Directed by: #MoezSolis
Written by: #MoezSolis
‘How can a filmmaker or an artist commit severe crimes against others and still garnish the love and respect of his community? Do the ends justify the means because he brought something beautiful into the world?’ Writer/director, Moez Solis’ query, is a fair one. Only in February of this year did Roman Polanski, a convicted child rapist, win the Best Director Award at France’s national César Awards, causing Adèle Haenel and Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) to walk out in protest. And there have been many more instances over the years of filmmakers abusing their influence and exploiting others for personal or financial gain. So where do we draw the line?
Well, in the Mentor, we see Nilah Williams (Brandi Nicole Payne), a young wannabe screenwriter/filmmaker, desperate to make her first feature but struggling to break into the industry. She’s had to be strong-willed over the years and makes no apologies for her persistent demeanour. But she needs a mentor; someone to get her into the industry and show her the ropes. Her lucky break comes when, by chance, she bumps into her idol – a famous but arrogant female director called Claire Adams (Liz Sklar) – and manages to score a day’s mentorship. But things take a turn for the worse when, seemingly out of nowhere, the pair are kidnapped by masked assailants in an apparent play for money, power and fame.
The movie’s enigmatic cast comprises some very colourful characters. Quite literally as the kidnappers all wear rather bright bird masks and go by names like Mr Pigeon and Mrs Hawk. And honestly, at times, their mannerisms can come across as a little farcical and the acting, as a whole, lacks emotional clout. Except, it has to be said, for Sklar, who has no problem showing her fear or her anger in a fiercely (apparently) dominant display. However (and this is a big however), I feel the lack of emotion and more laughable aspects of the other characters is fully justified by the narrative and a result of the ending plot twist, rather than a consequence of subpar acting. Obviously, I don’t want to discuss these spoilers here, and ultimately, it’s up to the viewer to decide, but for me, this makes a lot of sense.
The Mentor explores the power struggle between writers and directors and producers, as well as questioning the ethics of art in general. Solis uses a (very) meta-narrative approach to look into the cutthroat world of filmmaking, and it’s an approach that may not work for everyone. It indeed lacks nuance, but I have to say, I rather like it. There’s real intelligence in how the movie is layered - it’s actually a bit of a thinker. One in which little hints are scattered about within its 70-minute runtime, and definitely worthy of repeated viewings.
There are problems here, without a doubt, and it may not be for everyone. But I’m really quite fond of it. I like the depth, and I like that it isn’t apparent until the end just how much the film has going on. It implores the viewer to watch it again, and at just over an hour-long, that really isn’t too much to ask.