MY NAME IS A BY ANONYMOUS (REVIEW)
Dir. Shane Ryan
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
The Alyssa Bustamante-inspired movie, MY NAME IS A BY ANONYMOUS, debuted in Las Vegas this past October (ed - 2012) at the Pollygrind Film Festival where it was named one of The Top 3 Films of the Festival, and also received best 'Arthouse Film'. With the real-life events being a horror scene of their own, this film is set to be as shocking as the real thing without watering anything down.
Directed and created by Shane Ryan, the movie focuses on the 15 year old Bustamante who was convicted of killing her 9 year old neighbour, Elizabeth Olten and tackles hard-hitting subjects like self mutilation by teen girls, bullying, rape, bulimia (showcasing the actual damage it does to a girl's body) and, of course, the murder. Starring Russian pop star Teona Dolnikova, Demi Baumann, Domiziano Arcangeli, introducing Katie Marsh as Alyssa, the cast of youths really hold this film together, it's hard to ignore the small budget but the gorilla style film-making add to the documentary tale being told here.
Compared to the likes of David Lynch, Larry Clark, Harmony Korine and John Cassavetes, the film dares the audience to watch it, confronting issues with kids and teenagers often sugar-coated by Hollywood. It's uncomfortable, challenging and gives an insight less so into how and more of how and why. Daringly, MY NAME IS A BY ANONYMOUS focuses the film from the lens of Alyssa and may appear to glorify the downward spiral however murderers are not born, they are created and quite often it's as a result of their surroundings and close circle that push them down a tragic path.
Based around the real life tragedy and death of a nine year old girl at the hands of two teens, each story is equal parts upsetting and reflective of the darkest corners of our existence. Dealing with issues of rape, incest, bulimia and belonging, the question lies with are these people born, or nurtured evil?
Presented over a series of chapters the innocent ramblings of teens ends in an unwatchable and drastic climax which unfortunately lead to the loss of a nine year olds life. However, eclipsed are the side stories that lay bare the truth of abandonment and abuse. Small scenes of hope only make the tragedies worse and the innocence of youth has, along with each of these girls, been abandoned.
While each girls story may, or may not, be real, the truth that this reflects the harsh reality of life only resonates a harsh insight into reality. It is with conviction that each and every character hides a fantastic actress, there are no standout performances as every leading lady deserves top billing.
Shane Ryan may have had a limited budget, which is often, visible but what he achieves is the kind of powerful statement on society that so many directors and politicians choose to ignore. This is no easy watch and as it gets deeper and darker into the events of these individuals, the film does become ever more painful to watch. Scenes of incest, scarring and watching these women, and girls, walk through their lives is brutally realistic and raw.
Yet behind its depressive viewing there is something artistically beautiful about Ryan’s film. Traversing between black and white dream sequences, gorilla style film making and home video against the real star of the film, the soundtrack, show Ryan is one to watch.
There are questions as to how the family of Elizabeth Olten feel about this but it's also impossible to ignore the age of the perpetrator. While the movie focusses on Alyssa's POV, there's very little compassion for the young victim and while Alyssa had a very troubling journey to these events, there were still choices that could have averted this and these seem to be one sided. Unlike most horror films, this is perhaps a slight bias to film making but is more a documentary and perspective that as all good media should, question and inform and allow the decision to be made by the audience.
MY NAME IS A... is a lost gem that needs to be discovered. What Ryan achieves is the kind of powerful statement on society that so many directors and politicians choose to ignore. The depressing truth makes Lars Von Trier look like Mr Happy and you leave this film feeling upset and emotionally scarred, a sign that the director’s work is that of a masterpiece and one that needs to be seen by those willing to with an open mind and context to the material and it's statement to the world.