WARNING - SPOILER ALERT
"Where's Chloe?"- The title of San Antonio producer Brian Santiago's latest film ingeniously sparks the curiosity of moviegoers, and makes them ask themselves "Who is Chloe, and why is she missing?"
Before seeing the "documentary" at its premiere Thursday night, I read Chloe's biography on the film's Website, watched her daily updated video diaries, and checked out her Myspace page. Chloe seemed like a fun loving, adventurous 18-year-old trying to find her way in the world. The Website said Chloe heard a friend speak of the bohemian, squatter lifestyle in New Orleans, and subsequently decided to become a squatter so she could spread her wings and find herself. Many New Orleans homes remain vacant, as residents who fled their homes because of Hurricane Katrina have yet to return. Santiago said he heard of Chloe's journey, and offered to document it.
I'm usually not a fan of documentaries, but this one excited me. After all, I was itching to know where Chloe is. Most of the film was light and fun, and many of the character's met along the way are colorfully entertaining. I was happy that Chloe was fairly successful squatting, begging for money, and finding food here and there. Her confusion over the nature of her sexuality, sparked by a newfound, female, travel companion, was interesting and endearing. However, there were moments in the film that had me asking myself, "Is she for real?' At times, her naivety and wide-eyed wonder seemed over the top.
As the film went on, it got darker. Chloe increasingly struggled with her "love" for a "cute" drug-dealer that she met in New Orleans, after losing her virginity to him in a rough, disapointing way. Subsequently, she moves in with him, and begins doing heroin. The producers tell the audience that her boyfriend becomes so controlling that they have to sneak their cameras into the apartment to film Chloe.The movie ends with her bruised, and drugged up, saying that she is breaking out of his apartment in search of her female travel companion. You can guess what happens? Chloe goes missing. The producers hand out flyers, but to no avail. I mean, talk about a project gone bad! The subject of your documentary spirals down a rabbit hole of drug usage, you choose not to help her, and keep on filming, and then she disapears. How do these filmmakers sleep at night? The film's Website says, "All footage was filmed prior to her disappearance", and then shamefully plugs a link to buy "Where's Chloe" merchandise.
It wasn't until the credits rolled, that I realized they were sleeping just fine. Are you ready for this? Chloe isn't missing because she isn't real. I, along with the slew of people who have left heart-warming comments of encouragement to Chloe on the film's Website, had been duped. To my surprise this was a scripted, mock documentary. I left feeling uneasy, and at the same time relieved that she wasn't really missing.
Is it okay to present something as a documentary when it really isn't? Regardless, you've gotta give Santiago credit for putting on a brilliant media campaign.