Published May 04, 2009At the end of 1991's Hearts of Darkness, Francis Ford Coppola tells his director/wife Eleanor, "One day some little fat girl in Ohio is going to be the new Mozart and make a beautiful film on her father's camcorder..." Nearly 20 years later, 12-year-old Emily Hagins of Austin, TX shoots a zombie flick on her mini-DV camcorder and Mac. Emily caught the film bug after watching The Lord of The Rings. Driven by youthful idealism, she engages neighbours and classmates to bleed and die before her handheld camera in Pathogen.
Her mum, Megan, is her de facto producer, sound woman and all-around ally. Though dad Jerry is supportive, mum protects and promotes Emily's cinematic dreams, yet she cracks the whip when her daughter's school grades drop. Their quarrels on set over conflicting visions and running overtime (familiar to any filmmaker) are poignant and funny.
You can't help but admire her passion. As one Austin film critic says in the film, Emily's enthusiasm is infectious and admirable. She possesses the courage, says her dad, to create art and take a chance in presenting it to the world. However, Zombie Girl poses a key question: is technology necessarily a good thing? Is it good that any child these days can pick up a camera and shoot without training or planning?
Emily attracts headlines because she is a novelty but by all appearances her zombie flick is a feature-length home movie plagued by lousy sound, bad acting and cheap special effects. Some may say, "Lay off, she's just a kid," but then why are watching her for 90 minutes? With kids uploading homemade video clips on YouTube, MySpace and blogs everyday, what's so special about Emily?
In Zombie Girl it's unclear how Emily matures as a person or develops as a filmmaker in the year or so she devotes to her picture. The filmmakers chose not to show a clip from her finished work. Some will agree with that decision. Others, like me, will feel cheated. The technology is here but doesn't talent count for something? Coppola's predication has come only partially true.