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The Other Side

Italian filmmaker looks at the struggles of the rural poor in Louisiana

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Italian filmmaker Roberto Minervini turns his lens on the struggling folks of a backwater Louisiana town, and it’s two parts ugly (drugs, violence, racism, hopelessness) to one part positive (kinship, patriotism, perseverance). Using real people — primarily thirtysomething Mark and his girlfriend Lisa — Minervini crafts a hybrid documentary-drama portrait, with a clear design on depicting aspects of the American story that are often ignored or covered up. You get the sense that all the fly-on-the-wall grime, misery and dissatisfaction that’s revealed will be of more interest to foreign viewers; in theory, Americans in 2016 shouldn’t be shocked to learn that the rural poor are struggling. Minervini creates space for finding sympathy among the film’s tough-to-like characters, but individual viewers will set their own bar for distasteful scenes. There’s not much plot: Mark struggles, then struggles some more. Then Minervini abandons Mark entirely, finishing out his film with a group of men training to be militia members for the upcoming conflict with the U.S. government. FEMA camps are already being built, one man assures the camo-clad dudes, who find release from this impending domestic nightmare by drinking beer and shooting up an abandoned car. 

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