Another Planet
Vanguard // Unrated // $29.99 // May 27, 2003
Review by Don Houston | posted June 5, 2003
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Movie: Movies based on a search for identity are a dime a dozen. It doesn't matter if they are mainstream Hollywood releases, student films, or even obscure independent releases. At some point in time, I'm willing to bet all of us have questions about who we are and where we fit into the greater scheme of things. Another Planet is a movie in this genre, distributed by the folks at Vanguard.

The film centers on a young black woman in Canada who desperately seeks to escape her confining life in a low income housing project. Her brother sells drugs, her mother is a religious zealot, and she seems to imagine a better life awaiting her in what she considers her "homeland" of Africa. She finds a way to get to Africa by participating in a cultural exchange program in Quebec. She must work on a local pig farm to gain some skills of value to the community she'll be staying with and that's where her journey really begins.

Before I get too far, I will admit that I'm not black. It shouldn't matter but some people may take my comments as anti-black and nothing could be further from the truth. I'm aware that a great many black people are unable to trace their heritage due to events that transpired hundreds of years ago. To some, this equates to a loss of identity as Africa is/was home to hundreds of distinct tribes and countries. Between the various despots that ruled with iron fists and killed huge numbers of people over the years, epidemics (such as AIDS in recent years but malaria and other diseases have taken their toll over the years too), and the lack, in many cases, of a written history, have all exacerbated this loss of self with regard to heritage in some people. Rather than just accept that the important thing is not where you're from but where you're at, a number of people seem to think of their homeland as a mystical place where they'll fit right in, no matter how absurdly ignorant this is.

That said, I liked how the lead character, Cassandra, impacted those around her. It didn't matter if it was in little ways, like showing Jean (the farmer's young son) that dad wasn't the be all, end all of the Universe. The kid starts demanding to be called Johnny, which really bugs his dad-a guy who is single-minded in every way about how things are, and should be, no matter what. The wife joining in on a strike was another example.

I also liked how the man from Africa tries to show Cassandra how clueless she really is. I knew the girl wouldn't accept it willingly, but all too often the subject never comes up in bigger budget movies. It's only logical to think that simple skin color isn't going to mean some special knowledge or status, yet how often do ethnocentric blacks (certainly not all blacks) seem to be under the impression that they will automatically find what they're looking for by leaving all they hold dear and making a pilgrimage to Africa? Sorry, but it isn't going to happen for most of them. They are as alien to the people of Africa as they are to Eskimos.

The downside of the movie included more than I could go into in just one sitting. The acting by most of the cast was weak at best. The hodge podge of mixing English and French didn't help any but even when watching body language or the non-verbal ques, I never felt the actors were doing much more than going through the motions. I think most of the cast was amateur and the director's experience obviously limited in scope but her script (she wrote the script too) was full of rabbit holes that made no sense.

Another problem was with the lead's fantasy bits. It seemed as though it was used as a crutch by the director to make a point that she could have made more conventionally (not to mention more clearly) otherwise. This holds true for the list of resolutions that Cassandra makes as the movie progresses too.

Perhaps if the director had stuck to the basics, including a beginning, middle and conclusive ending, I'd be able to give it a better rating. As it was, the movie meandered far too often between the original and humorous bits and that's what killed it for me. What started off as a movie about a gal looking for herself, always looking elsewhere instead of inside herself, ended up on a sour note with little redemption.

Picture: The picture was presented in 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. It was grainy, the fleshtones often off, and it looked very low budget. The picture lacked clarity and definition as well.

Sound: The sound was presented in stereo but had little separation or definition as well. The vocals were mostly clear with the score sounding more like a porn movie than anything else. Oh, and the vocals were in a combination of English and French with English subtitles.

Extras: The trailer to the feature was all. I really think a director's commentary would've added some value (as well as understanding) here.

Final Thoughts: Had the director focused on just a couple of aspects of Cassandra's life, I think she would've been able to explore the potential of the character more deeply. As it was, it seemed like an indictment, and a flawed one at that, of everything from religion, blacks in Canada, farmers, and a host of other things that she probably experienced to some passing degree in her own youth, but without the wisdom of someone with vision. As such, I suggest this one as a Skip unless you're really hard up to sympathize with a bratty kid who wants the world handed to her on a platter.

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