Year Released: 2013
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 74 minutes
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Filmed over the course of 2012, RX Vibe: Episode I – The Phantom Ginger is a documentary by Sasha Tolmachyov about his high school friend Ethan Yampolsky, Ethan’s musical alter ego Ethanol and Ethan’s rap group RX Vibe (with fellow rapper Johnny Walker). As the documentary rolls along, we see the young rap artist and friends work on their beats, their performances and talk about how they all came to know each other, and what they hope the future will bring.
I think the act of creating this film will show its importance someday. I think seeing a young artist answer questions about their life and music in an honest manner will be fun to look back on. I think the value of all this footage has yet to truly reveal itself, and maybe will do so in unexpected ways, like home videos of our youth tend to do from time to time.
Having said that, while I think the collecting and creation of the elements that went into this film is important, I don’t think this is all that interesting a documentary at this time. We don’t know where the careers of RX Vibe and friends will end up, and neither do they; their lives are still in such an early stage, everything about presenting this story feels premature.
There’s little arc to the story of RX Vibe because there hasn’t been enough life fit in to establish one. Right now, it’s a story of young guys who want to be successful rap artists, dealing with the day-to-day of their late high school/early college youth. We’re not even all that far into the “rise” aspect of a potential “rise and fall” tale. Much will change.
Obviously the young documentarian at the heart of this production knows that, which is why this is set up as the first in a series of docs about Ethanol and RX Vibe, and to that end I think they’ve got it right to be seeing this as something that will unfold over the next five to ten years. But there is a reason that many documentary filmmakers will film for years and then present a feature film, instead of presenting the footage along the way, and that’s partially because the narrative often doesn’t present itself until it is looked at later on. Many docs change along the way, and they change in private, and then the filmmakers reveal their best film.
This is a work-in-progress on public display, and while I don’t think that, as a feature film, this is very strong, I do think the idea is one that could work. Maybe as a ten minute short. Maybe less. Or, honestly, just keep filming and collecting and make a powerful film down the line, because the “show us what you got as you got it along the way” can often undermine that strength, and here I think it does.
I guess what I’m getting at is, I absolutely feel that, if RX Vibe is a subject that intrigues filmmaker Sasha Tolmachyov enough that he feels the need to film and document the group’s history as it happens, then by all means keep doing it. At the same time, I don’t think that there’s a real story to be told yet, definitely not a feature film’s worth, and this isn’t a math test where you need to show your work as you figure it out. Don’t undermine your opportunity to make a major statement with an incredible documentary down the line because you showed all your footage along the way. Exercise patience, be ruthless in editing and let’s see where the tale of RX Vibe is a few years, if not even longer, from now.
This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.
Posted on October 12, 2013 in Reviews by Mark Bell
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