Seventeen-year-old “Andy” enters Eric Daniel Metzgar’s documentary facing four felony charges related to unlawful firearms and a stolen vehicle. Rather than a pixelated mosaic mask to conceal underage Andy’s identity, Metzgar embraces a less traditional approach by animating scenes involving the participation of the minor and his parents. It’s through animation Andy that we meet live-action Saroeum Phoung, a gang-leader transformed who now helps troubled teens get their lives back on course through peacemaking circles and their relation to restorative justice. If Andy can complete the Seattle-based pilot-program — the average restorative reentry circle runs $11,000 compared to the $100,000 a year it costs to incarcerate a teen — his criminal record will be expunged. As much as one welcomes the prospect of crossbreeding documentary realism with animation, as drawn, it’s difficult to detect much growth and dramatic expression in the deadpan closeups. One guesses animator Reza Riahi had a feature-length budget one one-hundredth that of what it would cost Disney to animate two minutes. This is also an example of a fingers-crossed style of storytelling in which the documentarian, unsure of his film’s outcome, let’s the camera run and hopes for the best. As compelling as it is, the end result is best viewed as a work in progress. For more information visit The Human Rights Watch Film Festival: https://www.hrwfilmfestivalstream.org/ (2021) — Scott Marks
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