DVD Review - Turtle Hill, Brooklyn (Special Features)

Ricardo Valdez (left) and Brian W. Seibert
in a scene from "Turtle Hill, Brooklyn"
Brian W. Seibert and Ricardo Valdez write and star in the bi-national, day-in-the-life, party movie and drama dubbed Turtle Hill, Brooklyn. Some have compared it to The Boys in the Band (1970). Seibert and Valdez's film is extremely more lighthearted and fun. It's also a lot less gay than the 1970 play adaptation. Some might think differently given that the opening shot is a close-up of a rainbow-sprinkled cupcake.

Yet, if you listen to the DVD's commentary, the rainbow sprinkles are not there because it's representative of the movie's gayness. They're representative of the movie being, as Valdez says, "festive." The movie revolves around Seibert's character as he and his friends celebrate his 30th birthday party.

Listening to the commentary, I love how Holly Lynn Ellis, one of the movie's actor-producers, pointed out that Seibert who is shirtless in the opening scene has tiny nipples but no one catches that Valdez who is also shirtless in that morning scene apparently has a third nipple or at least a nipple-shaped scar on his upper abdomen.

Ryan Gielen, the director, joins the conversation, but Valdez dominates the commentary and steers the talk into an analysis of the couple's relationship, their behaviors and interactions. This audio special feature therefore becomes a study of the couple, like listening to scientists dissect, metaphorically, animals in a zoo, trying to understand why they do what they do.

It's less about the technical aspects of how the movie was made that most cinephiles might be interested. No speak of camera lenses or visual influences! No, the commentary is more about the psychology and the sociology at play here.

Gielen does explain the approach to the movie where all of a sudden a bunch of characters is thrown on screen and the audience is dropped in the middle without much context or back story. Gielen reduces it to the analogy of wanting to make the audience "a fly on the wall."

There are some nuggets like what Ellis reveals was the hottest or in fact the sexiest moment on set, according to the director of photography. We also get Valdez's penchant for telenovelas, or Mexican soap operas, as well as his comfort and ease of playing a character he wrote that is close to his true self and doing it all in his own home. Seibert who is Valdez's real-life partner may or may not have had that same realization.

Both Gielen and Valdez really get at the heart of what the movie is during their comments over the movie's iconic piƱata scene, which is actually perfect. If you don't listen to any other part of the commentary, listen to that.

I also like Ellis and Seibert's remarks about gay cinema. Ellis and Seibert particularly talk about the idea of coming out and how this movie is and isn't about that. They say in movies and the culture-at-large it's important to get past "coming out" as being the focus of a gay movie or "coming out" as only being a gay thing.

The only other special feature on the DVD of note is a photo gallery. The photo gallery is actually pretty funny because it spotlights Emilio. Now, you won't know who Emilio is unless you listen to the commentary. Emilio has an amazing moment in the movie at exactly the 1-hour-mark that was totally unscripted, which anyone watching would appreciate but the true beauty of it requires embracing both special features.

Four Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended 14 and Up.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 19 mins.


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