The Other Side

The Other Side ★★★★

How does one go back to the "talking heads summarizing Wikipedia articles" style of documentary after this?

I don't know how Minervini does it. I mean, I've read the interviews, so I know his technique, but I still have no idea how he gets such good "performances" by his non-actors--how they never acknowledge the camera, how they're open to allowing all aspects of their lives get captured by it (the scene where our protagonist helps a pregnant stripper inject meth is worse than anything I've seen in a horror film)... and even the way he gets them to "act" out the "scenes" in the narrative-lite portions of this. (When Mark tells his wife he plans to turn himself into the police...it's so weird, in that it seems very likely that really is what he intends to do, but this conversation is obviously rehearsed and staged--or his side of it, at least.) It's a page out of the reality TV notebook, I guess--but reality TV never gets as "real" as this.

...And it all leads up to a very shocking formal move: after following Mark and his family in such smothering detail, a bit after the hour mark the film just completely changes gears, dropping all these characters and never returning. And while we stay in rural Alabama, we see a completely different response to the economic devastation global capitalism has wrought: dozens of heavily armed militia-men preparing themselves for a war against the federal government.

I just wasn't prepared. I should have been--one can read the title as "the other side of the same coin"--but seeing it dramatized like that shook me to the core. When communities get completely abandoned by civic culture, they can give up or fight back.....and this film handled the incredibly tricky task of empathizing with these people while still condemning their responses as nightmare horror shows.