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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Laramie Project
The Laramie Project
HBO // Unrated // June 25, 2002
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Siechen | posted October 1, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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Docudrama written and directed by Mois├ęs Kaufman consisting of actual court & media transcripts and hundreds of interviews Kaufman and his Tectonic theatre group did with the townspeople of Laramie, Wyoming a year after the murder of Matthew Shepard, a 22 year old gay freshman at the University of Wyoming. The project plan was to weave these interviews into a stage play and present it to the public to bring more awareness to the subject of hate crimes and ignorance. After seeing this film I am anxious to see the stage play as I hear it is fantastic. I think this film should have been released theatrically, but I understand why it wasn't. In any case it really should have more widespread exposure.

I was deeply saddened seeing this film, but any film that can make me feel deeply is an award winner. This is the kind of film that should be required viewing for students and kids growing up. There have been so many horrific incidents like this one in Laramie. It always brings me back to the same message - religion can be a very dangerous thing. Especially when coupled with ignorance and lack of ability to think. This film is not about a murder. Its not about the town of Laramie, and it's not even about the people of Laramie. Its about humanity. Its about a pervasive cancer that still exists in the minds of many people around the world. Its about how that cancer can grow into grisly acts of violence and destruction. Its about the very blurry line between tolerance and acceptance. Laramie acts like a microcosm of the world where focus is on one incident that happens frequently in many cities around the world.

The dialog in this film is all taken from actual interviews of the people of Laramie. These interviews we very well played by the actors as often it was difficult to tell just where someone sided until well after several sentences had passed. Often there would be this attitude of "live and let live, but I just don't condone the way 'you' live". And when you plant the idea in a childs head that the bible says this and the bible says that, you do a very powerful thing that will damage that childs entire life. When you teach a child to de-value another human being, regardless of the reason, you have done serious damage which should be considered nothing less than a serious crime. This is what the Laramie project showed me. Amazing courage, against ignorance disguised as religious righteousness.

Many of the participants of the Tectonic theater group that went to Laramie to conduct these interviews are gay. This fact made many of the interviews themselves very touching and often disturbing. Laura Linney gives a spectacular performance as the bigoted deputies wife. There are several noteworthy performances here by many well-known actors to name just a few, Steve Buscemi, Nestor Carbonell, Jeremy Davies, Clea Duvall, Peter Fonda, Janeane Garofalo, Amy Madigan, Terry Kinney, Camryn Manheim, Christina Ricci, and Dylan Baker,

A wonderful musical score by Peter Golub adds dimensionality and emotion to the film. The melodies alone are enough to make you cry. This is one score I would like to buy.

VIDEO: You are given the choice between 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen or the chopped pan & scan full screen version. The colors are rich vibrant and the picture is sharp and clear.

AUDIO: Dolby Digital 5.1 track. English stereo and Spanish stereo. The separation and richness of the sound is good although the material doesn't demand a lot from it. The soundtrack itself is where the audio shines. French, Spanish, and English subtitles are included.

MENUS: The menus are static and very nicely designed. Easy to navigate and read

BONUS MATERIALS:
Case and Director Biographies - 23 Biographies are included with descriptions of past projects and credits along with short summaries.

"The Making of the Laramie Project" - This is a screen by screen written piece giving a general overview of the production of the film. I don't like reading my DVDs and I wish someone would just speak this into a microphone so we can hear it like we are supposed to on a DVD. If I want to read I will open a book.

Featurette 1 & 2 - General "Making of..." documentaries on the production and motivations for this project and how it was turned into a play. Each of these is about 10-15 minutes in length. Also details the town of Laramie and the filmmakers experiences there. Many of the actual people from Laramie that the actors portray are shown. Now this is more like it!

Final Thought: A fantastic depiction of true events representing some very ugly things in our humanity. I highly recommend you see this film. Its uncomfortable. Its honest. It a story that needs to be told and it might just have the ability to make people think and maybe even change some of their beliefs. For this I give it my highest recommendation.
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