By: Trevor Chartrand
Documentary filmmaker Delila Vallot brings the world passion and soul personified in her emotionally-charged character study, Mighty Ground.
The doc follows Ronald Troy Collins, a homeless man on L.A.’s skid row who struggles to kick his crack-cocaine addiction while singing on the streets for money. What truly sets Ronald apart is his powerful natural singing voice, and the citizens of L.A. who take notice. Thanks to the kindness of human spirit and Ronald’s perseverance, he gets his life on track over the course of this inspiring film.
Sprinkled with small doses of social commentary, Mighty Ground isn’t ever overwhelming or ‘on the nose’ with its political message; instead it offers an inspiring story that drives the message home. The people who challenge Ronald to overcome his obstacles are the unsung heroes of the story, and the film encourages viewers to follow their example without ever being too preachy about it.
Ronald’s growth as a character is demonstrated in the film as a testament to his kind heart and humility. Humble and honest, he doesn’t take anything for granted and works hard to get his voice heard. The saddest truth in his story is that if he didn’t have musical talent, he likely would have been overlooked like many of the addicts he shared the streets with.
Everyone deserves the opportunities Ronald receives, but there’s a slight bias in that Ronald had something to offer, a talent that many street dwellers don’t have. Mighty Ground makes a profound and noble effort to give voices to those who have none, but indirectly validates the ‘elite’ and not the greater whole of the homeless community. What about those who don’t have musical talent? For the L.A. citizens helping Ronald, as honest as their intentions are, there’s also a lot of money to be made off the ‘story’ of how they discovered him as an artist. I don’t think these are dishonest people, but I also don’t think we’re seeing the big picture necessarily. Having said that, the film is still well-intentioned, especially in such a passive society that usually wouldn’t listen.
And since documentaries are made in post-production, it would be an injustice not to mention the nuanced storytelling techniques utilized by editors Natalie Irby and Bryan Yokomi in Mighty Ground. A sequence in particular stands out significantly – as Ronald records one of his songs, layers are progressively added to his vocal track to demonstrate that as his quality of life increases, so does the complexity of the song. It’s moving to witness both his musical aspirations and his personal life all taking off at once. This powerful moment is brought to you by an incredible marrying of compelling sound editing and visual storytelling.
I could see this documentary being easily overlooked or underrated by the masses, and that’s a real shame in this case. Compelling and emotional, Mighty Ground tells a remarkable story of compassion and humanity. It’s a film that will encourage and challenge viewers to avoid judgement, and to look closer instead of looking the other way.
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Trevor Chartrand: @OhHaiTrebor