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MEN GO TO BATTLE: Ambition, Poverty and the Risks of War in Western America

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By Roger Costa

Winner of the Best New Narrative Director at Tribeca and a sensation at both AFI Fest and Indie Memphis Film Festival, first time director Zachary Treitz is certainly one of the most promising young independent directors in current America. A sound professional who had worked in several indie cults such as “The Pleasure of Being Robbed” and “Frances Ha”, Treitz conducts his directorial debut with elaborated strength and extreme accuracy, proving a natural passion for the art that transcends into high quality filmmaking. Through the narrative of two brothers trying to survive amidst the Civil War, and the rigorous impoverished winter of Kentucky 1861, he examines elements of social and political importance such as the existential, financial and emotional challenges his characters must endure.

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Precisely constructed and paced with mysterious nuance, Treitz has at his favor the stunning cinematography and its use of natural lights, darkened shapes and angles, causing an impressive admiration for its techniques. The brothers are struggling to maintain themselves and their property during the winter and are suddenly moved by two different feelings: desire and desperation. As they bounce around the small country town, meeting neighbors, discussing their projects and ambitions, and participating on dancing gatherings, especially in a sequence when they search for medical assistance for a cut, they develop a fast-growing vulnerability for the women; on the same pace, they are dealing with the unexpected risks and consequences of the approaching war.

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The action moves fast from the quite friendly environment to the battlefields, demonstrating the same commitment to the art and the initial promising aesthetic- as the camera followed the brothers with a sense of poetry and melancholy, it also delves into the battlefields, brilliantly capturing the harm, turbulence, anxiety and fear of the situation.

An accomplished piece of art that blends historical facts, western genre and existential elements, “Men Go To Battle” is a statement of a new director’s admirable cinematic vision and his inclusion in the top-list to be watched.

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(Opens Friday, June 8th at Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue, New York City. A Film Movement Release)


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