"Shotgun Stories" premieres at Tribeca | Rock Candy

"Shotgun Stories" premieres at Tribeca

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"Shotgun Stories," the debut feature film from Little Rock native Jeff Nichols, made it's North American debut at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York last night (it premiered internationally at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival last month). The audience, according to friends who attended, filled about 3/4 of the theater and applauded for a long time as the credits rolled. 

Full disclosure: I'm friends with Jeff and worked on the movie, which filmed in and around Scott and England in 2005. I got to see an advance cast-and-crew private screening last year. I had low expectations. It was done on a shoe-string budget, with a lot of amateur actors and crew (ahem) and it took Jeff almost two years to finish. But, even though quoting yourself is stupid, here's what I came up with after really thinking about it while writing a story I did in my old gig several months ago:

It's a quietly precise film, driven by the languid rhythms of the South, those in-between moments that might make up half a life—a pause in conversation, the buzz of the cicadas—that're rarely so carefully captured onscreen. Beneath that moodiness, an intensely dramatic family feud roils and finally bursts through. It's a film that trades in blood and kin and justice and revenge and other eternal themes.

And it's not just the biased who like it. Variety, virtually always first in line to review important films, couldn't stop pilling adjectives on, calling it: "A point-blank buckshot blast of inarticulate American rage, played with the disarmingly placid inevitability of Greek tragedy, "Shotgun Stories" is a precisely modulated yet cumulatively forceful story of a rural family feud turned deadly."

And earlier this week "New York" magazine put it on its "dozen films to watch" list. Here's what David Edelstein, one our most consistently perceptive film critics, had to say:

The Deep South: trailer homes, sprawling farms, tractors, and two sets of brothers, one abandoned by an alcoholic father, the other raised by the same man in a good Christian home. After the forsaken brothers make a scene at their father’s funeral, resentment escalates into tit-for-tat brutality that is increasingly lethal. It’s not the Hatfields versus the McCoys, but something far eerier: the Hayeses versus the Hayeses. The countrified-bass score detracts a bit from the brilliant, barbed dialogue. But Jeff Nichols’s film is a searing, then sobering exploration of primal injuries, with a truth that can’t be repeated too often: Violence is never cathartic.

The music jab is damn near a sacrilege in these parts. Nichols' brother, Ben Nichols, lead singer of Lucero, scored "Shotgun Stories." The film still has another screening today, one Monday, and another a week from today, on May 5, so look for more reviews to trickle in as the screenings pass.

Check back for updates throughout the week.

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