Growing up as a Canadian, I had always had the dream of one day becoming an American citizen. My proud Canadian friends and family frequently questioned my dream, and I would look at them and say this:

Oskars in “Family Instinct”

I wasn’t sure how to reach this American dream, but my first step was to immerse myself in American culture, and I did this by staying home on Saturday nights and watching FOX’s all-star lineup.

COPS, followed by America’s Most Wanted, and then a Cheater’s marathon which usually went on for two hours. Two hours of awesome-ness.  America’s Most Wanted usually scared me, but the reenactments always made me laugh. Cheaters’ was (and still is) great television, and more specially the “not to be missed episode!” where host Joey Greco gets STABBED.

I still watch COPS whenever it’s on. My favorite “segments” or “scenarios’” if you will, are usually domestic calls and or noise complaints. The police officers roll up to a random house, and when they open the doors and go inside, it’s a total nightmare factory.

But even with all the hoarder trailer homes, missing teeth, puddles of blood, and scary sun burned shirtless men, it’s all so very intriguing. It’s hard to stop watching, as our brain tries to process the insane situation that is unfolding on screen.

Watching FAMILY INSTINCT is kind of like entering an Eastern European domestic dispute COPS Nightmare Factory. (Have I sold you on this yet?) And I mean that in the best way possible. I mean it as a huge compliment.

Director Andris Gauja opens the doors for us and we peak into the unstable home of young mother Zandas, her bizarre Latvian family, and their insane neighbors’.  And it’s impossible to stop watching .

The heart of the film is Zandas, having had two children with her brother, she’s struggling to get by while he’s in prison. She’s a tough young gal, and talk about a tragic character. Yikes! (And in 2009 we all thought “Precious” had problems).  Although she’s tragic, Zandas is also amazingly bad ass, yet oddly charming. She’s the object of a number of men’s desires, breaking hearts on a daily basis.

Don’t Mess With The Zandas!

It’s a joy to watch her steal the show. She beats the crap out of men, squashes their attempts to show her affection, and screams with such passion that it gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.

FAMILY INSTINCT is haunting, strangely captivating, and oddly, very funny at the right times. It also has one of the best reaction shots that I have ever seen in a film.  It’s feels raw without feeling exploitative, real without being too invading.

There’s been some interesting press about FAMILY INSTINCT as it’s currently playing the festival circuit. Viewers noted that some of the shots felt set up at times- and Gauja has admitted to the press that some of the scenes may have been “heightened”.  So what! Who cares? It’s so fascinating to watch, that you never feel that you’re being Banksy’ed.

That being said, they are many questions that arise after watching the film, and this Sunday you’ll be able to ask them all.  Director Andris Gauja will be on the roof for a Q&A after the film and I can’t wait to ask him some questions of my own. Most importantly, how can I get my hands that beer that comes in a 2 liter plastic jugs? FAMILY INSTINCT is my favorite feature that Rooftop is screening this year, so please come and join us this Sunday – you will not be disappointed.  BUY TICKETS!