You know generally when you watch really low budget independent movies the only ones that are any good are those really self referential campy for camp’s sake silly movies, you know the Ed Wood-wannabe Troma/whatever films. Because the problem is that usually doing things on such a tight budget just doesn’t translate into a world of multi-million dollar blockbusters and realistically it is just hard to compete with the thrills and chills depicted in the bigger budget films. That said there are notable exceptions to this, and I have to say I was thoroughly surprised by Imprint.
Essentially a ghost story, but ghost story really doesn’t describe things accurately. But what I find is really effective is the use of sounds and suspense rather than images. It works because you can really feel the tension, and nothing much is seen. Taking it’s cues form older b-horror movies (like 1960 British specifically) rather than anything contemporary, the fear is installed by not knowing, and not knowing is a truly terrifying thing, and for a large part of the movie the viewer is unsure whether something is actually happening, or if the protagonist is being tormented by angry locals.
Okay so here is probably a necessary place to give some details. Lakota Lawyer Shayla Stonefeather has to prosecute a case against a first nations man on the charges of murder. Of course the details are a little muddy and she wins the case based on a strong eye witness statement. At this point Shayla is entirely intent on living the modern middle class existence devoid of her First nations upbringing or really any thought for others. Exhausted form the trial, and not wanting to miss her ill father’s birthday Shalya returns home to her parents farm on the reservation. Of course the family of the man convicted lives on the same reservation and the man’s brother has sworn revenge.
Okay so at this point we find out Shayla’s brother has run away several years before and she presumes him to be dead as no evidence of his being alive has ever surfaced. So she starts to hear strange sounds form the brother’s room and sees strange images. At this point she finds out the man she successfully prosecuted was killed in an escape attempt. So at this point you are faced with a few possibilities, ghost of her brother, ghost of a potentially innocent, or at least angry, man, or a an angry brother trying to exact revenge.
I think to go into too much more detail would ruin the story for anyone that might actually be interested in watching this. But a few other key things worth mentioning are her eventually awakening to certain native spirituality that she has long since abandoned, including the idea that events can leave an imprint on the world and have no sense of time, so these events can be seen as incredibly confusing and disordered to the person that experiences them. What makes this story interesting though is the strange turns it takes thorough out the film. Just as you think you have the answer and understand what is happening some new twist or turn will arise to complicate things.
Alright so it is still not an amazingly original story or anything, but it is done really effectively and draws you in from start to finish. And I think the placement of the story inside a marginalized group within society makes things really fascinating. There is of course a very subtle subtext of the destruction of traditional ways of life and the removal of a person from their society, and all that entails. And how with the loss of a person within a bland sterilized version of propriety that is now so pervasive in North American life is in fact a loss of a part of the person. Now when I talk about a bland sterilized society I avoid the use of white man’s society, because although it is, I feel it is more than that.
There is an overarching theme of society intent on the destruction of all individual and distinguishing characteristics of all people. It would seem to stem from the current obsession with efficiency and it’s transference onto the economy. I mean the most efficient market is a monocultural one with no distinct regional differences. One film can be made for the world to enjoy is much easier than each region wanting a depiction of it’s own culture. Think of the money that saves.
Umm but anyway back to the film, that is why these type of narratives need to exist to remind us that not everything needs to be part of this over structure. Well done independent films can work and can show us a slightly different aspect of live. How did I end up here again? Oh yeah, so as Shayla slowly starts to re-educate herself on her people’s ways she slowly starts to unravel the mystery and eventually discovers the truth. You know it is tough to make a clear point without discussing the ending of the film, but I will refrain from this. Maybe just keep some of these ideas in your head while you watch it. Anyway excellent film, reminds you that something brilliant can be done without the grand effects and massive studio backing and all that crap.