With the year not even a month old yet, the 2013 festival circuit is already underway. And while most people may be in Park City, Utah for a certain iconic American film festival, its little brother is slowly becoming quite an interesting player in the early year festival circuit.
One film that has seen its debut at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival (think of it as the small, independent festival that something like it’s brethren Sundance used to be), is a documentary that, in the wake of an event that still has this country reeling, the shooting in Newton, CN, has an even more important voice that should be heard.
Entitled My Name Is Faith, the film (directed by the trio of Jason Banker, Jorge Torres-Torres and Tiffany Sudela Junker) follows the story of a young, 12-year-old girl who is attempting to, with the help of those around her, overcome a past that includes physical abuse, neglect and just about everything else one could imagine happening to a young child. Now under the watch of her (and her brother’s) adoptive parents, she is trying to go about finding a place in this world despite the cards stacked distinctly out of her favor. With themes expanding outward to the treatment of children and their mental health and how familial constructs play as the most important factor within that, My Name Is Faith is both beautifully intimate and yet all too small.
With mental health being one of today’s most hot-button issues, Faith goes about its discussion of mental health in an intriguing way. As the narrative shines its light primarily on the titular young girl and her story, there are short snippets of the film pertaining to other narratives, be it adoptive parents, doctors or others within the child protection field. However, save for one or two brief sequences, mental health isn’t the film’s main narrative focus. And this is for the better, and for the worst.
Faith’s story is harrowing. Coming from a family of drug addiction and abuse, her story is emotionally devastating. Culminating in a beautifully shot meeting with her biological mother, the film sends us on an emotionally charged journey with this young lady, far stronger than anyone three times her age. However, her story also fits perfectly within the themes that the film posits. According to this documentary, in the battle of nature vs. nurture, the latter wins out. While Faith is indeed a strong child, the impact of her lack of parental guidance is palpable. She has lashed out physically, and in some cases even sexually, throughout her young life, and still finds it tough to fit in with those around her.
Visually, the film is run of the mill. Shot low budget, the film is intimate, emotionally charged and while the aesthetic doesn’t feature much in the way of true cinema, a documentary of this nature doesn’t need to. The narrative itself is strong enough to hold the viewers attention, playing similar aesthetically to a film like last year’s The Revisionaries, a film with a similar style, and also a similar focus on character within the broader structure of a standard issue documentary.
As a soon to be father, this film is a gut punch. Is the film free of a grand scope, that which would turn this film into a true meditation on the issues pertaining to the mental health of our children, the same children who are growing up in an ever more violent and bleak world? Yes. The 80-minute runtime leaves us without the scope that one would hope for out of an issue documentary like this, but then again, one must ask if that’s truly what this film is striving for. Instead of a true-blue issue documentary, we get an emotionally devastating story of a young girl who is dealing with issues most of us couldn’t dream of having to live with daily. A beautifully intimate documentary, the film is a character study first and foremost, and for that, this writer is truly thankful.