A Dream Dressed In Black Review

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 11.57.22 AM
Genre: Experimental
Year Released: 2018
Distributor: Unlicensed

Origin: New Zealand/Mexico
Running Time: 5 minutes

Rating/Recommended Audience: PG
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: A Dream Dressed In Black is certainly a unique film. I can’t think of many others that are like it.
-Special thanks to Dan Sadgrove for correcting me on some of the information.

-A Dream Dressed In Black is streaming on Vimeo.

Fun Facts:
-Despite taking place in Mexico, that is not Spanish that’s being spoken by the second narrator. That’s Nahuatl which is an indigenous language from Mexico.-A Dream Dressed In Black got a Vimeo Staff Pick, and it’s director Dan Sadgrove’s fourth award of that nature so far.

-This film was shot in Sayulita, Mexico. It’s a town with over 5000 people and it’s based in West Central Mexico in Nayarit state.

For roughly three years, I had been researching the cultures of indigenous people. I guess after finding out about the Standing Rock Protests sparked it. I saw some videos and I’ve read some of the works of Winona LaDuke and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, for example. When I visited Ecuador last year, I managed to visit some indigenous communities in Zumbahua and Alausi. It was a great experience overall since I never seen too many people like that here in America. How ironic that I live in a state sharing a name with one of the tribes, yet I rarely had the chance to see anyone of their namesake or with other tribes.

Then some Kiwi filmmaker decided to inadvertently expose me to that subject once again.

A Dream Dressed in Black is a short film that focuses on some of the indigenous people in Mexico. The narration starts in English before switching to Nahuatl quickly. The images fill the screen with the sea and the community in which they live in. This film begs the question of what would happen if these communities in Mexico let alone the rest of the world would resembled if the rampant colonization of their countries never happened.

The cinematography was wonderful here. Many shots taken during day and night really shine bright with all of the beauty and darkness around the town. The scenes revealing an impoverished community in all of it’s colors. There’s a mix of jungle, ocean, and a crumbling micropolitan environment around. The camerawork rivals that of mainstream films with several times the budget of A Dream Dressed in Black.

While the intentions of showing this community are certainly grand, I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed and even confused at times. There are so many random shots going on that I got lost in what Sadgrove is trying to say with his message. I thought the narration was too abstract and even pretentious. It’s good that nothing is spelled out, but even everything was too delphic for me. There’s also poverty porn going on with how the communities are shown with beat up cars and dilapidated buildings. I would’ve liked to have seen people in the community on camera talking about their lives in this small town in Mexico.

A Dream Dressed in Black was ambitious, but it’s hindered by it’s vague and pretentious presentation. I can’t disagree with the camerawork because there’s little negative qualities with how everything was filmed. The lyrical aspects were way too abstract and make the overall message way too vague even for artsier viewers like myself. I wasn’t a fan with how pretentious the narratives and sequence of imagery was and it felt like Sadgrove was showing off his filmmaking skills. It takes more than pretty images and fancy cameras to make a compelling film. Therefore, I can only find it average at best. This community deserved better.

Adjustable Point System:

Add 1-2 points if cinematography is all that you care about.
Subtract 1-3 points if you want your short films to have more of a concrete story.


-Impressive visuals
-Fitting soundtrack
-A semblance of hope in what I could grasp of the narrative

-Pretentious presentation
-The meaning of the indigenous is lost
-Trying way too hard to be artistic

Final Score: 5/10 points

Content Warning: The only grisly thing in A Dream Dressed in Black is that there’s a scene where someone cuts their own hand with a small machete and it bleeds quite a lot.

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. A Dream Dressed in Black is property of Dan Sadgrove. The image used is from Vimeo and is property of Dan Sadgrove.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s