Self Medicated | Movie Review

self medicatedAfter a brief introduction to The Antagonist Movement and its core values by Brooklyn artist, James Rubio, Texas-based punk band, Stout City Luchadores, opens the documentary with a raucous anthem while donning colorful luchador masks. The tone for rest of the film is decided less intense as the viewer is given an international exploration of the freaks and geeks, street artists, musicians, zine writers, print makers and everyone in between who make up The Antagonist Movement, an art collective that was formed by a group of unknown artists in 2000.

Vignettes of artists who form The Antagonist Movement are rounded out with a sampling of each artist’s area(s) of expertise and their personal drives to produce art. We are invited into the studios, streets, bars, rooftops, mountain tops, homes and lives of artists around the world. Each interaction is honest and open, and the personal stories revealed are inspirational, humbling and at times relatable.

Colorful urban jungles and beautiful sweeping natural landscapes bring the viewer along for the ride into the back alley of CBGBs in New York, through the art filled streets and mountains of Ecuador, visiting with film makers in Berlin and exploring colorful art festivals in Chihuahua, Mexico throughout 2013. Bold flashes of on-screen text serve as a tour guide. The back and forth between countries is at times quick, briefly giving a glimpse of a location with little explanation, but ultimately the volley visually reaffirms the unity between the various art scenes and cultures.

One of the many artists of The Antagonist Movement featured in Self Medicated is Juan Pablo of Quito, Ecuador who inspires with his DIY message that everyone has “the right and the chance to be heard.” Viewers get a behind-the-scenes look as he hand assembles fanzines, describing them as “a self-sufficient way of production and distribution” of art. Juan Pablo’s own fanzine, La Silla, is a photocopied and stapled self-published magazine featuring various types of artists. A later glimpse of the artist painting indoors captures much of the underground feel of the collective, and the documentary, as he describes his progress as, “trying to liberate the walls.”

Director Ethan Minsker is featured throughout the documentary as artist, founding member of The Antagonist Movement, and writer of Psycho Moto fanzine. His poignant face time with the camera, is at times jarring, but mostly inspirational. We see examples of how Ethan and the collective works with children in indigenous communities to give them hands on experiences through art workshops, in addition to his revealing personal story of the ways art helped him overcome a learning disability and difficult childhood.

Solidifying the overarching theme of the documentary is the use of art to overcome struggle, adversity, inner turmoil, a troubled home life and societal pressures. Minsker’s description of the importance of zines and the workshops The Antagonist Movement hosts takes that notion a step further, they serve to “take someone who is voiceless, and give them a powerful voice.”

In addition to art as therapy, throughout the documentary there is a common thread of the Antagonist Movement collective as a family, “not held together by blood, held together by core beliefs,” as featured painter and printmaker Shannon Marie Dougherty succinctly put it. Self Medicated explains that within the art world there is a general competitiveness and view of the artist as an individual. By contrast, throughout the film are examples of the Antagonist Movement’s support of one another in order to create an open, friendly working community of artists, something unique in much of the art world today.

Self Medicated is an art manifesto in film format, an open invitation to break free from the societal norms, to connect and collaborate with other artists, and to embrace what makes each of us unique.

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About Self-Medicated

Synopsis: “Self Medicated” is a documentary style film about art, artists, and the Antagonist Movement, a collective that was formed by a group of unknown artists in 2000. Begun in bars and clubs of the Lower East Side, in New York, the movement promoted lesser-known works by up-and-coming talent. “Self-Medicated” explores the reaches of this collective within the US and abroad and reveals the personal struggles many artists overcome through their art.

Directors: Ethan H. Minsker

Writers: Documentary

Rated: PG

Runtime: 98 min

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