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Bekmametov's take on cyber bullying premier at Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal

05 august 2014, 20:08
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Cybernatural screenshot
Cybernatural screenshot

Timur Bekmambetov has presented a horror film Cybernatural that engages with provocative theme of cyber bullying at the Fantasia International Film Festival 2014 in Montreal, Tengrinews reports citing ProfiCinema.

Timur Bekmambetov is a Russian director, producer and screenwriter of mixed Kazakh-Jewish origin who has worked on films and commercials. He is best known for the film Night Watch (2004) and its sequel Day Watch (2006), and the American films Wanted (2008) and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012). He was born and lived in Kazakhstan until the age of 19, then studied in Uzbekistan and moved to Russia after graduation.

The low-budget film was directed by Leo Gabriadze, who is known to work with advertisement and Russian romantic comedies. Cybernatural is presented as a found footage genre, extensively used in past several years. Due to low budget, or possibly a deliberate decision, the cast is young and unknown to the general public. All of the above is less likely to attract horror film lovers.

But it works. The Skype camera, use of apps, unknown cast, scenes based on pure improvisation work together, draw a viewer into the film and hold one in a firm grip of a horrifying cyber world that we know all too well.

The beginning of the film, too, seems familiar to many of us. The director does not attempt to create some sort of forced everydayness but presents a mere observation of teen everydayness through a familiar medium. Cybernatural starts with a scene of a popular high school girl listening to music while Skyping with her boyfriend. They receive a call from a girl who committed suicide exactly one year ago because of cyber bullying. Thinking it is a prank, the teens, as the film unfolds, realize that it is an eerie reality. Inevitably they become a part of an inescapable horror.

“For us it was not an experiment for the sake of experiment. The chosen form helped to explore a touchy topic of cyber bullying. It spreads with the Internet and for many it becomes a source of horror. Teens anonymously bully their peers, infuriated lovers post photos of their naked partners – all of these is just few ways of making one’s life miserable, and it its not virtual but real. In the world where we spend most of the time being online, horror films take a new form. Leo Gabriadze succeeded in implementing a cinematic language for addressing it,” Bekmambetov said.

Cybernatural received positive reviews from critics and was screened at the festival for the second time on July 29.

The mediation through computer interface and other apps work so that a viewer has no problem with identifying with a protagonist in the film, Slant Magazine wrote. “The film regards this abundance of technology in much the same way we do every day: as so ordinary to be practically old hat,” the review said.

Fantasia International Film Festival, originated in 1996 in Montreal is a genre-film festival. The film festival brings both foreign and domestic films to North American audience. 

By Gyuzel Kamalova


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