THE MANDALA MAKER is the first short film that we’ve ever reviewed on this site. But it’s stature as a short film should not preclude us from letting people know about this independent gem that we had the good fortune to screen at the SINY Film Festival. THE MANDALA MAKER was directed by Sam Borowski (REX), and was also co-written by him and Gregory Nissen (who also supplied much of the music and score for this film). It features a stellar cast including Courtney Hogan, Terrence Mann, and Daniel Roebuck principally.
One of the reasons we were so eager to review this short piece is, first of all, it looks wonderful. Shot on the RED camera, you couldn’t ask for a clearer picture, or more vibrant colors. The cinematographer on this film (Bill Sweikart) should consider himself lucky to get his hands on a camera most indie auteurs would sell their own spawn for. The technology behind this piece aside, the camera movement is fluid, framed, and makes great use of depth. This is a great looking film.
The story of this flick centers on a troubled young artist named Naomi (played superbly by Courtney Hogan), who seems not only to be struggling with her art and her connections to the people around her, but her art is also reflecting an internal struggle that she can’t seem to figure out. Along the way she realizes that through the act of making Tibetan mandalas, she can finally connect not only with her art, but with herself and those closest to her (there is a great bit of conflict that centers around her relationship troubles with her boyfriend, and her inability to communicate with him). I’m not going to spoil her inner turmoil for everyone and give away what the plot hinges on, but needless to say that the method of using art as therapy is a sound technique that is now taught at a lot of colleges, and certainly is used well in this film.
The score and music used in this film is of particular note. It is rare that a lot of indie flicks nowadays use their own composed music for their projects, instead opting to buy the rights to popular tracks from bands, or get other artists to donate songs in hopes of getting recognized if the film gets distribution. Gregory Nissen does a wonderful job at creating a flowing, emotional score that is as complicated and interwoven as the main character (and her art) is herself. The music in this film is art in itself, with a great end credits song (also composed by Nissen) sung by Robin Anne Phipps. Robin’s voice over the end credits is almost like a continuation of the movie, and keeps you planted firmly in your seat as her siren song carries throughout the theater. While this is in no way considered a “feel-good” movie in my opinion, Robin’s voice and Gregory’s music helps to soften the blow a little, and offer a little healing of it’s own.
THE MANDALA MAKER Review
FILM SYNOPSIS - The story of Naomi, a struggling artist, who attempts to heal herself from a past tragedy in her life by painting Tibetan Mandalas.