"Between reality ... and the truth."

Aspiring documentary film-maker Anna (Katherine Wendt, CUPIDITY) spends a year in the life of teen prostitute Talia (Brooke Anderson, SELF-INFLICTED).

Things kick off with a shaky hand-held camera observing from afar as pretty young Talia leans into the open window of a car and coos comely obscenities to the driver.

Offering a sharp paradox, the following scenes show Talia's home life - mundane, boring, ordinary. Talia flakes out on the settee, watching bored as her boyfriend Kevin plays on the Playstation. She only becomes enthused when he rings his friend Dave up to score some crack.

Kevin and Talia clearly love each other, but their's is a volatile relationship with it's fair share of face-off rows.

As the camera follows Talia about her business, both on and off the streets, it becomes increasingly apparent that she wants out of this lifestyle - but doesn't know what it is she wants as an alternative, or how to get it.

As the documentary develops, we are introduced to Talia's dubious friends Jenae and Jerry (Marieno Savoie, NEAR DEATH; MANIACAL), her ex-junkie mother, and Rebecca - who runs Live Entertainment, an amatuer porn video business offering Talia good money for a few films.

Talia further exhibits her lack of self-assurance when contemplating whether to work with Live Entertainment, when she asks Anna onscreen if she thinks it's wise to make the move. Anna simply shrugs and struggles to answer the question.

It's a nice move - as brazen as Talia is when she prowling the sidewalks for slut-hungry perverts, she lacks self-esteem and therefore falters in every row with Kevin, and hesitates at every crossroads in life. Her lack of confidence is deeply saddening.

When Talia eventually does accept the offer of film work, a painfully embarrassing scene follows where she is dressed as a schoolgirl and asked to play with herself on a bed (offscreen - sorry!). Anna is there filming the events with her cameraman husband, but cannot bring herself to watch.

As Talia discovers she is pregnant, then starts to talk of broadening her plans for a better life, the film takes a bizarre left-turn.

Talia goes missing. Three weeks later, her body is found - strangled.

Anna is loathe to end her documentary so inconclusively, and determines to find out who was responsible for the murder of naive, fragile, stupid little Talia.

From hereon-in SHORT SIDE OF NOTHING shifts from quietly fascinating mockumentary to amateur sleuth hour as Anna badgers local politicians, Talia's former friends and fellow hookers in her quest for the truth.

SHORT SIDE OF NOTHING is a great example of how well indie film-making can be done, especially on video.

Like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, the film benefits from using video as an instrument of the storytelling (rather than a budgetary hinderance), so we never question the lack of cinematic sheen. If anything, the hand-held video footage gives the film a sense of documentary-like realism and urgency, which is surely what writer/director Phil Garcia wanted.

The performances are uniformly solid with a lot of what appears to be ad-libbed dialogue helping tremendously in keeping things natural and realistic.

Although the story's a little thin it is at least handled in a very plausible way - the distressing fact is that this is how you can imagine prostitutes to really live. There's equal amounts of fear, resignation, determination, blind faith ... and Anderson (who started her career in Aussie TV soaps E STREET and HOME AND AWAY!) conveys all of these expertly.

There's nice (knowing?) nods to MAN BITES DOG now and again too, as Anna slowly but surely becomes more active within the film she's making (giving advice to Talia; rushing to her aide when a punter starts to beat her up ...).

In fact, it's only when Talia leaves the screen and the whole thing turns into a whodunnit that SHORT SIDE OF NOTHING starts to lose it's momentum.

Still, it's a strangely rewarding experience as a whole and for anyone interested in new independent films, I definitely recommend this - there's a technical and most certainly emotional intelligence about it that raises it well above the norm.

This screener DVD had a two minute trailer and no other extras to speak of, but it's the film that's up for review here ... and very good it was.

You can order the DVD, or simply read more information about it, by visiting

Sometimes it pays to be curious ...!

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Touch of Evil Productions
Region All NTSC
Not Rated
Extras : see main review