Any film that focuses on the plight of Sudanese refugees deserves maximum international exposure -- a fate unlikely for Davin Anders Hutchins' "The Art of Flight," which will nevertheless gain berths at festivals and notoriety through sporadic cable broadcasts. Half reportage, half memoir, the docu occupies a niche it seems to have created -- the political memoir/travelogue.

Any film that focuses on the plight of Sudanese refugees deserves maximum international exposure — a fate unlikely for Davin Anders Hutchins’ “The Art of Flight,” which will nevertheless gain berths at festivals and notoriety through sporadic cable broadcasts. Half reportage, half memoir, the docu occupies a niche it seems to have created — the political memoir/travelogue.

One has to give Hutchins credit; a stranger in a strange land, he set out to make a film about a subject he knew nothing about, on a camcorder and a laptop. He may not have all the equipment and crew he needs, but he lacks nothing in attitude: Starting out at the U.S. diplomatic village in Cairo, he dismisses it as a place where Americans can “eat hot dogs, wave flags and talk about Jesus in safety.” Just to show where he’s coming from.

It may have been an effort to make his film as populist and accessible as possible, but Hutchins’ imposition of himself on his film is a constant distraction. His concerns for his career, his problems with editors back home and his self-doubt about his chosen career begin to seem banal in light of the film’s main subject.

Still, after setting out on a perilous trail to document the Sudanese plight, Hutchins produces a terrific-looking, polished expose of Egyptian cruelty and exploitation of the Sudanese, who have fled religious- and tribal-driven genocide in their homeland, only to find more danger in Cairo.

Hutchins’ safety and that of his subjects is in a constantly precarious state. That his subjects eventually cut him off may show them to be wiser, or at least more cautious, than he.

The Art Of Flight

Sudan-Egypt

Production

A Seventh Art Releasing and Nomads Land Films production of a Davin Anders Hutchins film. Produced by Hutchins. Executive producer, Udy Epstein. Directed, written, edited by Davin Anders Hutchins.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Hutchins; music, Al Khafiyeen. Reviewed at AFI Los Angeles Film Festival, Nov. 11, 2005. Running time: 88 MIN.
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