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Ballast / George Washington

A boy flexing his arm.
July 24, 2022 - 7:00 pm


U.S., 2008

Shot throughout in a wintery blue light, the Mississippi delta itself appears bruised by the loss and hurt at the core of writer-direct Lance Hammer’s Black-centered family drama. In the wake of a young man’s death by suicide, his twin brother (Micheal J. Smith, Sr.), his estranged ex-wife (Tarra Riggs) and his 12-year-old son (Jimmyron Ross) struggle with the ghosts of the past, at first separately and then, compelled by fate, together. The family-run convenience store provides a tenuous stability but violence from the past and present ever threaten to overwhelm them. Hammer’s all non-professional cast delivers powerful performances shaped as much by silences and isolation as intense points of contact. A multiple award-winner at Sundance in 2008 for dramatic directing and cinematography, it remains a singular, hauntingly poetic masterwork of 21st century independent filmmaking.

35mm, color, 96 min. Director: Lance Hammer. Screenwriter: Lance Hammer. With: Micheal J. Smith, Sr., Tarra Riggs, Jimmyron Ross.

George Washington

U.S., 2000

George Washington’s crazy plot description can’t possibly describe its power. It loosely follows a racially mixed group of kids and teens in North Carolina, and the events that ensue when one of them (Donald Holden), in a deeply disturbing scene, accidentally kills another. In the wake of the tragedy his character assumes a super hero persona and wanders the area in costume, performing good deeds. The surrealism of this scenario is belied by the dead serious realism of the stunning performances by director David Gordon Green’s cast of non-actors, and the stark beauty of the environment and rural landscape. Green has openly acknowledged his inspiration in the works of Terrence Malick, but the results are both original and piercing.

DCP, color, 90 min. Director: David Gordon Green. Screenwriter: David Gordon Green. With: Candace Evanofski, Curtis Cotton III, Donald Holden, Damian Jewan Lee, Rachael Handy.