MY NAME IS A BY ANONYMOUS
My Name is A By Anonymous is a true crime film that Shane Ryan has based on the story of fifteen year-old Alyssa Bustamante of St Martins, Missouri. In October 2009, Bustamante lured nine-year-old neighbour Elizabeth Olten to two graves that she had dug in the nearby woods and strangled, stabbed and slit her throat. Bustamantes diary entries state that she wanted to feel what it was like to kill someone. She was sentenced to life imprisonment. One surprise is just how faithful Shane Ryan is when it comes to mimicking the various Youtube videos that Alyssa Bustamante and her friend made, including restaging the ones with them persuading Bustamantes younger brother to touch an electric fence and with the two girls in smeared makeup play-acting shooting themselves in the head.
As the film kicks in with the two girls (Katie Marsh and Demi Baumann) wandering around talking shit, conducting random vandalism in the alley behind a supermarket, one is immediately reminded of the very similar troubled youth film Fun (1994), which followed two teenage girls on a trail of boredom and random violence, culminating in act that crossed the line into murder. When it comes to the scenes of them talking about blowjobs, rimjobs and masturbating, it becomes clear that Shane Ryan is trying to make a Larry Clark film the filmmaker who liked to make films detailing outrageous and out of control youth behaviour with the likes of Kids (1995), Bully (2001) and Ken Park (2002). Maybe you could also see a likeness to Rivers Edge (1986), a similar film about a teenager who conducted a murder seemingly for no reason than that they were reacting to social anomie.
I was not always sure what Shane Ryan was doing with the film. Much of it gives the impression that Ryan and his cast shot it on the fly on the streets. He makes occasional effort to shoot in the likeness of the original cellphone camera recordings left on YouTube by Alyssa Bustamante but the film stock is too high resolution to be convincing and this is soon abandoned. There is also no particular plot, just a series of vignettes and scenes played out between the various characters. You need to have a tolerance for this kind of indie and/or arthouse filmmaking and give My Name is A By Anonymous a certain amount of rope for it to work anyone who comes to it with more commercial expectations is going to get bored. The true crime story is alternated with two other plotlines one about a bulimic woman (Alex Damiano) who is abused by what the end credits tells us is her father and another about a woman who paints and performs music (Teona Dolnikova) who is also sexually abused by her father but at least stands up to it. None of these other plotlines have anything to do with the main true crime story, although all four girls are briefly seen walking together near the end of the film one gets the impression that Shane Ryan was trying to make a greater portrait of troubled teenage girls or else threw these other plotlines in to pad out the running time. This becomes decidedly confusing towards the end where what is happening regarding the killing is not very clear and it appears that the girls from the other storylines are the ones doing the killing rather than the one who did the actual crime.
Despite its lack of structure, My Name is A By Anonymous does hold considerable raw effect in much the same way that Larry Clarks portraits of troubled youth do. There is an undeniable shock to some of these scenes like seeing the deformed and hollowed rib cage of bulimic Alex Damiano in the shower, intercut with scenes of her purging. There is also a powerfully directed scene where Alex Damiano deals with a man (Domiziano Arcangeli) who comes in, talks lovingly and calmly to her but insistently takes her clothes off and has sex with her. We are not sure who this is her husband, her boyfriend or who and it is not until the end credits that we realise that this is meant to be her father, which gives the scene even more of a sting.