The Program is a very solid independent feature. Written, produced, and directed by Irin Evers, this is a film that harks back to the simplistic premise of The Breakfast Club and tosses in a dash of road movie and mystery. The final product, which falls exactly between a short film a feature length film, is a joy to watch.
Matt (Samson) is a run-of-the-mill early twenty-something who is looking for a little adventure. Facing enormous pressure by his family to go into a profession he has no interest in, he decides to head to Mexico to do some field work and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
He is friends with Sally (Ross), a wild thing of sorts who has never-ending yarn of tales of drug use and wild behavior. The two hardly seem like the perfect match, but is clear early on that Matt wants to be more than friends.
One day while on the job, Matt receives a package from his recently deceased grandfather. Its only contents are a computer disk with a label that reads “it took me eighty years to find the meaning of life.” I think anyone would be fascinated with this proposition. With nary a computer in sight to check the contents of the disk, Matt and Sally head to town.
Along the way they make various pit stops to discuss their lives and what has brought them to Mexico. In its medium-sized runtime The Program manages to delve deeper and ring more realistic than any mainstream teenie bopper Hollywood fare when it comes to conveying thoughts at this age. Evers gives his characters colorful pasts and fleshes them out for us during their various stops. The locations he uses are key as well, which include a swing set, a park, and back roads for the two to ride their bikes on, all of which serve as the setting and an illustration of the connections the two make.
Evers’ dialogue is both simplistic and surprisingly profound. I think we have all known a Matt or a Sally, or both. We all know what it’s like to be misunderstood, which is something these two characters both are. Evers implements slang and short hand to give the film an authentic feel. It comes to no surprise to me that this script was a Quarter finalist for the Filmmakers Magazine 2001 American Gem Short Script Competition.
Aside from the well-thought and engaging script, the rural Mexico locales are fantastic. Shot on high definition, this is a striking film in its appearance. The settings are desolate for the most part and free of distractions, which in turn makes us focus on the characters.
The performances are also noteworthy. Matt Samson eases into the role of Matt nicely. He portrays him as the most normal of guys, if a bit boring, as most normal guys are (I should know). Susie Ross plays the electric Sally with attitude and conviction. She is troubled soul, but also has no problem talking about it. These are two quality leading performances, and they perform Evers’ script effortlessly.
I can see you getting impatient from here. “So, Bill, what the hell is on the disc?” you ask. All I’ll say is that it’s not what you’re expecting.
The Program just won the Platinum Remi Award (top award) in Independent Video at the 2005 WorldFest in Houston, and I for one hope that this film finds as wide of an audience as possible. Evers has crafted an entertaining and equally interesting film that I think audiences will embrace. Keep an eye on your local film festival lists for this highly enjoyable gem.
Studio: Neurotic Boy Productions
Length: 50 Minutes
Rating: Not Rated (contains some strong language and drug use)
Theatrical Release: N/A
Directed by: Irin Evers
Written by: Irin Evers
Cast: Matt Samson, Susie Ross, Gilbert Cruz, Jorge Rios, Robert Lamonaca, John Damato