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A Different Kind of Barbecue

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on May 25, 2007 6:00PM

All across the land this weekend there'll be grills firing up; hamburgers, hot dogs and veggie patties will be duly seared, oversmeared with condiments and consumed. But at Facets, another kind of feast is on display. The ingredients? A desert island. Reality TV. And hungry contestants.

2007_5Grill_Festival.jpg American Cannibal, which starts a week-long run at Facets today, wickedly skewers our society’s hunger for celebrity (pun intended). Two young writers, desperate to get into showbiz, corner a porno financier to pitch a concept for a reality show called "The Ultimate Ultimate Challenge." The setup: starving contestants on a remote beach off the coast of Puerto Rico with a limited food supply …

It's hard to tell at times whether the movie is all staged or whether it's a documentary (or is it a staged documentary?) As filmmaker Perry Grebin cryptically explains in the press release, "We created scenarios in which events unfolded, over which we did not have control, which is very consistent with the documentary tradition." It screened as a documentary at Tribeca but several critics have been crying foul. Is it "a documentary that reveals to what venal, vile extent reality-show creators and producers will go for their day in the sun" or "so damn stupid that one can't think that anyone would actually go as far as it did and put down real money to produce it"? Is the filmmakers' "dishonesty" a commentary on the nature of reality TV (which, let's face it, is about as real as Red #40) or merely lazy? Or does it matter? Dr. Phil has even put in his two cents on the subject.

The movie also features a score by ex-Guided by Voices guitarist Doug Gillard. So if you'd like to get a little extra protein in your diet, American Cannibal runs through May 31. More info here.

"Grill Festival" via CHF International.