Director: Frank E. Flowers
One of the first lessons taught to new writers seeking outlets for creative expression is the old adage to “write what you know.” University of Southern California Film School graduate Frank E. Flowers took this advice to heart, utilizing his background growing up in the exotic Cayman Islands for his first major film, Haven. With a structure most likely inspired by Kurosaws’ Rashomon and the early films of Tarantino, Haven tells numerous stories simultaneously, jumping back in forth in time and switching points of view on various hyper whims of fancy. As the film begins, we meet Bill Paxton, an American businessman who after getting a fax alerting him that the feds are coming to investigate some shady business dealings, packs up a duffel bag full of cash and his eighteen year old daughter Pippa (Agnes Bruckner) to their haven in the Cayman Islands. Once in the deceptively beautiful surroundings of sun and sand, we realize along with Pippa that their haven is really a façade as she encounters the violent underground of island gangster boys, the constant drug scene and danger lurking in the so-called paradise. Pippa’s story is put on the back burner as a second one begins that takes up most of the film’s running time, featuring Orlando Bloom as a poor young fatherless fisherman who falls in love with a wealthy, beautiful black teenage girl (the radiant Zoë Saldana). Unfortunately, perhaps due to his race or his lack of prospects, her family rejects the match and the two keep their love hidden until they are caught and the girl’s brother enacts vicious revenge on Bloom. I’ll stop there as not to reveal too much more but I can assure you that a second viewing of the film may be required as Flowers’s ensemble piece gets far more complex and cinematically challenging with its constant shifts in chronology. While initially the screenplay by the precociously bright twenty-four year old Flowers dazzled Hollywood (and actor Bill Paxton) with its maturity and authenticity to the Cayman setting, Haven has since been banished to the shelf after debuting over two years ago at the Toronto Film Festival, perhaps due to the challenges and confusion of the film’s structure. So the question remains: why the recent DVD release now? My two word response: Bob Yari. Yari, the visionary producer of not only Haven but also the Academy Award winning Crash has always had an eye for young talent, creative ventures and a willingness to take risks and acquire properties the public may not quite be ready for with his productions including The Painted Veil, The Illusionist, Prime, Thumbsucker, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, House of D, Laws of Attraction, The Matador and A Love Song for Bobby Long. Due to the recent smash of Crash with a similarly themed look at race and crime with a diverse, ensemble cast, Haven was finally given another chance. While its brutal dialogue may not suit all tastes and it’s not quite as good as its predecessors (Crash, Traffic and City of God), those interested in a darker view of an island mostly known for spring break will definitely want to take a look. Just be prepared and perhaps view with a friend, as things get a bit clearer on either a second viewing or in conversation afterwards.