Film: Series 7

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Film:

Series 7: The Contenders

Director: Daniel Minahan
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Distributor: Cinema Club

Series 7: The Contenders takes a look into the formula that has recently topped television polls; the reality game show. Modern culture has come so close to fulfilling the prophecies of films like Rollerball, Death Race 2000 and The Running Man that this rerun of the future game show plot is mounted as a satire rather than a prophecy, with an aesthetic drawn from American reality-TV shows like Cops or Survivor. In a society where the media and the authorities have absolute power, contestants in “Series 7” of The Contenders are chosen…

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Series 7: The Contenders takes a look into the formula that has recently topped television polls; the reality game show. Modern culture has come so close to fulfilling the prophecies of films like Rollerball, Death Race 2000 and The Running Man that this rerun of the future game show plot is mounted as a satire rather than a prophecy, with an aesthetic drawn from American reality-TV shows like Cops or Survivor. In a society where the media and the authorities have absolute power, contestants in “Series 7” of The Contenders are chosen by lottery—six players must compete to kill each other, with the survivor/winner competing in the next series. Current champion Dawn (Brooke Smith)—who is heavily-pregnant—returns to her home town and finds herself pitted against a terrifying Christian nurse, a desperately unemployed man, an embittered old timer, a tough-talking teenage girl and a terminally-ill artist.

Writer-director Daniel Minahan stages credibly ragged action sequences (with the camera crew jogging to keep up and sometimes getting in the way), clever performances that hint at complexities the show tries to tidy away (especially from the underrated Smith), chilly or funny interview segments, and deep black satire (“reconstructions” are used for sequences the cameras missed or, crucially, where the show’s makers want to cover up part of the story they don’t want tell). These techniques skewer exactly the way real lives are transformed into soaps by contrived “reality TV” shows. —Kim Newman

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