Directors Maíra Bühler and Matias Mariani received a grant to make a film about foreigner imprisoned in Brazilian jails. They found an unusual subject, Chris “Goose” Kirk, a naive computer geek from Olympia, Washington, lured to Columbia through his interest in Pablo Escobar’s remaining illegal herd of Hippos, still living and breeding on his dilapidated fortress, safari-park Hacienda Nápoles.
It turns out an old friend is working in the Embassy in Bogota, Taking this as a sign, Chris starts his adventure. Soon he’s partying hard, surprised to be the focus of competing girls all seeking a gringo boyfriend; but he’s smitten with V, ‘the most beautiful woman” he’d ever seen. The shy Japanese-Columbian V, was so nervous holding hands with him, her hands poured sweat and she couldn’t make eye contact. His buddy warned him off the serious Economics student, telling him he’d never get anywhere with her; but like a postmodern illusive Film Noir Femme Fatale, lovely V has her hooks in him. Chris is a goner.
Maíra Bühler and Matias Mariani interview Chris in prison in Sao Paulo, and illustrate the story with copious email and video files they recover from his data storage.
In a sense its Cold Case squared. The filmmakers track his story of tracking his siren; tabulation within tabulation. Surely not the film they expected. Chris highjacks the process, diverting the filmmakers from information about why he’s in jail in Brazil. They choose to let it happen and the film becomes a passive mediation is there “truth” and can a film get to the bottom of it? The rigors of documentary investigation are jettisoned. Think of it as deconstruction, a celebration of hearsay with a capitol H. At heart, the film is about the logic of storytelling.
As in the recent “Steve Jobs; the Man in the Machine’ there are moments on camera where we catch the darker sides of each film’s protagonists. The subtext is everything.
V begins a regular pattern of falling out of touch for several days, driving Chris crazy.
In a reverie, the one -time nerd chases round Bogota with V and her girlfriends. Halfway through his two week trip, before they’ve slept together she says him. “We have to talk”, as Chris says.. That never means anything good.
She informs him she has to make a sudden trip to first Miami for a free vacation at her friend’s motel), then New Jersey “to visit her uncle.” When he protests she proposes, I’d like to spend a week with you in Seattle. He’s over the moon and begins making arrangements.
In love for the first time, Chris is in heaven in Seattle, presumably sleeping with his dream girl showing her off to friends and seeing Seattle through rose-colored glasses. As she’s leaving she asks, ‘ are we boyfriend and girlfriend now?” They make plans to visit each other on Chris one condition, “Don’t lie to me.”
They study his 2004 and 2005 files, and illustrate some sequences with ironic songs (mostly by Joseph Arthur), stored in his itunes. A puppet Pinnochio illustrates some transitions. They search for images of the mystery woman. Most are partial or out of focus.
The man Maíra describes as “a great storyteller, distanced from himself “starts giving the filmmakers notes. He suggests that V a complex character, perhaps too complex to parse in a film, and hopes his friend don’t down rap her in the film.
Chris asks her about past boyfriends. She tells him about her ex Columbian boyfriend John, an airport worker who was so jealous he hacked flight records and followed her to Cancun where he caught her with a guy in his motel room. She explains she shared a cab with a guy, and used his shower when her room wasn’t ready. Rashomon begins
Sometimes when he phones her a guy answers. Whenever Chris breaks up with her, she wheedles her way back in. How can he resist great sex with a beautiful woman when she proposes to stay with him in Washington for six weeks over Christmas, with a trip to Disneyland?
He picks her up in LA. She drags him to her dumpy married Mexican friend’s house to “buy him a Xmas present” Warning bells go off, but good guy Chris doesn’t want to trail her. When she shows up hours later, drunk and carrying a shopping spree’s worth of booty, he starts grilling her. Why did she take a bus to Chile to save airfare if she had money for a shopping spree? This time her answers don’t stick, and obsessed Chris begins his own investigation, he locates ‘ex-boyfriends’ and spies on her email. He discovers her online password is Mentir (Spanish for to lie). Soon he tracks down John and Isaac, the older stranger she met in Cancun, as well as her Japanese fiancée and others.
When he confronts her, she lies, confesses and vows she wants to make it work. He shows her his books on girl and offers to make her a better liar if she’ll just let him in.” Wow, that’s an insight into his own “aw shucks” persona.
All agree V’s great at getting what she wants, but so is Chris, refusing to believe what he sees he moves to Bogata, moves in with her, breaks up and breaks off contact. Now he’s a fallout expat in Columbia, where Chris enjoyed the chaos of Columbia where everything is confusing and “nothing Is either good or bad.”
A rapid fire anti-Babbitt monologue highlights the film. “Marriage mortgage, pensions, how’s your vaca? Is a clean gutter the best I can hope for? Will i be in bed by 11?”
Chris diatribes against the branded, banality of normal life worried that, like everyone else, hell become fascinating with celebrity marriage, play video games to pretend I’m having an interesting life, until, watching a nurse changing his bedpan, the doddering version of himself thinks” too late Jack, you had options”. It doesn’t help that his dad worked factory flint counting own the exact moments until he could retire.
That speech, and the shelves of books he collected and studied about confidence men and grafters, are as close as we get to what makes Chris tick.
In a crazy sidebar we see a Keith Olbermann segment on MSNBC with coverage of a prank pulled on Chris by a ‘friend’ while he was in LA with V. He let Luke stay in his place, returning he found every inch of his flat and every object except a book and a picture of V, wrapped in Reynolds Wrap, and a note, “Would it kill you to get a stepladder? PS. I touched all your stuff.”
Friends and neighbors from Olympia describe him as a sunny hearted Pinocchio, an innocent wooden creation who wants to be a real boy. In fact the landlord and the neighbors in his apartment house relied on computer geek Chris as a leader, he paid his rent on time, worked in Environmental causes and ran an in house radio station. They vouch for his innocence.
When Chris invites the mysterious ‘V’ to Seattle, they can’t wait to meet her. Good friends describes the girl who captured his heart as a vain, suspicious character who always wore her sunglasses.
The metaphor is interesting, Later in the film Maíra describes him as a distant construct a great story teller who never lets you in…
His best friend, an expat with whom he lived for five years in a huge Colonial home in downtown Bogota, describes in as dark horse, a canny street smart type who was capable of anything
Bühler and Mariani’s multi-layered narrative leaves us to decide, haunted by the unstated question what is truth and what is story telling? It’s a Pirandello question underlying many douc-fictions these days. (Think “Catfish” and “(Dis) Honesty” and “The Imposter”) .
Towards the end of the film, once the original Candide narrative has worn away, “Dark horse” Chris begins another story, one to be continues online and in a future book, FASCINATING.
Friday, August 28: Cinema Village, New York City, The Arena, Los Angeles, followed by an expanded national fall release. A digital release is expected in late August or September, and the film’s home media release is slated for December 2015.