RaMell Ross’s Hale County This Morning, This Evening is a beautifully realised documentary study of African American real lives in Hale County, Alabama. To some degree, it can be seen as a creative or intellectual response to Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, the classic 1941 work of photo-reportage by James Agee and photographer Walker Evans that recorded the lives of depression-hit white sharecroppers from Hale County. But as film-making, it is more personal and engaged than simply that: it feels as if Ross has created a sustained kind of euphoria, a 76-minute epiphany of love for his community, and the use over the closing credits of Billie Holiday singing Stars Fell on Alabama is very moving.
The director developed this project from coaching basketball and studying photography, activities that allowed him intimate access to high-school and college kids and to their families’ lives – at school, in college, on the basketball court, in church, hanging out. You might call his resulting film À Propos de Hale County, were it not for the resonance and passionate empathy of its tone, far from satire. It is an ambient study, or mosaic of moments, slices of life with only the most discreet and unemphasised single narrative thread – a couple who are about to give birth to twins, one of which is, heartrendingly, to succumb to sudden infant death syndrome.
Film - Producer - Laura - Poitras - Citizenfour
The film’s producer is Laura Poitras (who made Citizenfour, about Edward Snowden) and its creative adviser is Thai photographer and film-maker Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The influence of each can be seen here. There is an edge of realist steel and a shimmer of insight. The music and the sound design are at least as important as the imagery, especially in one extended scene (using what is perhaps a locked-off shot with the director not present),...
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