Alexandrian Films

Govindini Murty … The Girl
Nick Nyon … The Terrorist
John Barrett … The Bounty Hunter
and The Voice of Isfahan Jones

Produced, written and directed by Jason Apuzzo

Executive Produced by
Govindini Murty

Photographed by
Jason Apuzzo

Music by
Stephen Greaves

Edited by
Frank Bay

Sound Design by
Tak Fujimora & Jason Apuzzo

Art Direction & Costume Design by
Isabella Conti

Line Producer
Kurt Needleman

I received the DVD I ordered of Kalifornistan Tuesday and watched it Tuesday night.

I’ve met Jason Apuzzo and Govindini Murty at the Liberty Film festival, as an indie filmmaker, myself. I’ve had conversations about the esthetics of film with Jason.

I’m also fairly familiar with Jason and Govindini’s writings and interviews, and saw Govindini when she was doing guest appearances on Fox News.

I’ve also watched Jason’s previous feature — Terminal Island — and a short student film he made, San Pedro.

Here’s the thing about Kalifornistan. Regardless of Jason’s political intents, he is too much of an artist first and an ideologue second for Kalifornistan to have much utility as a propaganda piece.

It is, first and foremost, an art house film.

It is, secondly, a live-action comic monologue narrated in the voice of a manic cartoon character.

It is, thirdly — as was Jason Apuzzo’s first feature, Terminal Island – an homage to noir films.

And it is, fourthly, as much of a love letter to Jason’s favorite shooting location — the harbor area around San Pedro, California, where he also shot Terminal Island and San Pedro — as Manhattan has been for Woody Allen.

The film’s story, such as it is, follows a largely-offscreen deranged Islamic terrorist as he plots the nuking of Los Angeles, is sent to then escapes from Gitmo, and overall is stalked by a bounty hunter while he stalks and unsuccessfully tries to rape an exotic dancer. Hijinks and violence ensue.

Oddly, this was close to being the story, such as it was, for Jason Apuzzo’s first feature, Terminal Island. Kalifornistan comes close to being a remake.

I don’t think I can emphasize enough how incredibly weird this movie is. It’s Taxi Driver meets Bugs Bunny. It’s Fellini meets Kubrick.

Kalifornistan is so bizarre you really should be required to drop acid before seeing it — or at least blow some chronic while watching it.

You take the classic gonzo movies — Freaks, Reefer Madness, Plan 9 From Outer Space — and it’s right up there on the “Oh my God I can’t believe this” meter. It overloads the senses, got me to laugh, and despite her lack of nudity Govindini is still smoking hot.

If not for Jason’s neocon politics blacklisting him, I can’t imagine this film not becoming a film-festival favorite. But of course he’s shot himself in the foot for that. Believe me, I know all about doing that from my own experience. The ideologues who program the major film festivals won’t notice that by choosing an insane Jihadi as its viewpoint character, Kalifornistan is vastly more a biting satire on American culture than it is a dramatization of a Michelle Malkin rant. Using the terrorist in this film as a representative of Islamic Jihad makes about as much sense as using Heath Ledger’s Joker or Jack Nicholson’s R.P. McMurphy as representatives of American imperialism.

It is so self-consciously art house that it astounds me formerly conservative and now neocon publications like Human Events and National Review are even noticing it. I assume it’s because of Jason and Govindini’s past credentials. But I almost can’t believe they watched the movie before writing about it. It is thoroughly useless in making any sort of coherent political point.

Film is a presentational, rather than a literary, medium. What a filmmaker’s personal beliefs are, and what a film presents, are often a disconnect. Of course Deconstructionism of what a fictional story — filmed or written — presents would require me, as a reviewer, to eliminate whatever Jason Apuzzo’s intent might be from my viewing of his film.

But as a storyteller, myself, who struggles hard to make what I write and what my audience perceives as consonant as possible, I’ve always been hostile to the Deconstructionism philosophy. This, then, creates the danger C.S. Lewis warns about in An Experiment in Criticism, that instead of doing my job as a reviewer of a film or book I may instead attempt to psychoanalyze its author.

I’ll take that chance.

Kalifornistan identifies so thoroughly with the viewpoint of its anti-American comic narrator that I wonder if this is Jason Apuzzo’s passive-aggressive way of telling the neocons to piss off without them even realizing it.

And maybe he doesn’t even realize it, himself.

For one thing, the movie doesn’t have any sort of traditional narrative structure. It’s non-linear. It has a series of false climaxes before ending on an anti-climax. I can’t find an ounce of suspense in it.

For another thing, it doesn’t have a lead actor. The viewpoint character — the from-Toontown narrator — is off-screen for the first part of the movie then when we finally see him, it’s beside the point.

Kalifornistan is not a studio-budget movie. It’s more than likely that some of its narrative faults and limitations were a result of lack of money.

Jason Apuzzo is, first and foremost, an excellent cinematographer. For all its budget challenges the movie is beautifully shot.

But I’m not about to suggest Jason for an Oscar as either a screenwriter or director. Jason has expressed admiration for many classic films with traditional narrative structures. That in abandoning narrative structure he also abandons suspense is, for me, an enigma.

Is this film worth the nineteen bucks including shipping I paid for it and the 90 minutes I spent watching it?

It was for me, or I wouldn’t be telling you about it.

You can buy the DVD at

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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