Eye Of The Bennu
Shot in the unique style of Indonesian shadow puppetry known as “Khabit Theater”, EYE OF THE BENNU is an interesting fantasy tale featuring original characters and stories based upon the ancient Egyptian mythologies. Integrating simple visual effects and a well done score, this feature film directed by Paul Madariaga stands apart from traditional independent filmmaking by taking advantage of older methods of storytelling to still craft something compelling to almost any audience.
While the film itself isn’t visually striking in the way that traditional film is, Madariaga uses a combination of visual effects to create dynamic backgrounds and objects for his shadow puppets to interact with. This is a very resourceful way to create a story that is more amenable to traditional film audiences while still being true to the film’s overall aesthetic.
The drawbacks of a format like this is that it is really difficult to keep the audience’s attention for an entire feature-length film. While Madariaga does a fine job varying his “locations” and effects, there are many points in the story that could be trimmed or streamlined to tell the story a bit better. This film might actually have been better served as an extended short, or as part of a larger pitch for a feature with some more money behind it.
The story as a whole is well done. It actually has a distinct Disney feel to the whole project with easily definable good and evil characters, a heroes journey, and a family-friendly feel surrounding the project despite a few violent areas. Which isn’t to say that Disney doesn’t have its share of violence in their movies.
The voice acting feels a little hokey and layered on, actually more than a little out of place considering how polished the rest of the film feels. The voice-over in the beginning sounds great in comparison to some of the voice acting, particularly the main character Aketnu, who just sounds whiny most of the time. This is due in part to the script as well, which in terms of story arcs is fairly paint-by-numbers and could have benefited with at least one more pass before production. The “acting” of the puppet characters is really well done though, and they come alive on the canvas. Even though the acting is one dimensional, the world they live in and act around is full and rich.
The score of this piece should definitely be given some attention. The movie is really served well by the music accompanying the story. From the opening straight through to the conclusion, the music adds another layer to the production that would certainly be absent if it were done differently. It perfectly fits the tone and theme of the film.
Overall this is a fine production that is imaginative and not typically seen on the independent film circuit. It shows a lot of promise from the director, and it would be great to see a more polished version of this film. There is a lot of potential for clever distributors with a few extra dollars for a movie like this in terms of worldwide sales. It could easily be re-dubbed (and probably better than the original dubbing) in different languages for different territories. Something like this, as it is, might be a little hard to swallow on the film festival circuit in it’s current runtime, but a short version of this film would do very well.