Retro Film Review: Not in This Town (1997)

in #film28 days ago


Most areas of the world never appear on television screen unless they are struck with events like earthquakes, floods, deadly disease epidemics or sudden and vicious escalations of ethnic cleansing. This is hardly surprising in times when line between information and entertainment is blurred. People are seldom entertained with the news of people having good lives, communities enjoying prosperity and social harmony or disasters being successfully prevented. On the other hand, news like that can be presented in interesting, provoking and sometimes even entertaining fashion. Unfortunately, that also requires abilities that the makers of Not in This Town, 1997 television film directed by Donald Wrye, lacked.

This film is based on the real life events that took place in Billings, Montana in early 1990s. That place is known for being among the most mono-ethnic areas of USA. People belonging to ethnic and religious minorities stand out and that gave good opportunity for white supremacists and neo-Nazis to flex their muscles. They targeted small number of local Jews and blacks and started campaign of terror that included making bomb threats, writing graffiti and acts of vandalism. Tammy Schnitzer (played by Kathy Baker), wife of a Jewish doctor, decides to prevent further escalation of violence with the petition against bigotry. She continues with her efforts in spite of the apparent apathy of the local community.

Few people could doubt good intentions of this film's makers, but good intentions are hardly enough for good film. Main problem is in Adam Gilad's script that takes the path of least resistance - on one side there are Nazis, the most despicable villains imaginable; on the other side are minorities reduced to victims; and between them is the community that predictably sees the light and does the right thing. There were potentials for drama in this safe, "politically correct" story - ambitious filmmakers could have dealt with the issues of bigotry, conformity or civic courage - but director Donald Wrye didn't use them. Instead he chose to present events in usual American TV-film fashion, with relatively minor incidents being dramatically overblown. The result is a film that lacks proper catharsis and makes audience feel cheated at the end. When that happens happens to the film based on real life and with the subject so relevant for the world today, the effect might be tragically opposite of what the film makers tried to do.

RATING: 2/10 (-)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on March 22nd 2004)

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