Real-Life Superheroes at the Slamdance Film Festival

January 28, 2011 : 1:03 am | by Aly Campbell

Kasey, Will, James, Hannah, David and I with some of the Superheroes

Kasey, Will, James, Hannah, David and I with some of the Superheroes

Last night a bunch of us ventured over to the Slamdance headquarters to catch a screening of Michael Barnett’s documentary entitled Superheroes.  We had heard a lot of buzz about the film, but weren’t entirely sure exactly what it was about or what it’s angle was.  I think most of us went into it expecting to see a bunch of costume-wearing, crazed, deluded comic book nerds who believe they have superpowers.  And yes, there were more than a few comic book fanatics involved in the film.  However, there were also ex-convicts, tattoo artists, school teachers, and even a fair number of women.  What they all had in common was a belief that the world is not as safe as it should be and a deep-rooted commitment to making it better in some small way.  And for the most part (with a few exceptions like Master Legend) they all seemed remarkably grounded, sane, and fully aware of the fact that they possess no actual superpowers.  We went into the film expecting to laugh at the people in it, and at the start of the film we definitely did a little bit.  But by the documentary’s conclusion, I think we all a new-found respect for these “real-life superheroes.”

The director, Michael Barnett, did a masterful job of getting to the root of who these “real-life superheroes” (or RLSHs as some of them refer to themselves) are and what it is they do.  From feeding the homeless to kicking drug dealers out of Washington Square Park to simply providing a presence in the community, all of these people play to their strengths to make a small dent in their city’s problems.  They fully recognize their limitations as average human beings and the danger they are putting themselves in, but they do what they do anyways because they believe it needs to be done and is worth the risk.  I started out laughing and ended up being inspired.  I don’t plan on becoming a “superhero” any time soon (or ever), but I do feel like I should do something more.  On top of the story, the cinematography (all shot on a fairly inexpensive digital camera by the director himself) was beautifully-composed, striking, and quite impressive.

The Q&A session was really cool because, not only was the director and some of the crew present, some of the subjects of the film stopped by to answer audience questions.  It’s not often that you get to the chance to ask a documentary’s subject questions, so it was a pretty unique and interesting experience.  Also, we got to take a picture with them (see above) which was pretty rad.  How many people can say they’ve been to two film festivals and met superheroes all in one week?!  It definitely made for an awesome night.  I loved the film — it was hilarious, heartwarming, and inspiring all at the same time.  I highly recommend seeing it, it’s well-worth watching.

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