A low-budget production with heart, will always be better than an empty one with money behind it
It is difficult to fully understand Hale County This Morning, This Evening from just one viewing. The Oscar nominated documentary has a particularly unique and raw style to its filming, and whilst this is mesmerising to watch, it pulls away from some of the stronger content within the actual narrative. It’s already a tough topic to connect with having no prior understanding or knowledge of what it involves, leaving a gap where the connection should be. This isn’t necessarily a negative quality of the film, but it suggests that multiple re-watches and greater understanding is needed to come to complete terms with that the film is attempting to portray.
Centralising around the lives of two young men growing up in Hale County, Alabama, there is a distinctly personal touch to the way the documentary portrays small town Alabama, coming across in not just the close up interviews and passages of conversation, but in the broader look at minor personalities and those outside the central ring of focus. This is as much a love letter to the area as it is an insight into how the families live day to day.
Yet this personal approach perhaps leaves more to be desired, showing just snippets of how it is to live in Hale County. There is clearly weight behind what’s been produced on film, but without the bottom layer of understanding, much of that goes wasted on an outsider audience. The love is evident, but what form the love comes in is not.
Despite the initial disconnect, the cinematography opted for by director RaMell Ross is simply astonishing, showing how important vision is, especially over the access to top level equipment. A low-budget production with heart, will always be better than an empty one with money behind it. However difficult the message can be to understand, if the passion is there, it will shine through.
So with one particularly wonderful shot of the wavering moon bringing Hale County’s sentiment round circle, Ross showcases his own understanding and his own feeling with this great vision. With a second watch currently unavailable, the incomplete understanding will remain at the forefront of my opinion of Hale County This Morning, This Evening, but that doesn’t mean the quality isn’t there, and at least some of it made the impression intended.
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