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"Panda Bear It" (2020) Review: A Rapper Becomes an Endangered Species

Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.

Panda Bear It.

Panda Bear It.

Tea is Not a Difficult Task

In the independent drama Panda Bear It by writer and director Evan Kidd, a local rapper named Kamus Leonardo (Damien Elliot Baynum) is still feeling the tragic loss of his girlfriend Destiny. He’s lost his passion to write and perform, he can’t find it within himself to show up for work, and he's sharing an apartment with a panda bear that follows him wherever he goes.

The official plot synopsis for Panda Bear It lets you know that Kamus is struggling to get over the death of Destiny. However, the cool thing about Panda Bear It is that it’s kind of vague about it in the film’s execution. Judging by the on-screen character’s actions, the viewer can likely figure out that Destiny has passed, but Panda Bear It never comes out and actually says that she died. While officially knowing the fate of the character, being under the impression that she is just gone without a definitive explanation adds this extra layer of intrigue to Panda Bear It.

The film is a story about depression and lost inspiration. Kamus doesn’t feel anything anymore. He’s not happy or sad. He’s just numb to everything. He’s lost interest in everything he used to love. He literally just wants to rot living the rest of his life playing video games and eating a never-ending supply of cheese balls.

The panda feels like a manifestation of Kamus’s grief or at least his inability to move on. It’s been a year since Destiny passed and he still can’t get over it. At one point in the film, Kamus says he’d give anything just to argue with Destiny again. The panda mostly nags at Kamus whenever it’s on-screen, whether it’s being hungry, not having food, or needing to get out of the apartment. The panda isn’t necessarily a figment of Kamus’s imagination, but an embodiment of what he once had that’s attempting to push him towards acceptance and eventual progression.

A beautiful film.

A beautiful film.

Antelope Stew and Cheese Balls

Also, take into account that Kamus’s grief takes the form of a panda. Pandas are an endangered species (on the verge of extinction). Kamus’s desire to live and function properly is also on the verge of extinction or practically nonexistent. The two are one and the same; two kindred spirits teetering on seemingly inevitable death.

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Panda Bear It is a bit clunky overall as a film. The acting is stiff and the writing feels a bit disjointed. Wandering around in the forest for three days with no food while having your clothes nearly stolen from a trio of awkward hillbillies is an unbelievable form of therapy. Clocking in at just over an hour-long though, it’s difficult to throw harsh criticisms at it. The film seems to shine brightest when it’s just Kamus and the Panda aimlessly roaming around in the country. The cinematography is also stunning with lush visuals of the country sunset and the heart of what is otherwise an empty forest.

A still from the film.

A still from the film.

Another high point is that Panda Bear It works against stereotypes. The film is mostly about an African American rapper and his family trying to overcome something that has changed him forever. While in the woods, he stumbles onto a farmer (Eric Hartley), a Caucasian, who would otherwise be stupid and/or racist in a less creative film.

The farmer is actually kind to Kamus, though. He shares antelope stew and whiskey with him. They have a heart-to-heart that helps put Kamus back on track. When Kamus shares what he’s written, a feat he hasn’t been able to do since Destiny died, the farmer is the first to congratulate him and adores the work that he’s shared with him. Kamus and the farmer share a common thread that strengthens their relationship; Kamus with the loss of Destiny and the farmer with the loss of his father.

Heart-to-heart with the panda.

Heart-to-heart with the panda.

Panda Bear It isn’t going to be for everyone, but it’s also a micro-budget indie film (an estimated budget of $1,000) that is mostly the work of one devoted individual. Evan Kidd writes, directs, produces, edits, serves as cinematographer, and has a cameo role in the film. The film chronicles the journey of someone attempting to rediscover themselves after a tragic event. Panda Bear It has a concept that seems to borrow from the likes of Brigsby Bear, A Ghost Story, and Swiss Army Man with a little Blindspotting thrown in for good measure. It feels like the type of film that would have powerful effects on anyone who has ever experienced grief, the loss of a loved one, or depression.

If Panda Bear It sounds intriguing to you, it’s currently available to stream for free on Amazon Prime for Prime members.


© 2021 Chris Sawin

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