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Worth A Look: 40%
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Pretty Crappy: 6.67%
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2 reviews, 3 user ratings

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Twisted: A Balloonamentary
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by Erik Childress

"Balloons Aren't Just A Clown's World"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2007 SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST FILM FESTIVAL: I suppose it all started with Spellbound. Find a topic that, on the surface, to be about as interesting to the American public as watching paint dry in an Andy Warhol film, follow around a select group associated with it and end it with a competition. While the winners and losers aspect is beginning to fall by the wayside, at two festivals this year I’ve seen the pattern followed by arcade gamers, superhero wannabes, truck drivers, jump ropers and horse lovers (or more accurately, those loved by horses.) They join the documentary revolution alongside scrabble players, crossword lovers, bowlers, roller derby skaters and air guitarists. So why has my favorite this year been a tale about balloon twisters? Maybe cause its one hobby in the doc lot that I know I can’t do. (Along with the horse lovin’, of course.) Or maybe cause it was just a whole lot of fun about real people trying to make a living and an unexpectedly moving tribute to their journey.

There are eight people in the film we will meet. Sheree is “The Great Wandini”, a professional twisting competitor who has become a staple on a circuit most reading this never knew existed. James (aka “Mr. Me”) is a grandfather from Atlanta who uses balloon sculpturing as a positive reinforcement for a community riddled with economic hardship and negative opportunities for its kids. Don (“Buster Balloon”) is a balloon instructor who found romance with Laura (“Annie Bannannie”), a middle-aged student from one of his classes.

All of them in one way or another has either been inspired by or admired David Grist, a British balloon legend who has found success touring the world and creating teaching videos for wannabe twisters like Vera (“The Balloon Lady”). Only 20 years old, Vera made a friend with one of her trailer park neighbors, an older gentleman who encouraged her to take up the skill as a way out of welfare. It may not seem like much of a profession, but tell that to Michele, a Las Vegas businesswoman who bought a home with balloon money and has some fun showing off the naughtier side of the skill. Running counter is John (“The Balloon Man”), a former felon who managed to find God and uses balloons to preach his word. He also has his own line of videos, but with the last name of Holmes they are often mistaken for some other kind of puppetry.

Filmmakers Naomi Greenfield and Sara Taksler have that kind of fun with their subjects, but never reduce them to a position for an audience to mock or sneer at any one of them. And why should they? This isn’t just a geekfest full of loners who could be utilizing their time better. These are dedicated individuals who have found their place in a niche industry and are finding the best way to serve themselves. Balloons may seem like a kiddie business, but its fun to have a choice of classes aimed at both the consenting adult crowd and the more spiritual. Just imagine all the fun Linda Blair could have had if she had a balloon cross? This section of the doc takes a sharp turn from family entertainment to borderline “R”-rated material, but if you tell your kids that’s just a pig in a really small blanket you should be fine.

“Once you make a balloon dog, you can do anything,” is what they say in the film and apparently I’m a few grades behind my renaissance man status since my first attempt at it after the film resembled something more appropriate for the porno balloon awards. You will certainly find a conspicuous lapse of actual popping in the film which seems like a natural phenomenon when working on tens of thousands of balloons for days, but if you were to follow a major league baseball team for a full season you’d only witness a handful of errors too. What you may not get though is how naturally moving the film becomes in the later stages. Their various successes sidelined with tragedies accentuate the film’s human element within the awe-inspiring balloon creations. It will take a hard soul not to react to a letter Vera reads; a perfect finale to the most inspirational of all the characters, not one of which we would root for at the expense of another. Life being the greatest competition of them all, there’s no need to size up, blow up or pop those who have found something they love to dedicate theirs to.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15851&reviewer=198
originally posted: 03/22/07 11:02:03
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Independent Film Festival of Boston For more in the 2007 Independent Film Festival of Boston series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Lake Forest Film Festival For more in the 2008 Lake Forest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/08/07 David Pollastrini Boooooring! 2 stars
4/06/07 Jill Schmidt I have never felt so compelled to give a performance a standing ovation as with Twisted. 5 stars
2/11/07 Sara Krakauer A peek into a world that most people have never imagined... This film is beautiful. 5 stars
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  DVD: 03-Jun-2008



Directed by
  Naomi Greenfield
  Sara Taksler

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