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Robin’s Hood

A lesbian "Bonnie & Clyde" that never quite reconciles its relationship and crime-drama elements, not to mention realistic vs. escapist tenor, "Robin's Hood" nonetheless reps an enterprising first feature for Bay Area helmer Sara Millman. Digital vidpic looks good given rock-bottom $17,000 budget.

With:
With: Khahtee V. Turner, Clody Cates, Aaron Grialva, Lee Vogt, Kimberly T. Ridgeway, Dante Robinson, Katherine Bettis.

A lesbian “Bonnie & Clyde” that never quite reconciles its relationship and crime-drama elements, not to mention realistic vs. escapist tenor, “Robin’s Hood” nonetheless reps an enterprising first feature for Bay Area helmer Sara Millman. Digital vidpic looks good given rock-bottom $17,000 budget — reportedly raised in part by garage sales and street donations in San Francisco’s Castro district. Still, modest production and somewhat pedestrian storytelling signal home-format sales rather than theatrical exposure after gay fest travel.

Robin (coscenarist Khahtee V. Turner) is a bisexual African-American woman living in a rough East Oakland neighborhood, where she tries to “give back and change things” as a social worker. She gets in trouble on the job, however, for charitably overlooking minor transgressions by welfare clients struggling with addictive behavior or strict parole-violation rules.

Meanwhile she’s swept off her feet by involvement with Brooklyn (Clody Cates), offspring of a French prostitute mum and locally incarcerated Yankee dad. Brooklyn freely admits she’s a career thief — and after suspension from her own job, Robin becomes a willing accessory to serial bank robberies. These attract media attention; so do the subsequent anonymous large-cash-sum donations to a children’s community center and to impoverished individual families in the ‘hood. Eventual disaster is portended by pic’s opening spoiler glimpse of the “one last job” that predictably goes wrong.

Robin is a well-rounded character; sexy butch French-speaking (she voiceover-narrates with subtitles) outlaw type Brooklyn remains rather more of a romantic conceit. Thus despite decent lead perfs and chemistry, premise never quite convinces. Initially refreshing awareness of poverty’s enforced everyday realities — which require more malleable assistance than government agencies can bestow — should have been developed further.

Subsidiary character of a parolee single mother is abandoned midway, while Robin’s “steal from the rich, give to the poor” actions are too briefly limned. Script would have benefited from better-detailed subplots and supporting characters. Pedestrian handling of some sequences (especially those after Robin informs jealous Brooklyn of her pregnancy, from a one-night-stand just before they’d met) and overall flat pacing don’t build enough tension or credibility toward climactic armed-robbery fiasco. Bloody immediate aftermath, then happily-ever-after coda come off a tad silly.

Location-shot feature is technically competent yet stylistically unimaginative, lacking either quasi-verite immediacy or a more hyper-real approach that might have made tale work fully as a contempo fable. Still, its attractive leads and mix of social consciousness with wish-fulfillment should intrigue lesbian audiences.

Robin's Hood

Production: A Filmworks 7 presentation of a Last Chance Films production. Produced, directed by Sara Millman. Screenplay, Millman, Khahtee V. Turner.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Howard Shack; editor, Millman; production designer, Jen Miller; music supervisors, Millman, Clody Cates; sound, Jeff Saint Pierre; associate producers, Turner, Clody Cates; assistant director, Darren Vogel. Reviewed at San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Festival, June 18, 2003. Running time: 81 MIN.

With: With: Khahtee V. Turner, Clody Cates, Aaron Grialva, Lee Vogt, Kimberly T. Ridgeway, Dante Robinson, Katherine Bettis.

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