Directed by Sufian Abulohom and Bruna Weichert
Documentary Film Review by Chris Olson
A tapestry of raw humanity, documentary film Real Talk: An Insight into the Lives of American University Students is directed by Sufian Abulohom and Bruna Weichert and captures something candidly affecting about the nature of young people traversing into adulthood. Full of diversity, emotion, and honesty, it's a film that audiences will be able to connect with, if only in places.
Told using only talking heads, the myriad of college students who step in front of the camera are displayed with close-range headshots. Verbally describing particular events in their lives that shaped them, each frame is filled with personal reflection as they regale the audience with some intimate revelation. The intimacy is reflected in the filmmaking, which, along with the close-ups, contains little superfluity or unnecessary distraction. A minimal score is used, the editing is mostly sharp cuts, and the location is consistent throughout.
Where the compelling vibrancy of Real Talk comes from is in the wonderfully eclectic mix of interviewees. Whilst all of them discuss some form of growing pains, ranging from terrorist attacks, cancer and divorce to...puppy love, they each display a wide range of coping methods which emanate from their personalities. Some are obviously still upset about their troubles, yet feel stronger from having endured them, whilst others have learned to embrace the chaotic nature of their feelings. For some, they are shocked by their own admissions, seemingly baffled about how hard being open turns out to be, such as a young man who realises his cultural identity is off-balance, or a young woman who is happily perturbed by her relationship with her mother.
By treating all its subjects with integrity but not shying away from their pain, Real Talk as a documentary film is able to embolden its message. Numerous students mention the difficulties of facing their problems, and nearly all of them emote a deep sense of personal conflict, that one simply cannot come away from viewing this without experiencing some sense of self reflection. Which is an immense achievement.
As a documentary, Real Talk is a deeply personal, intelligent, and well crafted piece. At times the variety of topics can feel like you are drifting, but once you embrace the endless differences being shown and how they are all connected to the same core experience, this is actually essential to understanding the message and power of the film.
Aside from a few issues with the audio, there is not much to find fault with here, and this feels like a premise which could be expanded upon. Perhaps not something for a feature length (there's only so much totes emoshing an audience can endure), but as a series of short documentaries, Real Talk could be a real winner.
Watch the entire film below...