blu-ray

Distributor: Oscilloscope Pictures

Release Date: September 13, 2016

Region: Region A

Length: 73 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio (48kHz, 24-bit)

Alternate Audio: 2.0 English LPCM (48kHz, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 2.35:1

Bitrate: 29.88 Mbps

Notes: This title has also been given a DVD release.

title

“I knew about historical cases of hysterics and had always been interested in the broader phenomenon of contagions. The ‘Dancing Plague of 1518’ and ‘Lisztomania’ were some of the most fascinating cases to me, big cultural moments. I read long-form nonfiction articles on a daily basis and came across some more recent accounts about these episodes with groups of teenage girls in the United States. I obsessively researched these mysterious cases and started looking for narrative patterns. The majority of the episodes I learned about took place in tightknit groups of girls with a strong hierarchical structure. I was also surprised that none of the cases ever seemed to be formally resolved or cell phone videos online that girls had recorded of each other’s ticks, fits, and fainting. Re-imagining these subconscious movements as choreographies provided the foundation of the film.” -Anna Rose Holmer (Topics of Interest, Press Book)

Holmer’s debut film heralds an exciting new voice in filmmaking that is as disciplined as it is audacious. Her decidedly spare aesthetic is appropriate for the film’s relatively spare story, which relies more on character and behavior than it does on plot. Toni (Royalty Hightower) is an eleven year old tomboy who trains as a boxer with her brother at a community center in Cincinnati’s West End, but she becomes fascinated by the dance team that also practices there. Enamored by their strength and confidence, Toni eventually joins the group, eagerly absorbing routines, mastering drills, and even piercing her own ears to fit into the group. As she discovers the joys of dance and of female camaraderie, she grapples with her individual identity amid her newly defined social sphere.

Shortly after Toni joins the team, the captain faints during practice. By the end of the week, most of the girls on the team suffer from episodes of fainting, swooning, moaning, and shaking in a seemingly uncontrollable catharsis. Soon, however, the girls on the team embrace these mysterious spasms, transforming them into a rite of passage. Toni fears ‘the fits’ but is equally afraid of losing her place just as she’s found her footing. Caught between her need for control and her desire for acceptance, Toni must decide how far she will go to embody her new ideals.

The film’s themes are examined in a decidedly original manner, as one has the feeling that they are eavesdropping on real people and events. This is largely the result of Holmer’s documentary approach and interesting casting decisions.

“I fell in love with drill and the Q-Kidz simultaneously. We never considered any other team.  From the film’s conception, I wanted to cast a real community of girls for the film. Casting all of the girls from the same real life drill team meant that we could emphasize the authentic sisterhood that young women experience when they bond on a team. There is this texture or underlying current that I knew we couldn’t pull off otherwise. So we knew when we approached the Q-Kidz that we were looking to cast not only a few of the leads, but really cast the entire team in our project. The founder of the Q-Kidz, Marquicia Jones-Woods, immediately understood the film and supported the vision. She was on board before the first draft of the script and worked closely with us as an Associate Producer. Ms. Quicy (as she is known) played an integral role in the filmmaking process. We cast about 45 of the girls from her team of over 200 to be part of the film. The only role we considered casting outside of the team was Toni; however, we fortuitously found Royalty on day one of the Q-Kidz casting.” -Anna Rose Holmer (Topics of Interest, Press Book)

Some cinematic experiences are nearly impossible to encapsulate in even the most succinct review. This sort of film must be experienced and absorbed to truly be understood, and each viewer will process it quite differently. The Fits, for example, will seem a different film to each individual who watches it (mass hysteria be damned). Viewers will either love it or absolutely loathe it.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

The Fits is given a somewhat special release in that the Blu-ray disc is housed in an unusual digipak. Unfortunately, Oscilloscope Pictures doesn’t utilize the standard plastic tray for this release. Instead, the disc rests in a sort of folder or sleeve. This isn’t the best choice, because it doesn’t really protect the disc very well. Disc protection should always be priority one. However, it is a rather attractive package that showcases the film’s one sheet artwork.

The disc’s menu utilizes one of the film’s many silent scenes and the result is an attractive and easy to navigate disc experience.

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The excellent video transfer is rich in both detail and clarity with natural colors throughout. Contrast is also well handled as the black levels are appropriately deep without crushing. The disc’s bitrate is relatively high, but it seems as if it could be much higher considering the extremely short length of the film. However, it is still difficult to imagine the image looking much better.

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Both tracks included here are quite wonderful with the 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio being the most immersive and the obvious choice for anyone with a proper sound system. Both tracks are free from anomalies and mixed well. These are surprisingly dynamic sound options for what is essentially a small and intimate film.

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Special Features:

2.5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary with Anna Rose Holmer (Director/Writer), Lisa Kjerulff (Producer/Writer), and Saela Davis (Editor/Writer)

It is evident from listening to this commentary that all three participants are proud of the film, but there is little in the way of actual production information, character insight, or analysis. Everyone has been with friends that insist on recounting memories that aren’t shared by them personally. This track feels like a walk down memory lane, but with the viewer somehow stuck in the middle without any context for the conversation.

Dreams Come True – (HD) – (11:41)

“Behind the scenes” and audition footage illustrates a number of exclusive interviews with the Q-Kidz Dance Team founder, choreographers, and cast members “Beezy” “Legs” and “Karisma.” This is only slightly more substantial than the typical EPK fluff that one suspects to find on more recent Blu-ray releases, but viewers are given some interesting information and an authentic glimpse behind the scenes of production.

Presenting Royalty Hightower – (HD) – (04:44)

This exclusive on-set interview with Royalty Hightower feels as if it could have been woven into the “Dreams Come True” featurette, and this interesting (but less than comprehensive) footage would be all the better for it. The “behind the scenes” and audition footage make this a worthwhile five minutes.

Outtakes – (HD) – (04:34)

This “behind the scenes” footage should be a fun glimpse behind the proverbial curtain for the film’s fans, but there isn’t a great deal of revelatory substance here. One wishes for a more in-depth glimpse at the production methods utilized by the filmmakers.

Theatrical Trailer – (HD) – (01:22)

It is nice to find that the theatrical trailer is also featured as a supplement here. It seems like fewer and fewer home video releases include the original trailer, and this is unfortunate.

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Final Words:

The Fits is singular film experience and this Blu-ray from Oscilloscope Pictures offers viewers the best viewing option.

Review by: Devon Powell

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