Hale County This Morning, This Evening is an unconventional documentary of sorts, but it makes sense for photographer RaMell Ross to make his feature-length filmmaking debut with this project. After all, it’s essentially an assortment of photographs that have come to life. The film captures fragmented life in Hale County, Alabama; creating a fly-on-the-wall visit for audiences who observe the community during routines and conversations. Only a few subjects are interviewed on camera, but they speak openly and honestly.
The documentary reminded me of 2016’s Cameraperson, a film that also featured snippets of unique footage designed and edited in a way to give audiences a special perspective of unseen life. While some readers may interpret this as high praise, it’s not exactly a complimentary comment. Both Cameraperson and Hale County This Morning, This Evening may succeed in delivering an immersive experience through unforgettable images, but there’s not much else to these movies. Filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Cemetery of Splendour) served the role of “creative advisor” on Hale County This Morning, This Evening which explains the contemplative nature of the film, but RaMell Ross doesn’t give viewers anything to think about outside of the visual compositions.
As uneven as the Life in a Day film series is, those movies at least allow audiences to follow an identifiable thread while they dive into multiple diverse perspectives. Avant-garde docs like Hale County This Morning, This Evening only become personal and extend outside of their own artistic merits when the filmmaker eventually grows bored of their own gift to identify abstract beauty.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie