Each of these independent films brings a fresh perspective to story-telling and movie-making. With exceptionally honest and intimate portraits of unusual yet quintessentially American situations, George Washingtonand Ballast create a poetic cinema experiences that address a difficult set of emotional circumstances with imagination and intensity while avoiding the clichéd self-indulgence that would threaten less creative film-makers.
In an unnamed city in the Rust Belt, a group of children play among the rubble of failed industry.
One boy, George, has a soft skull and wears a plastic football helmet to protect him from accidental blows to the head, which could be fatal. Even a small knock could do George real damage.
The group of friends leads an imaginative life, keeping secrets among themselves and playing, everything is mostly legal and innocent, but an accident happens that forces them all to keep a very real, rather tragic secret.
Conveyed in an atmosphere of melancholy wonder, the story of George Washington achieves a brilliant cinematic poetry. Emotionally engaging without becoming saccharine or pompous, the film stands as a quite interesting and densely nuanced allegory for childhood in a decadent America, where profound turmoil is sometimes more common than toys, love often comes too late, and even in the families held together by honest affection the disaffectation of hardship blows like a breeze through the empty factories where children play.
Dreams still survive, for the children, but they are dreams of superheroes and impossible deeds. Can these dreams sustain us until we bring work back to the factories? Can these illusions entertain us until we have forgotten the reason that we love so hard, if too late?
Director: David Gordon Green
A film with a very quiet center, Ballast is far from serene. The action unfolds at a natural pace, which the film insists upon with a convincing sense of grit and reality.
The story follows three characters as they deal with a death and struggle to come to terms with the emotional and practical effects of this loss. Set in the southern reaches of the United States, Ballast removes the audience from the hustle and chaos of the urban world in order to introduce us to the quiet and profound chaos that sometimes reigns in the human heart.
This film gets five stars out of five for originality of style and vision. The actors inhabit their roles with raw intensity that sparks real sympathy.
If you are interested in seeing what can be achieved with a small budget, a good script and cast of capable and well-rehearsed actors, check out Ballast. Also, if you are interested to see how drama can be translated to screen without the support of a soundtrack or score, this is a film to watch.
Director: Lance Hammer (Winner of the Sundance Film Festival Director Award in 2008 for Ballast.)