed on videocassette at Vancouver Film Festival (Canadian Images), on Oct. 6, 2003. Original title: Les Messengers. English, French and Serbo-Croatian dialogue. Running time: 65 MIN.

With

Susan Sontag, Nigel Osborne, Daniel Mermet, Dominque Blain, Nicole Stephane, Ernest Pignon-Ernest, Faruk Sijaric, Nelson Mandela.
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