This is just first impression, for I do want to watch it again, preferable on DVD since PBS kept shooting those dumb banners across the bottom of the screen, which serves only to distract.
The movie is much what I anticipated. It seems especially hard for some local people to take. All those black folks! No moonlight and magnolias and gracious Southern living! Or is it the form as much as the content?
In a way the movie reminds me of Frederick Wiseman documentaries, which present detailed material usually about institutions (prisons, ballet companies, museums, NY Public Library among them) or communities with no identification of persons or any explanation of what is going on other than what you can pick up from just listening.
Ever since “Titicut Follies” in 1967 Wiseman has been recognized as one of the great American filmmakers, and the fact that I should mention director RaMell Ross along with him indicates some of my regard for the latter.
A difference is that Wiseman documentaries tend to be long. Ross’s movie is not.
He came to Greensboro on a short project, stayed on to coach basketball and help out in other ways. And he got involved with black families and gained their trust and took movies, lots of footage, of them over a period of several years. Then he edited down to the present hour and 16 minute cut. He has worked hard on the festival circuit, and he has brought his movie far. I can easily see why it was nominated for an Oscar, but if I had to put my money on a movie to win in that category, it would be on "RBG." Ginsberg is old, recovering from cancer, and a hero to the Oscar voters. But the Oscar voters can surprise.
Another moviemaker came to mind. Terence Davies, particularly his Liverpool trilogy: “Distant Voices Still Lives “The Long Day Closes,” and “Of Time and the City.” The first two are autobiographical fiction, a grown-up artist reimagining his life growing up in a family with an abusive father in Liverpool in the 195s. (They are, among lots of other things, musicals, and in some respects they resemble documentary but with everything carefully recreated.) The last, definitely a “documentary,” I view as a
I think I like Ross’s movie a lot.