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Sfist

Director's Cut
by Gerald Peary

Does "four graduate students struggle to make their thesis films" seem a juicy premise on which to build a reality-TV series? That indeed is the master narrative of Film School, whose 10 30-minutes episodes kick off this Friday, September 10, at 10:30 p.m. on the Independent Film Channel (IFC). We land at the legendary New York University Film School, which boasts Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, and Amy Heckerling among its distinguished alums, and we watch four students take on the daunting task of putting together a professional-level short film while juggling courses and personal lives.

Leah, 24, is a punk-├Žsthete visual-artist Brown grad who includes blond wigs and black eyeliner among her conceptual guises. Her project: a therapeutic film that relives through drama her stressful relationship as a teenager with her wheelchair-bound mother, a victim of multiple sclerosis.

Leah flies to Oakland, California, to decide whether to cast her own mother. You see much of her tough-girl East Coast confidence slip away when she goes up against her hard-edged mom, Toni, whom she hasn't seen in three years. She decides to put her mother on camera, and from that moment, the film falters, as Leah herself becomes paralyzed by off-camera family drama.

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