LAFF Review: The History of Future Folk
Brooklyn-based folk singer Bill plies his trade in seedy bars, performing in a red jumpsuit and helmet and explaining that he is a visitor from the planet Hondo. The backstory is his daughter’s favorite bedtime story as well, and he faithfully recounts to her the journey of General Trius and his search for a new homeworld for the Hondonians, as a comet slowly but surely makes its way toward a collision course with Hondo. Upon reaching Earth, the story goes, General Trius planned to release a virus that would clear out humanity in preparation for Hondonian take-over. Instead, he heard music for the first time and decided not only to spare Earth, but to live among them and become a musician.
With such an unlikely premise begins one of the most charming and heartwarming films I’ve seen in quite a while – exactly the kind of experience you always hope for when you go into a relatively unknown quantity like the films the LA Film Fest shows in their “Beyond” sidebar. Future Folk is a real band, a duo that’s been performing in New York City for years using this backstory (even more elaborate in real life than in the movie), and the film takes their imaginative approach to music performance and makes it real. Nils d’Audlaire is not an actor, but plays Bill/Trius with a sweet naturalism, while bandmate Jay Klaitz (who has Broadway, film, TV, and video game credits) carries the more overtly comedic side of the film as the Almighty Kevin, come from Hondo to try to get the mission back on track.
With the threat of invasion from desperate Hondonians looming ever presently, Bill and Kevin try to figure out how to save both Hondo AND Earth, all while Bill tries to hold his family together and Kevin takes time out to woo an attractive policewoman. There’s a lot of absurdity, but it’s perfectly balanced by the incredible sincerity of the script and actors, not to mention a raft of witty songs about the Hondonian experience (Kevin’s intro song is about farming spaceworms). And though the film is low-budget and most of the sci-fi elements are only talked-about, not shown, the effects that are here are extremely well-done.
Films like this are often awkward, trying to do more than they can quite manage on their budget, or noticably working to balance different elements, but The History of Future Folk balances sci-fi, musical, romance, and comedy without missing a beat, and I spent the whole running time (an all-too-brief 86 min) with a big stupid grin on my face. The film isn’t taking itself seriously, but the characters are, which makes for a winning combination, ripe for crowd pleasing cult film success. By the end, the entire audience was joining in yelling the band’s rallying cry “Hondo!”, and while the ending is rather convenient, it feels right.
Here’s a clip from soon after Kevin lands on Earth and joins Bill in his performances.
Directors: John Mitchell and Jeremy Kipp Walker
Screenplay: John Mitchell
Starring: Nils d’Aulaire, Jay Klaitz, Julie Ann Emory, April L. Hernandez, Dee Snider, Onata Aprile
Running Time: 86 min