We here at The Farsighted have really gotten into covering film festivals this year. It’s seriously a ton of fun, especially with the quirky, independent films that we get to enjoy at some of the more interesting festivals around the world.
This week, Garrett, Jacob, and I all tackled the 2016 thriller K-Shop, playing this weekend at Ithaca Fantastik Fest… and with wildly different results. One of us found the themes somewhat detestable, another really enjoyed it, and two of us couldn’t help but see connections to this week’s election and the aftermath of emboldened angry white people. Like I said… wildly different takes…
JACOB GEHMAN: K-Shop comes at an interesting time. Set in a British town, a Pakistani deli owner finds himself the target of racism from the people who visit his shop. You could replace the scenario with “Muslim taxi driver finds himself the target of xenophobes,” or “Gay high school teacher finds herself the target of homophobes,” or “Female sports anchor finds herself the target of misogynists.” Our protagonist becomes something of a stand-in for all of the people that the current American political climate is pushing against.
This gives K-Shop an unusual (and rather elegant) sheen. Instead of being about a man who likes murdering people, it becomes a rich character study, albeit one centered on a guy who murders people and sells their flesh as lamb, but details details. We see motivation separate from excuse–it’s hard to watch some of the violence that the protagonist commits, but at the same time we admit that the film does a great job of introducing him to us, giving us a character that is easy to root for, even as he does some horrific things.
GARRETT SMITH: As an American I’m likely the wrong person to comment on the social commentary in this movie – but this is exactly the kind of movie that I find truly distasteful and problematic. It displays a nihilistic view of humanity by demonizing alcoholism and creating a hero out of a murderous psychopath. Nothing that occurs in this movie feels justified at all. Maybe it was a poor choice to watch this the day after we elected a hate-mongering monster as our President, but I fail to see how this could be read as anything other than a spew of pure bile and hatred. The cast is good, the gore is done really well, and the movie looks good despite having no real cinematic voice of its own – it just feels mean and unsavory; completely unpleasant to watch. I’d be curious to read a defense of this movie, but that’s about the only continued relevance this movie will have for me.
This brings us to me, what is my take on the film? This film is well-crafted controversy served with human meat kabobs and a cheap pint of ale.
I didn’t feel like the film was setting the lead character up as a hero, as Garrett and Jacob did. I thought the sympathy for his plight seemed to burn off rather quickly once he began murdering folks; and, it felt designed that way . I also didn’t feel the demonization of alcoholism that Garrett did. Rather, I thought that this film was a perfectly timed film about how hate begets hate, as well as a morality tale of reaping what we sow.
Essentially, the hatred shown to the shop owner by numerous (often drunk) assholes turned him into a monster or far greater proportions. While, perhaps, I cheered him on once, his weird sense of morality and justification turned me off to him soon thereafter, as he became the same type of judgemental prick as the people showing him hateful bigotry… of course taking it to a much darker level. And, in the end, karma comes full circle, wiping out most of the assholes one way or another.
There’s a lot to unpack with this one, but it’s sure worth watching and discussing. And if you’d had the chance to see it, please join the dialog, we’d love to hear what you think.