‘Hello Dankness’ Review: Soda Jerk Cements Re-Editing as a Powerful Storytelling Tool

Mar 2, 2023

The word “unique” is frequently overused by film critics as a crutch to define something quirky we may have issues describing. However, if there’s one film out there that deserves to be praised for its uniqueness, that would be Hello Dankness, a glorious ode to the power re-editing has to change meaning and reorganize a story. So, in this case, I am not ashamed of embracing the cliché and saying you’ve never seen a film quite like this one before.

Developed over the course of four years by Dan and Dominique Angeloro, also known as the creative duo Soda Jerk, Hello Dankness is completely built from samples of movies, public speeches, famous songs, and even memes. They are then stitched together to create a vivid representation of American culture before and after the 2016 elections. Pushing the limits of what a documentary can be, Soda Jerk tries to document the political zeitgeist of a tortuous period of human history, when internet culture became a tool to be used by the rich and powerful to amass power as they have never done before. In this digital landscape, images are recombined and recycled to convey ideas that have real political effects. Therefore, there is no better way to explore the subject then to tap into the same raw material that defines our discourse.
It’s with this clarity about the new rules of the political game that Soda Jerk crafts a hilarious but incredibly poignant analysis of what happened in the US and the world before, during, and after Donald Trump’s election as president. In the process, they leave no stone unturned. Yes, their criticism includes the resurgent evil of white supremacists trying to fight a world that supports diversity. At the same time, it also throws punches at liberals who celebrate empty marketing gestures of inclusiveness while still contributing to the inhuman treatment employees receive inside big corporations. On both sides of the political spectrum, the pragmatism of everyday action has been slowly replaced by easy-to-consume ideas that circulate through memes. It’s a cinematic achievement that Soda Jerk not only understood the details of this process but have also managed to embody the same logic via their film.

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For just over an hour, we witness a brilliant deconstruction of cinema history, as classic movies are cut down and put together to tell an original story. From PEN15 to Robocop through Zombieland and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Soda Jerk goes through dozens of films and television episodes frame by frame. They add small overlays to help tell the story of Trump’s election and the manner in which we process complex emotions by joking about them. That’s why Vladimir Putin becomes the Phantom of the Opera while Sausage Fest is used to discuss gender conflicts.

It’s wild that Soda Jerk decided to brave the perils of copyright law to put a film together that feels at home on the silver screen, even though it draws inspiration from the language we usually see on social media. Hello Dankness is also a testament to how editing can change how we perceive images, as the movie shifts the contexts of iconic cinema moments and turns them into something completely different. If we evaluated Hello Dankness for its experimental value alone, Soda Jerk would already deserve a standing ovation.

The duo dives headfirst into some of the wildest trends that have emerged on the internet in the past few years, including the bizarre conspiracy theory that claimed Microsoft was actually behind the spread of COVID. They also question the shaky happiness liberals felt with the election of President Joe Biden who was far from being the perfect replacement for Trump. It seems like nothing is free from Soda Jerk’s acid assessment of modern politics, and people who are used to exploring the internet jungle will have a constant adrenaline rush by finding hidden details in each frame that sheds light on an obscure meme or reference.

With that being said, the film can demand a lot from the audience. To fully understand the masterful work Soda Jerk did with Hello Dankness, one must remember the internet became fascinated with a gorilla named Harambe and that a green frog suddenly became the symbol of right-wing extremism. Memes are so efficient in the political sphere because they are fast, emotional, and quickly fall into obscurity to let new parcels of information rise from the dark corners of the internet. As a result, viewers who aren’t up to speed on the latest meme trends will probably feel lost and bombarded by the internet overload of Hello Dankness.

However, don’t hold this against the movie. Yes, Hello Dankness uses a specific language that might alienate part of the public. But any attempt to make the movie more accessible would diminish the mesmerizing effect of watching a feature-length meme. Besides that, Soda Jerk knows how demanding a screening of Hello Dankness might be, so they kept the runtime at a tight 70 minutes. That means the movie never overstays its welcome, which only helps Hello Dankness to remain a fresh and unforgettable cinematic experience.

Rating: A

Hello Dankness had its international premiere at 2023’s Berlin Film Festival.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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