TFF: ‘Bikini Moon’ Festival Review
One of the advantages of attending screenings at events such as the Tallgrass Film Festival is having the chance to see small, independent projects that you wouldn’t normally see at your local multiplex, and scream their praises from the rooftop. In the past, films such as The Living and The David Dance came out of previous Tallgrass Festivals. This year, the film to look for is Bikini Moon.
The film, directed by Milcho Manchevski, features Condola Rashad as Bikini, an American soldier who returns to the states from Iraq with her life shattered. Suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Bikini has lost custody of her daughter and is living on the streets of New York City. At the beginning of the film, the audience is introduced to Trevor and Kate, a young documentary filmmaker and his girlfriend. They are interviewing residents in a homeless shelter to find someone to feature in their documentary that they are making, focusing on the lives of people who live on the street. When they are introduced to Bikini, it is very obvious that she is mentally unstable, and they recommend getting her help at a women’s center. When she hears this, Bikini has a breakdown and only Kate can reach her. From this point, Trevor and Kate determine that she is the subject for their documentary.
After several occurrences involving Bikini, the filmmakers decide to let Bikini move in with them, to help her deal with her PTSD, and most importantly, to be able to film her 24/7. They become a uniquely dysfunctional family. Kate is a very trusting, yet naïve, and Trevor is solely focused on his film, and completing it anyway possible. What the two have not realized is the extent of manipulation that Bikini is capable of. As the film progresses, the relationships become more strained and more difficult, pulling others into this complex relationship.
The films biggest asset is a knock-out, take-no-prisoners performance by Condola Rashad as Bikini. Normally seen on the small screen in shows such as Billions and Master of None, Rashad goes from vulnerable and devastated to volatile and frightening. It is a performance that is hard to get out of your head once you see it.
Sarah Goldberg, seen most recently as Sally in HBO’s comedy Barry, is the films conscious, Kate. It is her character that allows Bikini to do what she does, and it is she that suffers the consequences. It’s a terrifically subdued performance that crescendos at the films climax.
Will Janowitz, as Trevor, doesn’t have the showiest character, but his is the one who’s actions affect the story the most. His drive to make his film drives a stake between him and anyone else. He is not as nice and forgiving of Kate, but he is willing to accept Bikini as she is, faults and all.
Directed by Milcho Manchevski, Bikini Moon is presented on screen as a documentary, with the 4:3 sidebar ratio that is used predominantly when seeing this type of film in a theater. Although this is a fake documentary, every trick in the book is used: the interviews with the participants, the filmmaking mistakes, focusing issues- everything is there to make it appear to the audience that what you’re seeing is authentic. The camera offers unflinching facial close-ups (also a documentary staple) so every emotion is registered, at times, almost unbearably.
Bikini Moon delivers a powerful end difficult depiction of the dealings of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome on not only veterans, but those around them. It’s a story of acceptance and love that offers insight on those you may see in the street asking for help. If there is a fault in the film, it is the climax, which involves a praying mantis, which is used throughout the film, and takes it to a ridiculous level. It was truly the biggest WTF moment of the festival. Other than that, Bikini Moon is a must see for the performance of Condola Rashad alone. It is an unforgettable performance that should be recognized at years end.
Worth A Watch
This review of Bikini Moon is part of our Tallgrass Film Festival 2018 coverage. For more coverage, visit the Tour Page.