BEST FILM - 2006
Hansel and Gretel
In the course of teaching a 35mm production class for his Catholic home-school co-op(!), Marine St. Croix-based provocateur Jon Springer conjured this, a gorgeously atmospheric silent-film adaptation of Hansel and Gretel. (The film premiered in November at the inaugural "Fearless Filmmakers" screening at the Riverview, then played at the Bryant-Lake Bowl in March as part of IFP's "Cinema Lounge.") Abandoned by their "godless parents," a girl (Karina Poyerd) and her young brother (Springer's son Michael) discover a toad that has escaped from a haunted forest. Fearing the Witch might cast a spell on them, they decide to return the toad—but this only incites the Witch's covetous nature. While the director who used the zombie genre to tell of Christ's second coming ("Living Dead Girl") and an Orwellian dystopia to contemplate the position of straight men in society ("Heterosapiens") doesn't assign an obvious symbolic meaning to the wicked witch (is it TV?), the moral here is that parents should not only watch their children, but take responsibility for forming the kids' minds and characters. Which is precisely what Springer is doing "The Wood Witch": lovingly guiding his son through an impeccable first performance.