Movie Review – His House

His House (2020)
Written by Felicity Evans, Toby Venables, and Remi Weekes
Directed by Remi Weekes

In the 19th, 20th, and now 21st centuries, Africa’s history is a testament to colonialism’s evil. There are constant think pieces published in the papers and magazines of note in the United States & Europe attempting to figure out what went so wrong for the continent. Recently, I saw one blaming it all on the tsetse fly. Colonists will do everything in their power to not accept their role in creating the horror inflicted upon the African people through the rabid extraction of resources. Sudan is an oil-rich country, and therefore massive conflict exists. Many people from Sudan and refugees that settled there having fled conflicts in their own regions have taken the dangerous trek up the Atlantic with dreams of possibly reaching Europe and the United Kingdom. His House is the story of two of these refugees and the horrors they face in their new home and those they bring with them.

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Film 2009 #180 – Ballast

Ballast (2008)
Directed by Lance Hammer
Starring Micheal Smith, Jr., JimMyron Ross, Tarra Riggs

It begins with the discovery of a man who killed himself with pills. His body is found in his home during the winter in a Mississippi Delta township and has a life-changing effect on the last three members of his family.

In the hands of a Hollywood studio this film would have felt the need to be over-emotive in its themes. Instead, first time feature director, Lance Hammer shows considerable restraint. Reactions are subdued and brooding, a truer reflection of how people deal with tragedy in their families. The landscape of rural Mississippi during the bitter winter adds to the tone of grief felt by the three main characters of the film. It’s interesting to note that the landscape is so wide open yet the characters all seem to be constrained and locked up in how they interact.

The plot follows Darius (Smith, Jr), Marlee (Riggs), and James (Ross). Darius is the deceased brother who attempts suicide on himself after discovering his brother. After recovering from the attempt, he delivers his brother’s will to the ex-wife and estranged son. Their various problems in life come to the surface and through their tense relationships with one another they come to an understanding.

The film presents an angle of the African-American experience rarely seen on film. Typically, we see only urban black youth in our theaters and Ballast focuses on the rural experience of the culture. The economic struggle appears more desolate and hopeless mainly because of the void-like expanse of nothingness surrounding them. Hammer chose to use local non-professional actors in the film and the choice results in amazing performances. The sadness and anger is so natural and real and truly displays the after effects of a suicide on the people left behind. The most revelatory aspect of the film is its abruptness. Throughout the film, jump cuts are used but most importantly the beginning and conclusion of the film are sudden. There’s a lot about the past we can assume from passing pieces of dialogue. As for the future, there are lot of plot points left unanswered but it fits with the cinéma vérité like tone of the picture. At the end, Ballast exists as a slice of life depiction of people dealing with tragedy across all fronts of their lives.