Review: THE TREBEK TECHNIQUE

I’ve been busy, and it admittedly took me a few weeks to get around to screening and reviewing Damien Harris’ short film The Trebek Technique. Damien, the writer and director, did send a short snippet along with the film, but I really had not researched much about the plot of The Trebek Technique. So judging by the title only, I guess-described it as both “a story about someone winning Jeopardy!” and a “documentary about Alex Trebek”.

Let’s just say I was very wrong.

The Trebek Technique actually follows our main character Gracie after she is hit in the head and diagnosed with Sportsperson Answering Syndrome (SAS), a disease that causes her to speak in an over-excited yet rigid manner similar to an anchor of a sports program. Her doctor recommends a remedy called “The Trebek Technique” where, essentially, her odd manner of speech is cured so long as she answers every question with another question — as if she were on Jeopardy!.

Harris’ short film is absolutely darling and the premise is perfectly silly and heartwarming. It’s an Australian film so naturally the accents are charming (and the cultural differences did find a way to bring out my ignorance –– at the start of the film they show a game of netball and to be honest, I initially thought it was just a shitty portrayal of a basketball game. But that’s a me problem).

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The Trebek Technique’s running time is just under 15 minutes which held it back from expanding into what could have been interesting social commentary. The surface-level silliness had potential for a meatier plot but, as a viewer, the moment of understanding or truth usually experienced in films never came.

Why am I watching Gracie’s story unfold? What am I supposed to be learning?

These questions were never answered. I wish The Trebek Technique dove into the impact such a syndrome would have on Gracie’s life and relationships. SAS would, in theory, hinder her life drastically and as a viewer I wanted to know how Gracie’s day-to-day changed. Perhaps, for instance, the world is not willing or able to conform to Gracie’s condition — just as the world is often not well-equipped for people who struggle with real handicaps.

While the concept of Sportsperson Answering Syndrome is silly, it could have tackled even larger issues past being a fictitious disease with a topical remedy. Produced by Elfenshot Films (a self-described amateur film production gathering) the film truly does scream ‘amateur’, as the cringe-worthy stock music and choppy editing don’t do the film any favors. When the lack of a solid soundtrack and editing seemed to hold the film back, the storyline should have picked it right back up. But unfortunately, it didn’t.

Nevertheless, I liked Gracie a lot. Brydi Frances played the part well and is down-to-Earth and relatable, as I if I were watching my own friend on screen. Seeing how the strong lead captured my attention in just 15 minutes, I can only imagine how Gracie’s character could flourish in a more robust film. In the end, I did care about Gracie and her struggle despite the story’s lack of more complex insight into the real world.

But why hold a lack of resources against them? The Trebek Technique is a great short film with a unique plot, and a distinctive story like this one can be hard to come across.

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