Director Chris Eska has a history of working with non-professionals, so in searching for someone to play the role of the boy Will, the filmmakers looked extensively at every school within 200 miles of their base in Gonzales, Texas, and auditioned four to five hundred kids locally (at 0:35:50 in the DVD commentary). Regardless, they found Ashton Sanders in "the most boring way possible, which was through a regular casting call" in Los Angeles. Ashton's agent submitted him and he came to at least two callbacks (at 0:48:00 in the DVD 'SAG Foundation Conversations'). See more »
At 1:04:30 when Will and Nate are returning, Will wakes up and there is no Nate. Behind him there is a tree with water bottle hanging.
When Nate shows up on the tree there is a white bag hanging in the same place. See more »
I saw you talkin to tat gal back there. Ever ad a gal o your own?
Don't. They trouble.
Not all o em.
Yeaa, all o em
[5 second pause]
But they werth it.
See more »
Strong execution of strong story around end of US Civil War, however not about slavery and related violence. Not Django Unchained II, but something completely different
I saw this film at the Ghent (Belgium) film festival 2013, where it was part of the section American Independent. You may wrongly assume this is Django Unchained II, given the key words in the synopsis, but it is something completely different. Its main topic is not about slavery nor its embedded violence. Of course, the environment is unmistakeably derived from the end of the US Civil War, and bounty hunters looking for escaped slaves are present in a prominent role too. Nevertheless, the civil war is not the main issue in this film, but rather the unsettling circumstances and the chaos resulting from it, in which process everyone has to make difficult decisions.
The whole film kept my attention throughout the full 94 minutes running time. It perfectly showed dilemma's that are prevalent in times of war, like who to follow and who to trust. Not the ending you'd expect, however, which is a surprise until the last 5 minutes.
All in all, I cannot say I enjoyed this movie, as "enjoy" would be not the appropriate word for the subject at hand. But casting and acting are spotless, and developments are evenly paced over the time, among which a few you did not expect. I certainly felt drawn into the story along with the main characters, neither of them completely good or bad, just trying to cope with the sorry circumstances. This film ranked 11th for the audience award, score 4.28 out of 5.
There was a Q&A after the screening with director, editor and writer Chris Eska, Below paragraphs are not a review, but only reflect some notes I scribbled down during this Q&A.
Given the uncommon combination of functions, the very first question was how it is to be a director and an editor in one person. His reply sounded logical, since editing is actually where the final film is made. He admitted that it is not easy to cut away good footage. It still is a very difficult process, but marketing pressure dictates rules for the optimal feature film length.
About the writing process: It was not exactly clear from the outset that the US Civil War would become the main subject. Still on the lookout for power structures as a central theme, like in his previous films, and given the 150 years anniversary of the civil war, the chosen subject seems a natural choice only in hindsight. The additional element of black people being used to catch other blacks, just emphasizes the power structure theme, power hierarchies never being simplistic and straightforward.
About casting, especially the amazing young boy, 14 years old at the time, and his first time on screen. Looking for a suitable boy, he went to many schools 200 miles around to finally have him. Subsequently he found out what type of character the boy wanted to be. Everything he needed to play such roles, was taught him on the set. It is a delicate process since you cannot easily unlearn things.
About the obvious realism in this film, the reply was that he attempted to make a more mainstream film. Maybe the art-house variety, but still making a move in the mainstream direction, where it is most important to grab the audience. At all cost, he avoids to be constrained by a genre, like coming of age.
About filming locations: All parts of this film are shot in places that are somewhat symbolic, in the direct neighborhood of the last hold of the confederacy. It proved difficult to find natural spaces, without obvious symbols of modern times, like noises of airplanes or automobiles, or electricity poles and street lights.
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