“Slackistan,” Reviewed

“Slackistan,” Reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Abu Dhabi Film Festival.

“Slackistan,” the first feature from Hammad Khan, belongs to that familiar breed of film about life as someone young, aimless and under- or unemployed, with too much time to fill in the company of funny friends — think “Reality Bites,” or “Swingers” (a film given more than one tip of the hat here), or “Kicking and Screaming,” or countless others. What sets “Slackistan” apart from the pack is the fact that it’s centered in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan and “the city that always sleeps,” according to our hero and sometimes narrator Hasan (Shahbaz Hamid Shigri), a would-be filmmaker who’s managed to obtain an HDV camera but has so far left it sitting in its box.

The post-collegiate twentysomethings in “Slackistan” are wealthy, and there’s no question in the movie that their standard issue quarterlife issues about identity, how to get started on adulthood and whether they really want to do that in the first place are luxurious ones compared to most everyone else around them. Their houses are staffed with servants, and the streets they roam are filled with the unnoticed laboring and less well-off. But Hasan and his friends are likable, recognizable types. There’s slick Sherry (Ali Rehman Khan), nice guy Saad (Osman Khalid Butt), unlucky in love Zara (Shahana Khan Khalil) and pensive Aisha (Aisha Linnea Akthar), Hasan’s best friend and longterm crush. (Most of the actors are non-pros, and some are more comfortable on camera than others.) The five classmates graduated a year ago, around the time democracy returned to the country, and their stagnation is paralleled to a larger national disillusionment felt in the aftermath of those raised hopes. Now they wander the city in different configurations, cruising in a borrowed car, stopping by cafes and restaurants and each other’s houses, congregating at the occasional party.

“Slackistan” has the ragged look and feel of a ’90s indie, with flat visuals, title cards announcing the start of each new anecdote and heavy use of music from local bands. But the slack style and pacing don’t get in the way of the fascinating locale, a place where the characters’ boredom legitimately springs from a lack of opportunities, but leaving also feels like admitting defeat. Hasan and his friends often have more in common with western culture than with the average Islamabad resident. They live in a comfortable bubble of financial ease, they drink, surf the web and speak to each other in a mix of English and Urdu, and the lure of getting out of town is ever present — Hasan’s brother lives in New York, and Aisha’s readying herself for grad school in Boston. Hasan feels increasingly despondent about what he should do next, and about his creative opportunities — the city has no cinema, and he can’t even locate a copy of “Mean Streets” at the DVD store (“There’s not enough piracy of ’70s movies,” he sighs).

Hasan’s malaise may be of the conventional post-college variety — he loves Aisha but can’t bring himself to tell her, he wants to make a movie but can’t actually get started, and he realizes and is frustrated by these things — and his voiceover observations more self-pitying than profound, but the realities of the country he lives add pungency to the narrative, because who else is in a better place to rebuild and to affect change than these intelligent, worldly characters? Getting out of town may be the obvious and easiest option as an individual, but, as “Slackistan” suggests in its ending, there’s a bravery and worthiness to trying to hack it at home.

“Slackistan” does not yet have U.S. distribution.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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Draught Pick

Sam Adams “Keeps It Brockmire”

All New Brockmire airs Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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From baseball to beer, Jim Brockmire calls ’em like he sees ’em.


It’s no wonder at all, then, that Sam Adams would reach out to Brockmire to be their shockingly-honest (and inevitably short-term) new spokesperson. Unscripted and unrestrained, he’ll talk straight about Sam—and we’ll take his word. Check out this new testimonial for proof:

See more Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC, presented by Samuel Adams. Good f***** beer.

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