Though the easy-target subject has already been amply satirized, "Public Domain" scores points taking aim at the cruelty and voyeurism so key to reality TV. Canadian black comedy centers on unwitting stars of a hidden-camera show that aims simply to expose how pathetic and/or morally bankrupt human life can get. Vid-shot feature debut for writer-helmer Kris Lefcoe resourcefully milks a small budget, but is still best suited to small-screen sales after fest travel.

Though the easy-target subject has already been amply satirized, “Public Domain” scores points taking aim at the cruelty and voyeurism so key to reality TV. Canadian black comedy centers on unwitting stars of a hidden-camera show that aims simply to expose how pathetic and/or morally bankrupt human life can get. Vid-shot feature debut for writer-helmer Kris Lefcoe resourcefully milks a small budget, but is still best suited to small-screen sales after fest travel.

With viewer votes based on depth of suffering, oblivious contestants on the titular series are actually axed whenever their lives become less miserable. Final lucky losers left competing for an underwhelming $50,000 prize are: Poor-little-rich-girl Terry (Nadia Litz), who supports a cocaine habit by pimping her high school classmates; anxiety-ridden agoraphobe Peter (Mike Beaver); and punk-rock mom Bonnie (Nicole de Boer), so stuck in a 1983 time warp she doesn’t notice her 10-year-old son is a ticking bomb. These segs are creepy-funny and well acted, though those featuring the show’s cartoonishly smug, condescending co-hosts (Don McKellar, Jason Jones) misfire. Visual presentation is occasionally over-gimmicky, some dialogue recording muddy, but tech aspects overall are decent.

Public Domain

Canada

Production

A Severance Package Prods. presentation. Produced by Walter Gasparovic, Kris Lefcoe, Jeff Rogers. Executive producer, Lefcoe. Directed, written by Kris Lefcoe.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), John Choi; editor, Charlotte Disher; production designer, Don Loughlin; music, Bob Wiseman. Reviewed at Mill Valley Film Festival, Oct. 10, 2004. Running time: 78 MIN.

With

Nicole de Boer, Nadia Litz, Mike Beaver, Don McKellar, Jason Jones, Lindy Booth, Dov Tiefenbach, Salvatore Migliore, Jamie Johnson, Kris Holden-Reid, Caitlin Dahl, Fiona Highet.
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