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April 29, 2008

The Guatemalan Handshake

guatemalanhandshake.jpg You'll hear it said that Todd Rohal's The Guatemalan Handshake is a special film. Special in a short-bus sort of way. This is true in as much as its humor is so sweetly juvenile, its wisdom so innocent and naive, its predilections alternatively charming and confounding. Here is a film that operates on the same logic that compelled Benjamin Franklin to recommend the turkey, rather than the eagle, as a symbol for the newly formed United States; it holds no illusions about itself, and its idea of majesty is decidedly against the grain.

And yet majestic it is, and big and gorgeous and every bit deserving of the widescreen 35mm frame to which its been inscribed. That same format is how it should be seen, which is why it's a crying shame that the the first time I saw The Guatemalan Handshake was on an airplane, on my laptop, on a screener DVD that Todd Rohal had given me. Any circumstances are the right ones for a film good enough to transport you away from them entirely, but even so I felt that I was missing out: this film was meant to be seen on the biggest screen possible, looking all glorious. Sadly, I never had the chance to see it in this manner, but the next best thing is the new DVD from Benten films.

Like Benten's Quiet City / Dance Party USA release, this is a 2-disc affair that, to the best of its abilities, offers audiences an inclusive experience similar to the traveling picture show Rohal took on the road last year. There's the movie, of course, lovingly transfered and beautifully presented; then there are the six short films made by various cast and crew members, and Rohal's beloved music video for Ola Podrida's Lost And Found, and the behind the scenes documentaries and slideshows. It's a lot to take in; me, I'm still stuck on the packaging, designed by James Braithwaite, and the essay by David Gordon Green, which is better than any review I could ever write.

And the film itself. Watching it again the other day, I realized that there are moments from it so ingrained in my memory that I'd forgotten they were actually part of this film. I didn't even remember watching them; I just remembered them, like I'd come into some memories that weren't my own. It's been a joy to pull them out of the ether and put them back in their rightful place.

Other things to make you think about getting this disc:

A final note: if you order the DVD through Todd's website, you'll get a third disc of his short films, and a 35mm film strip from one of the original exhibition prints. Enough said.

Posted by David Lowery at April 29, 2008 11:14 AM


I love GH! And I love Todd Rohal!

Posted by: Kat Candler at April 30, 2008 9:58 PM

Thanks David!

For this, you get a whole reel of the film...they make nice clocks...but, sadly, not much else these days.

I return Kat Candler's love.

Posted by: Todd Rohal at May 2, 2008 12:09 AM