Sun 15 Dec 2013
It is probably better sometimes to see a film after the buzz is over in order to appreciate it – its good as well as its weakest parts. The break-through film of Alma Harel was very much talked about when it was released a couple of years ago. I have seen it only now and I can probably better enjoy its best parts, as well as wonder about other without necessarily being influenced by the chorus of praise (some justified) which accompanied its release.
The landscape seems to belong to a post-apocalyptic film. On the deserted shores of a sea that was born by an accident a small community of people deprived of almost everything tries to survive. Yet this is not the planet after an atomic war, and this is not the Sea of Aral either, but a real landscape and real people in the state of California, in a place located at measurable distances from all the services available in one of the most sophisticated states of the USA. The destinies of several people are being followed in parallel. A boy with behavioral problems whose parents went to jail are may be in danger of being denied parenthood if they get in any kind of more trouble. A teenager who was born and raised in the violent suburbs of a big city and has seen death and violence, and came here in the search of the right path for overcoming his social condition. An old man who survived a life of working in the oil fields but never abandoned his passion for booze, smoking, women. All the stories are human and credible and real. This may look like art fiction, but is actually a documentary of a special kind.
The art dimension of the film is provided by the each of the characters dancing at some point in time. Each of the dancing episodes is so well integrated in the whole movie that it looks quite natural. Dancing may not be part of their real life, but Alama Harel made it look like it is. Yet here comes also the problematic aspect of the film. We get a glimpse of life in one very extreme area of today’s America, with its people. It’s real life and yet there is some manipulation here, because there was a cameraman (maybe the director herself) some place to catch what looks like pieces of truth. It’s beautiful but I could not escape a feeling of artificiality. Yet Alma Arel is certainly a film-maker to follow, Let us see what subjects she will pick next.