Leif (Zack Ratkovitch) and Emri (Glenn Payne) are two young men who have grown up on a destroyed planet Earth. The two friends wander about the wasteland, trying to find other people while they also search for water and food. Leif was taught to read by his mother so he’s very happy when they find a book. Emri can’t read, but he collects pictures of pretty women from magazines. While going through an old destroyed school, the duo comes across a copy of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” Leif is fascinated by the story and starts to believe that the tale must be true. He reads excerpts to Emri every day and points out the similarities between their journey and Dorothy’s journey. Practical Emri doesn’t think that there’s much of a parallel, but dreamer Leif is convinced that he and his friend are following in Dorothy’s footsteps. Then one day they find a tape recorder with a message from a girl who tells them where to go to find her. The girl’s name is “Dee.”
“Ozland” is a feature length fantasy film from writer/director Michael Williams and Shendopen Productions. The film has a clever premise and features some very haunting images. It is an atypical post-apocalyptic film because there are no evil warlords who must be overcome and a society that must be saved. Williams forgoes all of the silly high drama usually associated with this genre and instead tells the tale of two gentle souls who are just trying to survive. Leif and Emri go from place to place and do their best just to make it to tomorrow. Everyplace they visit is desolate with nothing but destroyed homes and crushed dreams. But when Leif finds the book, it gives him a purpose in life and a firm desire to go to Oz.
There is much to like here. Williams pace is gentle and deliberate. He slowly reveals the parallels between Leif and Emri’s journey and Dorothy’s, so as the duo begins to realize their connection to the book, so does the audience and that’s very satisfying.
The cinematography by Williams is also breathtaking. There are carefully composed shots that echo just how alone the pair are and just how devastated the world has become.
My only issue with the film is that it takes too much time to reveal Leif and Emri’s final destination. As the duo continues to move from place to place to place to place, the film loses energy and drive and that weakens its emotional payoff. The film’s conclusion should be filled with a sense of wonder, but unfortunately it isn’t.
Still, this is a unique film that uses a beloved children’s book as a starting canvas and applies it to an unlikely cinematic scenario. Featuring strong performances by Zack Ratkovitch and Glenn Payne, beautiful cinematography and an emotive acoustic score by Keatzi Gunmoney, “Ozland” is a very different kind of post-apocalyptic film.