Series 7: The Contenders

Series7contenders Year: 2001

Writer: Daniel Minahan

Director: Daniel Minahan

Budget: ?

Gross: $171 478

have you ever seen that reality show where they go into a town, hold a random lottery to select five individuals, then they give these people a gun and the last one alive wins?

ok, well the reason you haven't seen it is because it doesn't actually exist.  however, it is the premise to the great film, Series 7: The Contenders - and lets be honest.  it doesn't actually sound that far fetched.

the television show is called 'The Contenders' and the movie is produced as if it is doing a marathon of the entire 7th series (or season).  there is an announcer, television graphics and even teasers with clips from what will be coming up next when they get back from commercial (no, they don't actually go to a commercial, but it sure feels like they could).  for a film with, what i assume, was a very low budget, the production design is almost perfect.

each contestant is provided with their own cameraman who follows them everywhere they go and the movie is edited together with such a great understanding for how reality tv works.  i have often watched reality tv and thought about how much it felt like a scripted show/movie, and Series 7 captures that without it feeling like a scripted movie. this might have something to do with the fact that director minahan got the idea for the film while working on a real reality show (i'm not sure which one).

while there are still quite a few reality shows on tv today, this film came out back in 2001 when the craze was just hitting its stride - Survivor premiered in 2000 and kick started the gluttony of reality shows that followed, from Temptation Island and Big Brother to I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, Lost, there was that one where contestants had to burn their passports and agree to live on the resort/island for an in determinant amount of time (all while hooking up and double crossing people of course).  the need for each show to be more extreme, sexual, and conflicting then the last was a trend that made them ripe for satire and The Contenders took them on brilliantly - hey, and don't forget that there was actual talk years ago about broadcasting an execution on live tv...

the performances in the film are great.  the main character is played by brooke smith - who you might remember as buffalo bill's prisoner in Silence Of The Lambs. brooke plays dawn lagarto who is the reigning 2-time Contender champion as well as being 8 months pregnant.

i caught this movie during its short run in the theater back in 2001 and did my part to get as many people i knew to go check it out as well.  this was minihans directorial debut (he has a co-writer credit on I Shot Andy Warhol) and he hasn't made another movie since.  instead he has been working in tv, directing episodes of The L Word, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, Grey's Anatomy, Commander In Chief and Big Love.  i don't know if he will ever make another movie, but i do know that the one he has made is well worth remembering and seeking out.