Writer and director M.S. Kerr's Has Been/Never Was begins as a mockumentary but unravels to be much more than that. Through its simplistic dialogue-driven plot, the film explores the lives of artists, their dealings with art dealers, and the internal struggles that the average artist goes through.
At face value, Has Been/Never Was looks like your run-of-the-mill mockumentary, and perhaps not without reason. Most of the film was shot predominantly in one setting, a restaurant, and has a very limited cast, who once in a while talk to the audience and express their hidden sentiments.
However, over its close to one and a half hour running time, the film unravels, slowly exposing what it is really about; an appreciation of the art world, a focus on the feelings that artists have, turmoil they go through if their art does not impress its intended audience, the love they share of their work, the passion and dedication that they put into each of their paintings and most importantly the emotional
Shot by Bryce Riedesel and edited by both the director M.S. Kerr and Riedesel, the cinematography of the film reflects the minimalist nature of the film. The quiet and relaxed film allows the listener to focus on the dialogue between art dealer Oscar (played by Jim Kempner) and Rudy (played by M.S. Kerr) as they discuss an art exhibition deal. The film manages to subtly sneak in other themes such as the historical and contemporary lack of famous paintings by women in the art world.
Has Been/Never Was is a rich film that, while possibly deliberately lacking the flamboyance and color that we have come to associate with twenty-first-century films, still contains the “It Factor” that keeps you hooked to the last minute.