Thursday, March 12, 2020

Troop Zero: Young Earthlings on a Mission

José Alberto Hermosillo

AFI FEST FILM REVIEW: “Troop Zero” is one of the most refreshing movies of the year. An unforgettable underdog children’s adventure based on real-life events that are captivating audiences on Amazon Original - Prime Video.

In 1977, NASA sent out to space two Gold Records with "The Sounds of the Earth," inside the Voyager spacecraft. NASA extended an invitation to children from all over the world to record a greeting in their native language.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration commissioned a small town in Georgia to represent the country. Local children team up to compete for a slot in the recording.
Troop Zero cast at the AFI FEST red carpet. Photo José Alberto Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

In there, we meet Christmas Flint, performed by young and talented Mckenna Grace (“Gifted,” “How to Be a Latin Lover”). The absence of her mother makes the young dreamer feel that someone out there in space is listening.
Mckenna Grace, Troop Zero, AFI FEST. Photo José A. Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

To reach her goal, Christmas recruits a group of Birdie Scout misfits to compete against other more "normal" groups. The purpose is to earn the most “merit badges” to succeed in the mission. 

Participating in those trials will bring children together and will leave in them fond lasting memories of their experience.
Director Bertie, writer Lucy Alibar, and "Troop Zero" cast. Photo José A. Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

According to the directors Bert & Bertie, this vibrant and colorful film took two months of preparation and thirty-two days of shooting.

After reading the script, they were inspired to work in the original story of “the voice recording to space set in the 1970s,” something they considered meaningful because unconventional children were involved.
Bertie co-director of Troop Zero. AFI FEST Premiere. Photo José A. Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

Bert & Bertie collaborated closely with screenwriter Lucy Alibar, who also wrote: “Beasts of the Southern Wild” in 2012. Miss Alibar mentioned that she was open to suggestions, letting the actors collaborate during rehearsals.

In terms of creating such “diverse” characters, she said that "they never put colors on them." They only knew that they had to be racially mixed. Alibar also mentions she was inspired by her close friends: “They are so cool and different.”

According to the filmmakers, staging the dance scene was the most challenging part to accomplished.
Allison Janney and Viola Davis in "Troop Zero." Photo courtesy of Amazon Original ©2019 Prime Video

Having two Academy award winner actresses in the cast, Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”), and Viola Davis (“Fences”), made the young actors feel star-struck. But as soon they started working together with the celebrities, the youngsters gained the necessary confidence to act at their level. The young actors' performances are authentic and praiseworthy.

The audience may feel that the action of this “brat pack” movie takes too long to take off, but in the end, “Troop Zero” is a rewarding movie to watch.
Troop Zero cast, AFI FEST Premiere. Photo José A. Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

Other successful films that empower children and embrace the much-needed diversity in Hollywood are “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Hunting for the Wilderpeople.” These movies portrayed both adults and children in their unique and fantastic world as well.
Troop Zero cast. AFI FEST Premiere. Photo José Alberto Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA
The film teaches us that winning is not that important. What matters is to embrace our differences, accept each other the way we are, and to gain confidence by participating in something larger than life, that leads to personal gratification. 

“Troop Zero” is simple, but its freshness and lively characters exceed expectations making the audience enjoy the ride all the way to the end and beyond. 
Troop Zero cast and film critic José Alberto Hermosillo ©2019 Festival in LA

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“My Life as a Zucchini” The Animated Life of a Swiss Boy

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