Combustible Celluloid
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With: Micheal J. Smith Sr., JimMyron Ross, Tarra Riggs, Johnny McPhail
Written by: Lance Hammer
Directed by: Lance Hammer
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 96
Date: 01/19/2008

Ballast (2008)

2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

For some reason, this film won a Best Director and Best Cinematography awards at Sundance, but it's really just Indie Filmmaking 101; the hand-held shaky-cam work and jump-cutting go all the way back to Breathless (1959), if not a million other films in the interim. Writer/director Lance Hammer tells a story about a broken black family in Mississippi; a man commits suicide and his surviving twin brother Lawrence (Micheal J. Smith Sr.) finds himself dealing with his angry sister-in-law Marlee (Tarra Riggs) and nephew James (JimMyron Ross), the latter of which has become involved with local drug dealers. Hammer apparently wishes to show the inaction of grief, but the best he can do is jiggle his camera around while Lawrence sits on his bed and stares out the window. The impatient cutting and pacing lurches directly to the point of the story: the bereaved family members, practically strangers to each other, will eventually help each other learn to loosen up and live again. (It's a favorite theme of nearly every Hollywood film.) Hammer has clearly been inspired by the masterpieces Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep (1977) and David Gordon Green's George Washington (2000), but has failed to grasp the tone or artistry, the willingness to pause, look around and occasionally ignore the rudimentary plot. [Reviewed at the San Francisco International Film Festival.]

DVD Details: Kino's DVD comes with several little making-of featurettes (totalling 37 minutes), and a theatrical trailer. There are optional English, Spanish and French subtitles. Critic

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