SLAMDANCE: Documentary Feature
Title: The Mad Writer (2023) Director: Zachary Kashkett Writer: Zachary Kashkett Studio: Union Editorial IMDb Plot: With his star on the rise, Hip Hop phenom L'Orange confronts a stunning diagnosis that threatens both his hearing and his burgeoning career. Joe Says: Director Zach Kashkett successfully humanizes the curmudgeonly L’Orange and presents a helluva show along the way.
The underlying set up of Zach Kashkett’s feature The Mad Writer is slightly reminiscent of Bryan Fogel’s Oscar-winning documentary Icarus. Icarus originated as Fogel wanting to film a story about the personal effects of performance-enhancing drugs in cycling. He ended up getting a front-row exposé with the chief architect behind Russia’s Olympic doping scandal. The movie is totally worth watching.
For The Mad Writer, Kashkett wanted to spotlight his musician friend, beatsmith Austin Hart aka L’Orange, because Kashkett thought L’Orange’s curmudgeonly behavior deserved to be shared with the world. What he got was an unexpected look at a disease – a disease that causes loss of hearing – hitting a musician on the rise.
Fate, sometimes, is a fun playmate.
The Mad Writer begins as a breezy look at an artist who clearly does not want to be the subject of a documentary. Other than dealing with a case of being too-cool-for-school, L’Orange is wholly uncomfortable with a camera following him; being asked personal questions; probing for clever insight; and it all makes for great footage. The Mad Writer is an engrossing documentation of a creative soul at work, trying to live, making music, walking a dog, and oh yeah, falling in love. Kashkett successfully humanizes the curmudgeonly L’Orange and presents a helluva show along the way.
And what happens along the way is that L’Orange discovers his ears are bleeding. Blood, you see, ain’t supposed to flow out of your ears. This tasty treat is the result of a medical condition called cholesteatoma, which is as painful to have as it is to pronounce. Hart learned he had tumors growing in both ear canals. Not good. Even worse? Cholesteatoma leads to permanent hearing loss. How a rising star musician deals with the fact that he is going deaf is a rather nasty kick in the head.
Through the ordeal, Kashkett dignifies his friend. Hart’s girlfriend, Leah Lawson, brings a welcome gentleness to the story – and especially to L’Orange himself. Music might be L’Orange’s passion but both Kashkett and Lawson have given Hart life.
Although a deeper spotlight on L’Orange’s music – other than the quick clips at clubs – would have enhanced the artistic side, Kashkett does a great job in showing the life of the artist off the stage and the successes such a life brings.
Check out Zach Kashkett’s site for more info on The Mad Writer documentary: themadwriterfilm.com
Be sure to catch The Mad Writer – and many other indie projects – over on Slamdance
A version of this review appears on Cinefied.com
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