The character of Sylvio, an “ordinary gorilla,” originally launched on Vine. By the time the 6-second video service shut down last year, the account had over half a million followers and gained almost 115 million loops.
Co-directors Albert Birney and Kentucker Audley expanded Sylvio’s world into a feature-length film thanks to a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $50,000. It sounds cliché to say you’ve never seen anything like it, but I assure you that in this case, it’s true.
The movie exists in a highly stylized and surreal world where it’s totally normal for a gorilla to work in a debt collection office. A lack of success collecting those debts for the company over the phone finds Sylvio getting assigned to “house visits” to try and get money back for his employer. He ends up at the home of Al Reynolds (Audley), a jovial man who inexplicably hosts “the only 5 day-a-week afternoon show in Baltimore.”
Yes, there’s a full television studio in Al’s basement and a small crew works on his daily variety show. When Sylvio shows up, he is mistaken for a guest on the show: Terrence The Mystery Juggler. As far as live television goes, it’s a disaster, but the home audience loves him. They bombard the phone lines asking when he’s going to be on the show again. Sylvio eventually becomes an essential part of the show, thanks in large part to his hit segment, “What’s The Ape Gonna Break Next?”
“Sylvio” is highlighted by a lovely score from Thomas Hughes and Gretchen Lohse, better known as the dreamy Philadelphia-based duo Carol Cleveland Sings. Nick Krill, who was in The Spinto Band with Hughes and currently plays in a band called Teen Men with Birney, also contributes music to the film. Several past and present bandmates pop up in audience shots on “The Afternoon Show” as well.
It’s a testament to the ingenuity and creativity of Birney and Audley that this quirky low-budget comedy is able to break through and resonate. Sylvio barely has dialogue in the film but he’s incredibly expressive. There’s no question that it’s all a bit weird, but there’s a marvelous sense of wonder in every scene that finds you rooting for this ordinary agorilla to see his dreams come true.
You can catch “Sylvio” again at 7 p.m. on Monday and 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, both screenings at the Alamo South Lamar.