Experimenting with a more bare-bones, light-footed approach than in his prior indie dramas ("Edge City," "Diary of a City Priest"), writer-director Eugene Martin's "The Other America" is a delicately observed study of three Philadelphia teens. Rewarding effort may be too low-key and noncommercial in tenor to get far theatrically, but deserves extensive fest attention, with niche over-the-counter/broadcast exposure to follow.

Experimenting with a more bare-bones, light-footed approach than in his prior indie dramas (“Edge City,” “Diary of a City Priest”), writer-director Eugene Martin’s “The Other America” is a delicately observed study of three Philadelphia teens. Rewarding effort may be too low-key and noncommercial in tenor to get far theatrically, but deserves extensive fest attention, with niche over-the-counter/broadcast exposure to follow.

Protags are attractive, likeable high schoolers who nonetheless each suffer from low confidence. Ari (Tobias Segal) has a hidden life as a graffiti artist with a well-known “tag.” Perhaps more importantly, he hides his living situation — since escaping an abusive father, he and his mother (who, like most adult figures here, is never seen onscreen) have stayed in a public shelter. Ari’s friend Jackie (Vicky Wang) has just moved to the area with some secrets of her own. She’s jealous when Ari pines for wary Cassie (Irene Longshore), whose mother’s death left her the household’s main provider. Shot on the fly, with pro thesps only in lead roles, impressionistic pic turns economy into a virtue via adventuresome editing and hand-held yet handsome color lensing.

The Other America

Production

A City Story Pictures production. Produced by Eugene Martin, Michael Yacko. Directed, written, edited by Eugene Martin.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, mini DV), Martin; original music, Tom Whitman; music supervisor, Caitlin Andrea. Reviewed at San Francisco Film Festival, April 21, 2004. Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Tobias Segal, Irene Longshore, Vicky Wang, Joel Holliday, Jessica Berger.
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