Thursday, May 26, 2016

#ICFF16 Roberto Minervini's "The Other Side" Returns to Toronto

In March, Italian documentary filmmaker Roberto Minervini received a special mention Nastro d'Argento (Il Nastro Speciale) for his film, "The Other Side." It's recently been shown at the Palm Springs FilmFestival and Lincoln Center. On June 10, it will return to Toronto where it origianally premiered last year at the Toronto Film Festival.

The title, "The Other Side" presumably refers to “the tracks,” this being a disquietingly graphic portrait of America’s dirt poor, subsisting on a diet of beer, tobacco, heroin and crack in trailer homes in Louisiana and Texas. Brace yourself: Italian filmmaker Roberto Minervini will not flinch. You get more than a hint of what’s coming in the film’s opening scene, when a man wakes up in the bushes stark naked. This is Mark, and we’ll be seeing a lot more of him: shooting up, screwing, dealing, breaking into a school and shooting up some more. For all that, Mark’s a likeable guy, mostly. Which is more than can be said for the militia that pops up later, avowed libertarians training for the forthcoming revolution. Uninterested in (or oblivious to) documentary ethics or the supposed demands of narrative fiction, Minervini is carving out his own truth here. It’s an unpalatable one, to be sure, alternately pathetic and alarming, but you won’t doubt its authenticity, or its validity.  This is the other side of the American Dream: the human detritus, angry, abandoned, high as a kite.

Minervini is becoming known for his hybrid form of filmmaking, which shows people essentially play themselves, creating the look and feel of a documentary, while the director clearly intervenes to create situations rather than observe them. His work is among the most interesting to emerge from the US in recent years, which may be surprising considering he is an Italian who has decided to poke his camera into the margins of American society. On the heels of his superb trilogy of Texas-based films (The Passage, Low Tide, Stop the Pounding Heart), Minervini moves his focus to Louisiana, where we come face-to-face with a group of people who seem to have stepped out of "Deliverance." Faces carry the lines and scars of hard living, clothes are tattered, living conditions are chaotic. Some of his subjects are drug addicts; others are libertarian fanatics who hate the federal government. Yet Minervini finds a compassion and tenderness behind their gruff exteriors. Much of the film focuses on a small-time drug dealer and the girlfriend he lives with (and shoots up with). But, as "The Other Side" gradually shifts its attention to a group of local militia who are convinced that the feds are on the verge of declaring martial law and taking away their freedom, we are shown a more disturbing image of contemporary America. Sometimes it takes the eye of an outsider to provide a new perspective. Minervini is one such outsider. We feel he is at home with his subjects, as he peers into corners that many Americans choose to ignore.

The film will be shown on June 10 at 6:30pm at TIFF to mark their partnership with the Italian Contemporary Film Festival. The theater is located at 350 King Street West in the city of Toronto, Canada. Click here to join TIFF's Facebook event page. Watch the trailer...

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