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Gonzo Report: Sad Silent Comedy doc premieres in Oceanside theater

Trauma in the Sunshine

Alright, alright, alright: Joshua Zimmerman performs at premiere
Alright, alright, alright: Joshua Zimmerman performs at premiere

“Where the fuck is the red carpet?” I think to myself as I mosey into the lobby of the Sunshine Brooks Theater. My ticket for this segment of the Oceanside International Film Festival clearly states, “Opening Night World Premiere Film Event & Red Carpet Reception,” and yet the carpet is dark blue and no one is asking me who designed my outfit. For the fashion record: I’m wearing a hoodie with the logo for True Blood, the old HBO series. Miffed that I won’t be able to deliver my planned pontifications on vampire rights, I decide to focus on my real reason for attending: the premier of the documentary film I Am Alright: Music, Madness, and the Fall of the Silent Comedy, an event which is supposed to include a performance by the titular local band.

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Place

Sunshine Brooks Theatre

217 N. Coast Highway, Oceanside

I meander around, chatting with other attendees, people like Temecula-based singer Joanna Pearl, who wears black clothing that reminds me of Catwoman, with pearls sewn onto her gloves instead of sharpened claws. (She denies ever using the gloves as mollusk knuckles to hit someone.) I end up chatting with her companion, who will identify himself only as “That British Guy.” The music industry knowledge he displays gives him away as an insider, but I respect his desire for anonymity.

I go outside to smoke and see a woman whose nametag identifies her as film director Nicole Emilíana Mendez, and we talk about her entry for the festival. The short film is called Bad Child, and addresses Mendez’s sexual abuse, a subject made even more intense by her filing charges against her childhood assailant while creating the film. It’s not being screened tonight, but she shares a viewing copy with me. (Later, I find it matches the focused resolve and anger I sensed in her voice and eyes when we chatted. It’s weaponized trauma.)

Video:

I Am Alright - Official Trailer - The Silent Comedy

Inside the theater, Joshua Zimmerman of the Silent Comedy and director Krista Liney introduce I Am Alright. Zimmerman tells the audience that the film deals with mental health, and that if anyone needs a break, it’s alright to step outside. My eyes roll involuntarily at the mention of “trigger warnings,” and I internally scoff at the notion of “safe spaces.” The film tells a story that is so familiar it has become hackneyed: brothers make music together, more members join, and it catches on, leading to recording contracts and the challenge to artistic integrity brought on by corporate greed and demands for trend-chasing that threaten to destroy what made the band special to begin with. When the members talk about paying for the recording of their own album while signed to a recording contract, I want to yell at the screen, “Fucking run, dudes!” They all mention a manager, but never reveal the manager’s name, which may hint that they are still somehow under the thumb of whoever it is. And then the recordings are played. These aren’t songs, they’re the voices of Joshua and his brother Jeremiah, captured on a ranch in Texas, where they were paying to make a record.

Footage capturing Joshua in the throes of a mental breakdown was used to prove the gravity of the situation to their father — to influence him to get help for his son. I step out to piss, but not because I need a break. Still, the decompression washing over me isn’t about my bladder. It’s a relief from the intensity of the film. Later, when 91X’s Lou Niles hosts a Q&A with Joshua and others, an audience member asks if they can ask a question. But there are no questions. Instead, people are sharing their own mental health struggles, thanking the filmmakers, and thanking Joshua.

The Silent Comedy performs shortly after, and it’s a triumph when Joshua sings the last song, “I Am Alright.” Part of me wants to give the man a hug, but there are too many people around him in the lobby. I chat with That British Guy, wondering who the deliberately unnamed Silent Comedy manager is. He tells me, “It’s easy enough to find out, but it doesn’t matter. They’re all the same.” It’s a bleak and mostly accurate statement.

Past Event

The Silent Comedy and Shane Hall

  • Friday, April 14, 2023, 7:30 p.m.
  • Casbah, 2501 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego
  • 21+ / $20

Bad Child and I Am Alright get nominated for a combined six awards at the festival, with I Am Alright winning one for Best Original Score. But art isn’t measured by awards; it’s measured by how it provokes and moves the audience. With smartass red carpet antics now the furthest thing from my mind, the conversations of departing attendees about mental health and the similarities of all our struggles carry me on a comforting wave to my car.

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Alright, alright, alright: Joshua Zimmerman performs at premiere
Alright, alright, alright: Joshua Zimmerman performs at premiere

“Where the fuck is the red carpet?” I think to myself as I mosey into the lobby of the Sunshine Brooks Theater. My ticket for this segment of the Oceanside International Film Festival clearly states, “Opening Night World Premiere Film Event & Red Carpet Reception,” and yet the carpet is dark blue and no one is asking me who designed my outfit. For the fashion record: I’m wearing a hoodie with the logo for True Blood, the old HBO series. Miffed that I won’t be able to deliver my planned pontifications on vampire rights, I decide to focus on my real reason for attending: the premier of the documentary film I Am Alright: Music, Madness, and the Fall of the Silent Comedy, an event which is supposed to include a performance by the titular local band.

Sponsored
Sponsored
Place

Sunshine Brooks Theatre

217 N. Coast Highway, Oceanside

I meander around, chatting with other attendees, people like Temecula-based singer Joanna Pearl, who wears black clothing that reminds me of Catwoman, with pearls sewn onto her gloves instead of sharpened claws. (She denies ever using the gloves as mollusk knuckles to hit someone.) I end up chatting with her companion, who will identify himself only as “That British Guy.” The music industry knowledge he displays gives him away as an insider, but I respect his desire for anonymity.

I go outside to smoke and see a woman whose nametag identifies her as film director Nicole Emilíana Mendez, and we talk about her entry for the festival. The short film is called Bad Child, and addresses Mendez’s sexual abuse, a subject made even more intense by her filing charges against her childhood assailant while creating the film. It’s not being screened tonight, but she shares a viewing copy with me. (Later, I find it matches the focused resolve and anger I sensed in her voice and eyes when we chatted. It’s weaponized trauma.)

Video:

I Am Alright - Official Trailer - The Silent Comedy

Inside the theater, Joshua Zimmerman of the Silent Comedy and director Krista Liney introduce I Am Alright. Zimmerman tells the audience that the film deals with mental health, and that if anyone needs a break, it’s alright to step outside. My eyes roll involuntarily at the mention of “trigger warnings,” and I internally scoff at the notion of “safe spaces.” The film tells a story that is so familiar it has become hackneyed: brothers make music together, more members join, and it catches on, leading to recording contracts and the challenge to artistic integrity brought on by corporate greed and demands for trend-chasing that threaten to destroy what made the band special to begin with. When the members talk about paying for the recording of their own album while signed to a recording contract, I want to yell at the screen, “Fucking run, dudes!” They all mention a manager, but never reveal the manager’s name, which may hint that they are still somehow under the thumb of whoever it is. And then the recordings are played. These aren’t songs, they’re the voices of Joshua and his brother Jeremiah, captured on a ranch in Texas, where they were paying to make a record.

Footage capturing Joshua in the throes of a mental breakdown was used to prove the gravity of the situation to their father — to influence him to get help for his son. I step out to piss, but not because I need a break. Still, the decompression washing over me isn’t about my bladder. It’s a relief from the intensity of the film. Later, when 91X’s Lou Niles hosts a Q&A with Joshua and others, an audience member asks if they can ask a question. But there are no questions. Instead, people are sharing their own mental health struggles, thanking the filmmakers, and thanking Joshua.

The Silent Comedy performs shortly after, and it’s a triumph when Joshua sings the last song, “I Am Alright.” Part of me wants to give the man a hug, but there are too many people around him in the lobby. I chat with That British Guy, wondering who the deliberately unnamed Silent Comedy manager is. He tells me, “It’s easy enough to find out, but it doesn’t matter. They’re all the same.” It’s a bleak and mostly accurate statement.

Past Event

The Silent Comedy and Shane Hall

  • Friday, April 14, 2023, 7:30 p.m.
  • Casbah, 2501 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego
  • 21+ / $20

Bad Child and I Am Alright get nominated for a combined six awards at the festival, with I Am Alright winning one for Best Original Score. But art isn’t measured by awards; it’s measured by how it provokes and moves the audience. With smartass red carpet antics now the furthest thing from my mind, the conversations of departing attendees about mental health and the similarities of all our struggles carry me on a comforting wave to my car.

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