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MANIFF 2023 Review: Hello Dankness – “A work of pure weird genius”

An average street in Middle America. The year is 2016 and posters for Trump, Hillary and Bernie are dotted on different lawns and walls. Tom Hanks from The ‘Burbs steps out and watches Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World move their hockey goal as Annette Bening from American Beauty drives past. Hanks nods to Ice Cube from Friday while Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg from The Social Network watches everything through drones and hidden cameras.

This is the opening to Hello Dankness from Soda Jerk and it was one hell of a first film to watch at the Manchester Film Festival.

Check out our Manchester Film Festival coverage

The film is part documentary, part biting satire, part musical and all made up with what the cool kids would call a supercut or mashup. Was the Pepsi commercial at the start just an ad or part of the film?

Soda Jerk is “a 2-person art collective begun in Sydney and based in New York since 2012. They work with pirated cinema and sample-based media to make experimental films that are underpinned by a rogue documentary impulse.”

This is the official film synopsis:

Comprised entirely of hundreds of pirated film samples, Hello Dankness is a bent suburban musical that bears witness to the psychotropic cultural spectacle of the period 2016 to 2021. Set in the American suburbs, the film follows a neighbourhood through these years as consensus reality disintegrates into conspiracies and other political contagions. Part political satire, zombie stoner film, and Greek tragedy, the work is also informed by the encrypted memetics of contemporary internet culture.

If that sounds like something that will bend your brain, don’t worry. It will do that, while also being incredibly funny. It takes you through the events of the past few years using scenes, narration from various films and TV shows mixed in with some original bits and pieces. The events of the election and after are looked at from both sides, the rise of Covid and self-isolation are shown (Kevin McAllister from Home Alone watching Tiger King was a perfect snapshot for that)

So many American movies feature people living on a suburban street which means the main problem Team Soda Jerk had was what to leave out. We see different characters interacting from A Nightmare on Elm Street, Home Alone, Zombieland, Napolean Dynamite, The X-Files, Men At Work, Hot Rod, The Walking Dead, Poltergeist, TMNT and so many more. It is all done almost seamlessly.

Sure it can be heavy-handed in places but so much of what they cover was just that. The whole world seemed to have so much news hitting us over the head during the Presidential Elections that it was almost impossible to ignore it.

I spent the whole time marveling at the editing on display while being entertained and reminded of the events of the past few years. I laughed out loud on numerous occasions and was blown about by this work of pure weird genius that took place over 70 minutes. It also made me want to go and watch the various films they sampled.

No description can fully explain just what an experience this film was, but I loved every minute of it. I hope you get a chance to see it when you can.

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