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Ballast (2008)Ballast (2008)

           Ballast is a device used to control stability, and stability is exactly what a black family in the Mississippi Delta searches for in this drama. Lawrence is a convenience store owner who's reduced to a silent hulk of a man when his identical twin brother and business partner is killed in a tragic accident. His brother's widow, Marlee, deeply loves her young son, James, who's quit school and is stealing from both his uncle and mother to buy drugs from thugs. Marlee is a fiercely independent woman, but is fired from her job ("I'm invisible to them"), which forces her to deal again with her estranged brother-in-law. Ballast has won numerous international awards, including two from Sundance for directing and cinematography, and a third nomination for Grand Jury Prize. The rural isolation (the exact locale remains nameless) and deep poverty of the delta does make for stark cinematography, but I found this a slow-moving narrative with a deeply unsatisfying and abrupt end. But the use of hand-held cameras and non-professional actors lend this film a feeling for the real problems of real people in forgotten places.

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