Friday, November 21, 2014

“Face 2 Face” Review – Outfest 2012

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Reality television strives to capture “real” moments in people’s lives, but often fails because much of the “real” interaction is scripted and artificial. Filmmaker Katherine Brooks (“The Real World,” “The Osbournes,” “The Simple Life”) overcomes this hurtle in her new and evocative reality-themed documentary, “Face 2 Face,” a look at how social networking masks loneliness.

Brooks embarks on her cinematic mission when, after undergoing a major surgical procedure, she began to feel isolated and friendless. She had amassed an impressive 5,000 Facebook friends and spent hours online daily, but she had not received a single “get well” card or visit while ill. Wondering if anyone noticed or cared about her plight, she sent out a Facebook status update offering to visit the first 50 people who responded to her message. The response was overwhelming; she received 50 replies within 9 minutes. But only 4 of the 50 responses were from people she knew personally or had met in real-life.

“I was really surprised at how people I had not personally met were willing to open up to me” Brooks told Desiree T. Washington at Popdecay.com in an interview. “46 people I had only known of through Facebook were willing to share their personal struggles with me. One was dying of cancer. That is very intimate.” It is this kind of sobering look at life that that makes “Face 2 Face” engaging.

Brooks traveled over 11,400 miles across America to meet her Facebook friends, the people who wanted to meet her. The result is a documentary that captures the universal struggles LGBT people face after coming out. Isolated from their peers and families, many of them struggle to find communities of acceptance. As Brooks shows, many find it only online.

Brooks often turns the camera lens inward, candidly revealing harrowing stories of her own – childhood sexual abuse, drug addiction, depression and unrequited love. In doing so, she risks upsetting the Hollywood machine that bankrolls her career. But Brooks’ “Face 2 Face” provides a valuable social service worth the risk. “If I can touch one person, help save one life,” she told Popdecay, “I think it will have been worth it.” Indeed, “Face 2 Face,” perhaps unintentionally, exposes the superficiality and falseness of Reality TV shows such as Ilene Chaiken’s “Real L-Word,” where the LGBTQ folk are portrayed as caricatures of real people, and where important issues are often glossed over. “Face 2 Face” digs deep into the substance of Queer life, and offers a simple message: “You are not alone.”

“Face 2 Face” screened at Outfest 2012, the Los Angeles Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

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