“The Christian community has kind of left the art world on the back burner. My vision would be them treating the art world, the film world, with the same sense of urgency as they’re treating, for instance, an overseas mission. . . . This is an emergency for our culture, to be able to influence our film, our arts, the American pop culture in this way [through Christianity].”
— Director T Jara Morgan, in an interview with Life Site News
Ah, those ’90s-halcyon Miramax and Fox Searchlight days of driving to an outside-of-the-big-city six-plex with a screen or two dedicated foreign films. Films that you had to see that week — that Friday, in fact — before the manager, seeing the low box office, banished the celluloid from the silver screen, for the film never to be known beyond a few film dorks: like moi.
In the case of this feature film debut by writer-director T Jara Morgan, his Argentinian-shot, music-driven comedic adventure has bounced around the worldwide festival and indie circuit since 2012. And finally, thanks to the fine folks at Indie Rights Films (who always seem to be rescuing just the right films from celluloid obscurity to digital recognition), A Band of Rogues finally makes its well-deserved U.S. streaming and hard-media bow.
Hey, but wait second . . . all of these actors, as well as director T Jara Morgan, hail from Atlanta, Georgia, in the good ‘ol U.S.A. Uh, okay, so . . . then we’re reliving the ’90s-halcyon Miramax and Fox Searchlight days of driving to an outside-of-the-big-city six-plex with a screen or two dedicated to indie films. Films that you had to see that week — that Friday — before the film vanished from the silver screen.
In other words: Different film genre, but the same ol’ hard-road-to-mainstream-distribution travels for the non-Tinseltown film.
As a film academic and critic, I watch a lot of (new) films — and I end up not reviewing more that I review. Sadly, while I realize the writers and directors behind each and every film I watch have depleted their internal organs and inner essence into their digital images, there are just some films that I can’t get behind; there is no common good served by eviscerating the vision of a filmmaker: I ain’t Roger Ebert nor Rex Reed. I’m R.D Francis and R.D don’t play that.
But then . . . along comes A Band of Rogues: an obscure film on the run that deserves to be seen. Reviewing T Jara Morgan’s IMDb page, while he is still producing various video products for television and other outlets, he hasn’t made another feature in the ensuing nine years of the first festival appearance of A Band of Rogues. And that’s a shame. For a director to transition from two short films, to creating a film with an all-original soundtrack of songs (crafted by brother-producer Matthew D. Morgan and actor Luke Micheal Williams) tailored specifically to the character’s personalities and plotting of the film and — with a László Kovácian eye — expertly capture the Argentinean countryside to convey an analogy of the South American expanse to one’s spiritual freedom, is a film that deserves to be experienced.
As with his Christian message-based shorts that are worthy of investing your fifteen minutes, A Band of Rogues is a bit more quiet of a film; a not-so-heavy-handed, faith-based tale regarding the fate of one’s decisions, the importance of the guidance of friendship, and discovering your moral compass that a mass audience — both religious and non — can enjoy. No matter your belief system, man requires faith to survive. Faith has nothing to do with God. It has to do with man. Faith is what keeps us, keeping on. We all have to believe in an endgame to have purpose in our lives. And you can never have enough films pushing that message.
“Live a good life. For you. For me. For both of us.”
— Gabriel Consisco
Our “rogues” are a trio of American indie musicians touring their latest album in Argentina — when they’re arrested for drug possession (pot, coke, prescription drugs) and property damage at their hotel. Unable to make financial restitution, and to escape deportation to the U.S. where they’d be locked up for their prior drug records, they accept sentencing to a rehab center for six weeks before their court date. But since these “Ugly Americans” can’t assimilate nor contribute to the rehab’s society, they’ll be kicked out and sent to prison by the end of their first week. So the band decides, with the help of Gabriel, a sympathetic, English-speaking native Argentinean (standout Italian-Argentine actor Leonardo Santaiti of the Divergent series), to shanghai an old kitchen-delivery truck and make a (causal) run for the Chilean border.
The most fascinating aspect of A Band of Rogues is, that unlike most indie films about an indie rock band’s adventures, the film’s music isn’t just plopped into the film willy-nilly: our wayward musician’s personal stories unfold as chapters analogous to one of the tracks on their album — a Beatlesesque acoustic album rife with ukuleles, mandolins, and upright basses, just like the indie ’90s used to make.
Dude, I really enjoyed this movie — and its music. It made me laugh. It made me smile. It made me contemplate. It made me remember my radio and band roadie days. A Band of Rogues is filmmaking at its finest brought to us from an exemplary contingent of filmmakers, actors and musicians who deserve bigger and better things in their respective careers. Remain encouraged, ye mighty band of analog and celluloid rogues. Keep that Tinseltown faith alive, my brothers, for we all walk a common road in our love of telling stories.
Courtesy of the You Tube page of Rocky Farm Studios, we discovered two of Morgan’s shorts: Volition (2008) and The Life of a Ditchdigger (2006). His third short is All the World is Crying Out (2007). You can learn more about T Jara Morgan’s work at his official website. You can keep up with the latest on A Band of Rogues courtesy of Indie Rights Films and at the film’s official Facebook page and website. You can stream the film on Amazon Prime or as a newly-debuted free with-ads stream on TubiTV, and enjoy the original soundtrack on Apple Tunes and Amazon Music.
Other recent releases from the Indie Rights Films catalog we’ve reviewed include Banging Lanie, Blood from Stone, The Brink (Edge of Extinction), Chasing the Rain, Double Riddle, The Girls of Summer, Gozo, Loqueesha, Making Time, and Mnemophrenia.
Disclaimer: We did not receive a review request for this film. We discovered the trailer on social media, were intrigued by the film, and requested a screener. We truly enjoyed the film.