Review: ‘The Right Questions’

In "The Right Questions," a DV feature written, directed, edited by and starring Benjamin David Smith, a sociology student joins the ranks of the homeless to do field work for his thesis. Dubious premise is nobly discarded at the end when the scholar, who finds he can't maintain the proper objectivity, takes home an orphaned street kid (Kellen Cade) rather than continue to use the homeless to get his degree.

In “The Right Questions,” a DV feature written, directed, edited by and starring Benjamin David Smith, a sociology student joins the ranks of the homeless to do field work for his thesis. Dubious premise is nobly discarded at the end when the scholar, who finds he can’t maintain the proper objectivity, takes home an orphaned street kid (Kellen Cade) rather than continue to use the homeless to get his degree. Generally passable thesping fails to disguise pic’s queasy narcissism and questionable portrayal of the homeless as a permanently damaged underclass. Distrib outlook looks dim.

Pic offers nicely underplayed subjective moments where the central character (Smith), in his guise as a boozing hobo, ironically sips his way toward oblivion. The bums shown, however, lack diversity: All are portrayed as addicts. Indeed, the kid that the hero “rescues” appears to be the only homeless juvenile in the generally underpopulated city of Memphis. Smith’s thinly-disguised contempt for the pic’s sole female, the kid’s crackhead mother (Sharon Bishop), whose dead body Smith cremates inside a barrel in a grotesquely cramped variation on a Viking funeral, is never fully explained, apparently begging the “wrong questions.”

The Right Questions

Production

A Parallax production in association with Pittstop Prods. Produced, directed, written, edited by Benjamin David Smith.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Rod Pitts. Reviewed on cassette at African Diaspora Film Festival, New York, Dec. 14, 2003. Running time: 110 MIN.

With

Benjamin David Smith, Kellen Cade, John Still, Sharon Bishop, Moses Peace, Keenon Nikita.
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