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Hale County This Morning, This Evening (2018)Hale County This Morning, This Evening (2018)

When the photographer RaMell Ross moved to the town of Hale County in rural Alabama back in 2009, he taught photography and coached basketball.  He also started to film the everyday lives of the black community there across five years. The result is this debut film that he wrote, filmed, edited, and directed. The 76-minute documentary has impressed many critics for its non-linear and highly impressionistic quality. Some have compared it to disconnected dream sequences. There are scenes of a birthday party, a child getting a hair cut, numerous takes on church life, basketball and football practices, and teenagers horsing around and just hanging out at home. Other images are deliberately surreal, like leaves blowing across a parking lot, the billowing smoke of burning tires illuminated by the sun shining through a tree, and several time lapse sequences of the night sky. The film has no narration, and very little dialogue from the subjects. A dissonant sound track befits the local poverty and historic racism of time and place. Hale County won a Special Jury Award for creative vision at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, and then was short-listed for an Oscar. It later aired on PBS and also won a 2020 Peabody Award. I watched this film on Amazon Prime Video.

Dan Clendenin:

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