The Florida Project

The Florida Project ★★★★★

The Florida Project

TIFF 2017 film #7

Reason for pick - director Sean Baker - Tangerine

Wow. Once again director Sean Baker delivers an unvarnished view of a class of people that the general populace doesn’t see, or would prefer not to see. It ends up punching you in the gut not by manipulation and strings, but by its unyielding authenticity.

This time Baker, and his longtime writing collaborator, Chris Bergoch, turn their unblinking lens on the ‘near homeless’ who call 50’s era 'theme park' budget rent-by-the-week motels, that surround Florida's Disneyworld, their home. While the adults, mostly single mothers, anchor the film, it’s really about their children. It’s summer, and they run wild along the tacky souvenir strip malls and long abandoned, Florida hued, apartment complexes finding adventure and treasure. It’s seeing them that makes you believe; makes you remember. Makes you remember the endless summers and playing in your secret ‘base’ with your friends, oblivious to what surrounds you.

Many had issue with the fact that Baker’s previous film, Tangerine, was shot on iPhones. I never had an issue with it, as I found the image quality reflected the reality of the story being told. Here, Baker shoots on 35mm ( something that surprised me, as I can’t imagine how he made this film, with so much of it being made up of shots of child actors, without shooting a huge take-to-runtime ratio ), which hopefully should lower the barrier to seeing it. One scene was filmed on an iPhone by necessity, and that scene is absolutely heartbreaking.

As I watched the screening, I knew that Hurricane Irma was making it’s way up the Florida Peninsula, and the thought of what further hardship it would bring to these vulnerable invisibles was almost too much to bear.

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