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“What is the orbit of our dreaming?” asks one of the title cards interspersed through RaMell Ross’s experimental documentary about the African American community of Hale County, Alabama. A lyrical meditation on the Black Belt experience, and the parameters of representing it, the film’s focal points are Daniel and Quincy – the former a college student and an aspiring basketball pro; the latter a young father working at a catfish plant. Ross creates a 360-degree view of their lives, depicting the town’s political disenfranchisement without making misery porn out of it.
Hale County… does this by abandoning a linear narrative, discarding the restrictions of conventional documentary form. Images are edited associatively rather than sequentially; drops of perspiration become rain, a rabbit narrowly escapes death, young men in baseball caps and football shirts ride horses like cowboys.
Assembled from 1,300 hours of footage shot over a period of five years, during which Ross lived and worked in Hale County, and pruned to a near-perfect 76 minutes, the film works as a collage of everyday moments that dovetail seamlessly between the sublime and the banal. Indeed in its most mesmerising scenes, the alchemy of duration and focus elevates these moments to something more profound; there’s poetry in the way the camera watches as Quincy’s son Kyrie, a gurgling toddler at this stage, runs back and forth across the family’s living room, exhausted but defiant and entirely unaware of the limitations of his small body. If this makes it sound like an inaccessible art project, it’s not; the photographer and film-maker’s feature debut has been shortlisted for an Oscar.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Hale County, This Morning, This Evening review – poetic and profound | Documentary films