Knives and Skin at Frameline43

By Moira Sullivan

For starters, Chicago filmmaker Jennifer Reeder is an accomplished filmmaker with several short films behind her shown at numerous film festivals around the world. Her latest film is her first feature and was selected for the Frameline Film Festival. Parts of it were actually shown at an American film festival in Poland where works in progress are given a completion support. She got the attention of a programmer from Tribeca who took it in and the Berlin Film festival selected it knowing she had served on a jury there before and shown her short films. Reeder is a dedicated hardworking artist filmmaker the mother of three young children and she has made an enchanting and provocative narrative feature called Knives and Skin.

In the opening scenes we see a mother holding a huge table knife upright walking towards her daughter's room. It’s a tease because we are so programmed for this kind of imagery in horror films, but actually the mother is picking the lock adorned by jewel inserts on the doorknob. As she enters she realizes Her daughter Carolyn is not there—where is she?

We know. We see that Carolyn has been on a date with an obnoxious college football player who ditches her because she doesn’t want to kiss him. And from there we know what happened to this young woman who is in the school's marching band but the town doesn’t and tries to find her -- not all rushing forward at once in a rescue operation but as a part of this story.

There is nothing about this film that is predictable, and it is a fascinating journey where you are one of the participants trying to figure some of it out. And at the end there is still much to unravel. It is not easy being a teenager - probably one of the most painful periods of life, but in this film young women try to communicate with their mothers who are uncommunicative and disillusioned. There are young women on the cheerleading team trying to make sense of this mystery including two women of color who create incredible plays for their classmates' literature class. and a young white woman who always wears t-shirts with names of female heroes.

The high school principal and the substitute teacher are predatory males and so is the football player. One of the songs and messages in the film is "Girls just want to have fun"--- and men make it so hard. Yet they try to have fun anyway. Two young African American women fall in love and send messages and gifts to each other over the stall of the school bathroom. The mother of Carolyn Harper wanders the town trying to find her daughter and eventually the whole town combs the area around the lake. Finding Carolyn is of course the common bond and heritage and Reeder sets this to choral music and old 80 pop standards – with a flow of images, set designs, wardrobe, lighting, sound and narrative structure. The films is so packed with information and imagery that it makes you realize, as you look on that you can pretty much figure out all your problems by thinking about them long enough. Carolyn Harper unties the town, but Jennifer Reeder lets us assemble it. She makes this story believable and takes us far away form plot and story line into an adventure of sound, color and dreams.

Here now is Jennifer Reeder in an exclusive interview with Movie Magazine

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan. (interview broadcast with review).

© 2019 - Moira Sullivan- Air Date: 06/26/19
Movie Magazine International