starring Armin Mueller-Stahl, Hayden Panettiere, Ryan Kelley, Michael Angarano
written and directed by Eric Small
by Walter Chaw Stunning in its incompetence, Eric Small's The Dust Factory highlights by its existence the unpopular truisms that there are as many awesomely bad independent films as there are mainstream ones; that the terms non-genre and non-traditional usually indicate a directionless mess; and that working with kid actors is not now, nor has it ever been, anything other than a plugger's bet. It raises the question of why there aren't more mimes acting as Greek Choruses in movies before it answers it, and most damnably, it seems to ascribe some sort of moral failing to seniors afflicted with Alzheimer's. See, in Small's fantasy world of The Dust Factory, souls in limbo can choose to "take the leap" off a trapeze tower into the arms of some faceless metaphor: miss and they're returned to the "dust" of their lives; catch and they're thrown to "the next level," which is Heaven or a video game, though stupid either way. The sticky part about it (aside from the stupid part, which is all of it, really) is that it requires courage to take that leap. The suggestion then becomes that if you have Alzheimer's disease, in some part of your brain you're a coward for not dying or "returning"--that you have in fact chosen to remain in a state of declining capacity. It's one thing to pose an Afterschool Special about how kids in comas need a will to power, another thing altogether to suggest that grandpa's a coward for contracting a degenerative brain condition.