On Needing to Come Clean

Colin Farrell as Roland Bozz in Tigerland, image:tigerlandmovie.com

Apparently George Bush’s isn’t the only record being cleansed. Tell me if this story sounds familiar: after transferring to a southern backwater army base at the senseless height of the war, a charismatic Texan bad boy does everything he can to not get shipped off to Vietnam. I know what you’re thinking, but no. It’s from Colin Farrell’s first starring role, a little film called Tigerland.
The Tigerland script came from a couple of first-time writers, and premiered at the 2000 Toronto Film Festival. Shot in a mere 28 days with a handheld 16mm camera, for less than $10 million, Tigerland apparently has a gritty yet unassuming documentary-style feeling of authenticity. On the official website, the director cited both “Danish director Lars von Trier’s Dogma 95 [sic] movement” and Frederic Wiseman’s Titicut Follies as inspiration. Pretty good indie cred so far.
Reviews praised the solid, even powerful, performances, as well as the visceral camerawork of Matthew Labatique (Pi, Requiem for a Dream), and Rotten Tomatoes’ rating is a respectable 71%. Yet distribution for the film was so feeble (5 screens in NY/LA, 2 weeks, $140K US B.O.), reviewers as late as last spring were describing the film as “still unreleased.” [Details are on IMDb, it’s available on DVD, and you can rent it. Maybe they’re lazy reporters.]
Just another worthy indie that unfortunately failed to find an audience, you say? Maybe, except that the distributor who buried it in October 2000–during the height of the presidential election, mind you–was Rupert Murdoch’s 20th Century Fox. And the director? Joel Schumacher.
Now here’s a real scandal that demands immediate investigation: 1) Are these really the same people who made Phone Booth, and 2) did Joel Schumacher really make a decent movie?