Austin Film Festival 2016 Review: Brave New Jersey

by Alex White, Film Festival Correspondent for larry411.com

In a time where Snopes and several other fact-check websites exist to counter the plethora of web-born conspiracy theories, it feels easy to look back at one of the most infamous moments of national confusion and panic in our country’s history and sympathize…The 1938 broadcast of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.

The 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds narrated by Orson Welles has long since been known for allegedly causing panic as rumors exist that Americans thought the broadcast was real.

Writer-director Jody Lambert’s Brave New Jersey looks deep into the question of what could have happened in small town America had a whole town believed the broadcast to have been real? To add to that, what would happen if your town not only believed the attack but also appeared to be in the direct line of attack by the invading Martians?

What ensues is a fascinating study and portrayal of what happens when our worst fears, greatest desires and last hopes all come to the surface at one hectic point in history. Thanks to wonderful performances from Tony Hale and Anna Camp to name a few, it’s easy to identify with the people of Lullaby, New Jersey as the loss of their home, life and dreams seems imminent.

The well-paced and thought out script manages to pack in commentary on masculinity, love, family and xenophobia all while not feeling preachy or overbearing. The performances from Hale and Camp along with the children help establish emotional connections to the characters that make those points of commentary hit home with ease and cleanliness.

Where the greatest strength of this film lies is in what is perhaps an unintended timeliness to current events and the way society works today. We live in a world today that one could describe as either post-rational or post-factual. Just as with the original War of the Worlds broadcast, the confusion of what is real and what is fake in the media is alive and well once again. Today there are countless “news” sites publishing satirical or outright fake stories that make the rounds around the internet like wildfire with scores of people believing such stories are real. While in 1938 there wasn’t the lack of trust in major media there is today, the ability for a large group of people to misinterpret something as fact when it’s really fiction obviously existed then as it does now.

While Brave New Jersey shows the worst case scenario to result from that confusion, it’s still meant as just an example. Sadly, that example has shed a light on the all too real current reactions to bogus stories or works of fiction and the consequences that follow. Like in Brave New Jersey, we all just need the time to figure out what is real and not real…before it’s too late.

Brave New Jersey played as part of the 2016 Austin Film Festival. For more information visit http://www.austinfilmfestival.com

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Anna Camp as "Peg" in Brave New Jersey

Anna Camp as "Peg" in Brave New Jersey

Photo by Corey Walter Courtesy of Fons PR




Author

Larry Richman

Larry Richman

For 20 years I was a professional in the entertainment industry, from commercial broadcast radio in America's fourth largest market to band management to record production. But my passion is independent film, and I spend much of the year traveling to film festivals to see indies and meet the actors, directors, and others responsible for creating them. I'm a writer, photographer, and videographer, currently serving as Senior Vice President for Media & Technology and Public Relations at PROnetworks as well as Editor at Larry411.com

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