Ilya’s triumph: Liberty Kid

(Canscene) –  For me, few films have been genuine experiences that have washed away the environment in which I’ve viewed them  and brought me into  another time, another milieu.

Now comes Ilya Chaiken’s Liberty Kid, newly available on DVD after a laborious but triumphant journey since its completion. Turned down by Sundance and Toronto festivals, Liberty Kid, through the persistence of its makers led by Ilya Chaiken whose first film in 2002 didn’t cause a great stir but whose Liberty Kid has had a tremendous impact on those who’ve seen it has placed Chaiken among the front rank of contemporary auteurs.

Childhood friends Derrick (Al Thompson) and Tico (Kareem Savinon) operate a concession stand at the foot of the Statue Liberty. Theirs is a relationship that sees much bickering and scheming, but at its base is rock solid.

Derrick is an African American who’s grown up and found acceptance in Tico’s Latin ‘hood. His burning desire is to acquire a formal education while Tico is content to chase girls.

On September 11, 2001, after they witness with incredulity the spectacle of first one, and then a second tower falling they are quickly told to pack up their goods and evacuate their pitchat the Statue.

Out-of-work, they become engaged in a  variety of misadventures until Derrick joins the military for an education and is shipped off to Iraq.

Ilya Chaiken, Al Thompson, Kareem Savinon

Chaiken tells her story in alternating sequences some of wnich move at slightly less speed then the linking, rapid brush strokes that show the movement of time, but it is the forward impetus of the whole  that marks this film for distinction and believability.

Thompson is literally sensational as Derrick, especially in one suspenseful and terrifying sequence. Taking his twin children, over whom he has part-time custody, to a midway;  he loses sight of the boy for a split second and rushes through the fairground yelling in sheer panic.

The boy is safe; he has been momentarily “adopted” by a pretty young woman, who becomes an important figure in the lives of both Derrick and Tico.

This film is way too good for more spoilers. Part of its fascination for you will be to engage in the experiences of Derrick and Tico and learn how a   brilliant young writer/director creates a real world in just over ninety minutes.


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