Review: ‘In a Dream’

Docu is an involving, sometimes painfully intimate piece that's as much about living with mental illness as it is about a rather remarkable artistic vision.

Planning a short about his eccentric artist father, Isaiah, filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar saw the project expand to feature length over almost a decade’s lensing as their “perfect family” experienced a series of internal crises. Resulting docu is an involving, sometimes painfully intimate piece that’s as much about living with mental illness as it is about a rather remarkable artistic vision. Still playing fests, this well-crafted effort begins a limited rollout April 10; HBO broadcast is slated for later this year.

Julia Zagar views her marital dynamics with “crazy, self-absorbed but amiable” Philly artist Isaiah thus: “I was his reality base and he was my bird. He flew around.” After a suicide attempt and brief institutionalization at age 29, Isaiah found his life’s work creating dazzling murals of tile, mirror, paint and embedded objects, many covering whole alleys and buildings. But Isaiah’s idiosyncrasies — some likely spurred by childhood molestation — can be difficult. After 43 years with Julia, he announces he’s redirecting his passion to an assistant/mistress just as their eldest son experiences a major meltdown. Handsome package is abetted by some simple animation and a good soundtrack.

In a Dream

Production

An IndiePix release of a Herzliya Films presentation in association with Red Light Films. Produced by Jeremy Yaches. Executive producers, Ross Kauffman, Geralyn White Dreyfuss, Pamela Tanner Boll. Directed by Jeremiah Zagar.

Crew

Camera (Super 8, 16mm, 35mm, HD, DV-to-HD), Erik Messerschmidt; editors, Keiko Deguchi, Zagar; music, Kelli Scarr, the Books; designers and animators, Cassidy Gearhart, Yussef Cole; art director, Molly Mullahy. Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, March 30, 2009. (In 2008 SXSW, San Francisco Documentary film festivals.) Running time: 78 MIN.

With

Isaiah Zagar, Julia Zagar, Ezekiel Zagar, Jeremiah Zagar.
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