Fantasia Film Festival Review: Fried Barry

Year: 2020

Runtime: 99 Minutes

Director/Writer: Ryan Kruger

Stars: Gary Green, Chanelle de Jager, Bia Hartenstein, Sean Cameron Michael, Johnny Piennar, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Steve Wall, Deon Lotz, Tuks Tad Lungu, Joe Vaz, Grant Swanby, Joey Cramer

By Harris Dang

You know you are in for a strange movie when it has a title like “Fried Barry” (2020). Since this film is showing at Fantasia Film Festival (best know for showcasing transgressive genre cinema) this year, the title could mean anything. What does it mean? Could it be about cannibalism ala fried human beings? Could it be about a pyromaniac? Your expectations will go through the roof with this one but one thing is for certain. After you have seen the film, you will instantly know that there are few films out there like “Fried Barry”.

Set in Cape Town, South Africa, Gary Green stars as the titular Barry, a degenerate lowlife who has been dealt with a shitty hand in his life. He is a father of one son (although he questions whether he is his or not) and the husband of Suz (Chanelle de Jager), who is clearly on her last nerve on tolerating Gary due to his neglect on his family and his ongoing activities on drugs, including sales and addiction.

After drowning himself in alcohol, Barry is walking home and suddenly, he gets abducted by aliens! Shown going through a disturbing series of procedures, Barry becomes possessed by an alien and he is going to have the weirdest night of his life; going through the deepest, darkest and seediest places of Cape Town.

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“Fried Barry” is one of the most surreal and unruly films in 2020; a wild descent into madness that has more than meets the eye as it highlights the perversion and compassion of the human condition. As expected from the synopsis, the story told episodically through a series of events and situations that Barry goes through and it is extremely entertaining to see how much it escalates.

“It says a lot that Green is able to achieve such beautiful work when the majority of it is expressed without dialogue; and it is more unnerving and emotionally stirring when you see what Barry is forced into, even without saying a word.”

With copious use of POV shots, slow-motion, undercranking, Dutch angles, rear projection, colourful lighting, a pumping musical score by Haezer and other filmmaking techniques; the visual extravagance and the frenetic editing (thanks to cinematographer Gareth Place and editor Stephen Du Plessis) staged by writer/director Kruger works beautifully in capturing the mindset of Barry, as he experiences hallucinations and physical deterioration as well as add to the fun factor in seeing the situations become increasingly bonkers.

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From being forced into drug consumption, going through many sexual dalliances, child abduction and even an outrageous unwanted childbirth sequence; no matter how outlandish and absurd the story pans out (which Kruger peppers with many moments of macabre humour), lead actor Green manages to ground the proceedings with his wonderfully expressive performance.

Whether Barry is experiencing wonder through the experience of sex or suffering through the aftereffects of meth or learning concepts of love and human interaction through his wife and son (or in some cases, television), Green imbues the role with conviction and heart; making the character sympathetic and compelling. Funnily enough, his work is reminiscent of the work of Kyle MacLachlan in the recent “Twin Peaks” series.

“Fried Barry” is an outrageously fun experience from writer/director Ryan Kruger that proves to be more substantial and deeper than its premise implies.”

It says a lot that Green is able to achieve such beautiful work when the majority of it is expressed without dialogue; and it is more unnerving and emotionally stirring when you see what Barry is forced into, even without saying a word. With scenes like Barry being beaten up for no reason by gangsters and being thrown into a world of deviance without showing any hint of showing consent, it highlights how disturbing and low humanity can go.

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But there are moments in the film where simple gestures and actions that Barry learns from others can show how compassion can be the light and guidance humanity needs and how it can lead to some sort of rehabilitation i.e. Barry learns dialogue from a movie to and uses it to show appreciation to his wife or how he tries to help feed his son spoonfuls of yogurt. It is also those moments that lend concrete credence that Barry’s journey in the film is essentially an allegory of drug addiction, which makes the drama strikingly effective. 

Overall, “Fried Barry” is an outrageously fun experience from writer/director Ryan Kruger that proves to be more substantial and deeper than its premise implies; a relentless, energetic orgy of illusory pleasures enlivened by moments of dark humour, human compassion and a fantastic performance from Gary Green.

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4 stars

“Fried Barry” will be showing at Fantasia Film Festival from 20th August to 2nd September.

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Photos copyright: The Department of Special Projects

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