Lauren is a nice kid, a good student, a champion archer whose post-medal celebrations turn sour and result in her arrest. The judge has all the reasons in the world to go easy on this first-time offender, not to mention the extenuating circumstances that all but exonerate her, but instead he throws the book at her. Off she goes to an open-ended sentence at a “reform school” that looks and feels a lot more like a sadistic prison.
There she finds dozens of girls just like herself, imprisoned for very minor offenses. But it’s their jailers that cause the most concern: there are no checks on their behaviour. They can get anyway with anything, and do. But the cruelty, humiliation, and sexual perversion isn’t just for kicks, it’s also serving a purpose. Because every time a girl fights back, her sentence is extended. And that’s very good news when you’re running a corrupt, for-profit scheme.
So one day Lauren (Bailey Noble) and her new friend Rebecca (Jeanine Mason) decide to make a break for it. No one has ever escaped successfully, but desperation drives their attempt. But to protect the prison’s ugly secrets, its warden will literally hunt them like animals to make sure he doesn’t get exposed.
This film has an incredibly strong female in its lead, and Noble was the perfect choice to play her. She’s got grit and determination but we still believe her as a somewhat naive high school student. Their flight into hills is tense and taut film making, and though the prisoner on the run thing’s been done before, this one is a fresh enough take to grab and hold your attention.
The Archer is inspired by the 2011 conviction of two judges in Pennsylvania when a federal investigation uncovered millions of dollars in kickbacks for their sentencing teenagers to a for-profit youth detention centre.
There’s actually a lot to see in Portsmouth besides all the stellar movies playing this weekend. It’s practically idyllic in its autumnal glory, just stupidly beautiful. One of the main venues is on Chestnut street, and I can’t believe that something so quaint actually exists outside of a TV set. How lucky are we? The Asshole in me is actually itching to find fault with this place!
Now for a few more of the New Hampshire Film Festival’s bountiful offerings:
A Light Beneath Their Feet: A high school senior must choose between enrolling at the college of her dreams (across the country, natch) and remaining at home to take care of her bipolar mother. This movie is proudly packed with strong women – the mother is played by Taryn Manning (Orange Is The New Black, Hustle & Flow); the fabulous SNL alum Nora Dunn appears as a good doctor; director Valerie Weiss started her film career while completing her PhD in Biophysics from Harvard Medical School, you know, in her spare time; and screenwriter Moira McMahon has shown herself a fan of working with strong females as production staff on Grey’s Anatomy, and as a writer and researcher on Private Practice. It’ll be nice to see these ladies hard at work, and kudos to NHFF for highlighting so many female directors this year!
The Witch: Robert Eggers, first time film writer and director brought home the prize for Best Director at Sundance this year, and this is why. The Witch is set in New England, circa 1630. William and Katherine lead a devout Christian life, isolated on the edge of an impassible wilderness, with five children. When their newborn son mysteriously vanishes and their crops fail, the family begins to turn on one another, unraveling within their own fears and anxieties, leaving them prey for an inescapable evil…or, you know, it’s just their overactive imaginations. You know the kind of shit that went down in New England back in the good old days (*cough*Salem*cough*). This one sounds super duper creepy!
Founded in 2001, NHFF began as a small, grassroots organization to support local, regional and student filmmakers. It now attracts over 10,000 festivalgoers to Portsmouth each year, and holds a place as a viable and recognized festival that showcases the brightest talent on the international film festival scene.