East End Film Festival: Follow the Money – Review ***

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Three London based filmmakers – John Hardwick, Ben Unwin and Steve Boggan – decided to make a portrait of the US and its people under an unusual premise – follow a 10 dollar bill for 30 days, and go with it wherever it took them. Starting in the real center of the States – somewhere in South Dakota – the three directors embark on a non-scripted adventure, trying to connect  and understand a bit more of the American mythos.

The fact that Follow the Money manages to be interesting at all, despite its random nature, is a testament mostly to its directors and to a time sobriety that is rare in this kind of projects. It could have easily ran for too long – as it stands (short of the 90 minute mark) gives as much intensity to each and every person that receives the bill. Going from the Native American that explains to them the meaning of “follow your bliss”, to the transient schizophrenic musician in San Francisco, or the waitress who escaped certain death 20 years before and sees each day as a blessing, there’s no such thing as dead time in this documentary.

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The richness of characters forms a tapestry that, though one can argue does not represent all of America – the East Coast was not blessed with a visit, for example, neither was Alaska or Hawaii – it does gives us a taste for a kind of US of A we are not used to see in the big screen. The normal people. The slightly weird. The ones that were doing bad and are now doing fine, and the others that went the opposite way. It’s not a documentary for pretty shots (we’re thinking Sean Dunn’s Florida Man (2015), which is as much as eye candy as a character study) – many times the bad quality of the camera means we experience everything in a slight pixelated way. But despite that – or maybe because of that – Follow the Money manages to move us, as we feel close to its characters for the brief moments they inhabit the screen.

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A road trip celebrating randomness, where everyone is connected by a marked 10 dollar bill and the realities of America, Follow the Money may lack the shock value of other similar documentaries (there are no openly political moments, though social class is obviously present, as well as a discreet nod to politics of gender), but as a snippet of a massive nation, it does everything that says on the tin.

Follow the Money will be playing this weekend at the East End Film Festival. For tickets and more information, please check the festival’s website, http://www.eastendfilmfestival.com/programme-archive/follow-the-money/

Sara is originally from Coimbra, Portugal, where she studied Film Studies before moving to London to enrol in film school. Having made her first short film about her neighbour's chickens when she was 9 (a dystopian sci-fi, still her favourite genre), she is now a London-based film director and editor, and also a writer for the Portuguese Take Magazine. She is a huge fan of Lars Von Trier, Krysztof Kiéslowski, and David Lean.