While Durham's boosters--from the Chamber of Commerce to the artists in their urban studios--see a profitably funky downtown in the future, some local filmmakers aren't playing along. In true, accentuate-the-negative punk fashion, a film that premieres this weekend on the Duke campus suggests that the notion of a harmonious and prosperous creative class is little more than a delusion.
For the past two years, a Durham filmmaking concern called Sea Shanty Films has been working on X-Gen, a drama about the assimilation of alternative culture. Sea Shanty is comprised of filmmakers David Brigham, Matt Long and David Wilmington, a trio that previously collaborated on a short satire of educational films called The Wingnut and You.
X-Gen, their latest effort, was shot mostly in Durham, but also in parts east and south. It follows what may be the last week in the life of Kirk, Durham's last bohemian, who smokes cigarettes and waves a tattered flannel shirt in protest. Kirk, played by Wilmington, holds on to his dreams of a cultural revolt led by his favorite band, Coupland (which, not so coincidentally, is the surname of the now-obscure author of the novel Generation X).
Unfortunately for Kirk, the world around him is changing and his friends are moving on. His ex-girlfriend Toby, for example, used to worship indie rock; now she's working as a publicist for a ridiculous, prefab boy band (that is shown in funny fake videos). Looming over it all is a mysterious new drug everyone seems to be taking called X-Gen. It's a panacea that seems to turn people into boring suburbanites who listen to vapid music and drink a beer called Optima Lite.
Although X-Gen in its present form is overlong and padded with unnecessarily repeated gags, there are sharp performances by a well-chosen trio of actresses and a sly nod to the famous dead-man-in-a-pool narrator of Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard. And finally, the off-kilter (and off-message) tone of the film offers a refreshingly contrary perspective on the Bull City and its dreams.
The world premiere of X-Gen will be at Duke's Griffith Theater this Saturday, June 3, at 5 p.m. Tickets are $3. For more information, see www.seashantyfilms.com.