No Data Plan
Director/ Miko Revereza
Watched on MUBI
As much as I admire the young Miko Revereza’s insistence on his unadorned technique, his one-man band filmmaking strategy, his no-frills three day shoot and his brief five-week editing stint, his diaristic subtitles, his status as a longtime undocumented immigrant from the Philippines here almost by accident, and his affection for experimentation and fuck-rules filmmaking, this documentary, his first feature, is a colossal bore.
Shot over a couple of cross-country Amtrak train trips, and filmed entirely on the train and platforms of the route (except for one odd shot that appears to be filmed from a plane), the movie rattles along with semi-shaky handheld out-the-window vistas and cutaways to light shuttering across seats and floors and luggage. The occasional subtitles seem to be made up of both his diary entries and translations of phone calls with his mom. There is little structure to these random insertions, and little meaning as well, unless you read the supplemental material that has accompanied screenings of this film at True/False and Art of the Real, two highbrow festivals that really, I think, should try a little harder to harvest bracing, exciting new work that doesn’t insist a viewer has to either embrace this borderline amateur material or leave the theater.
We are meant to be challenged by Revereza’s blatant anti-aesthetic and, I guess, sympathetic to the idea that this is a young man exuberantly tilting and panning his camera towards whatever method grabs his attention, regardless of whether or not it grabs ours. The limited reviews have found some value in the film regarding Trump’s hard-assed immigration policies, and there is apparently an encounter with ICE agents boarding Revereza’s train in Buffalo, NY and scaring him into a search for a seat in another car. If this is meant to be the climax to the film (an incident he admits spurred him to rush the film to completion) it’s presented as a murky afterthought, and then explained in a wan voiceover to his mother.
But neither this incident, nor the larger question of immigration in America, seems to be much of a concern to the filmmaker. “I want it to be seen not for its issues but for the mere existence of being on the train,” Revereza said in an interview, “and observing the world and also the potential precarities of traveling across the geography of the United States.” Which is exactly what No Data Plan looks like, the undirected meanderings of a would-be auteur playing around with a video camera, killing time on a road trip.