Roberto Minervini as a filmmaker has always been fascinated with America's unwanted and forgotten individuals, most commonly those residing in the rural areas of the deep south. For Louisiana (The Other Side), Minervini profiles Mark and Lisa, a couple living in the backwaters of Louisiana, each struggling with addiction while they live well below the poverty line. Lousiana is a film that doesn't hold back in capturing the troubling underbelly of the deep south, where anti-government zealots, drug addiction, racists, drunks, and deeply confused individuals have taken a strong hold in the backwaters and small towns of this rural landscape. While a sight to behold, the setting and circumstances of what Minervini is documenting is quite ugly, but the filmmakers never show any judgement, focused solely on documenting these individuals, many of which feel abandoned by modern society and a government they don't support. While I wouldn't call Minervini's film sympathetic, Louisiana does show an appreciation for this wounded community, with cinematography that subtly captures the beauty in this desolate, ugly setting, using beautiful compositions and the overhanging sun, which shines a bright light on this desolate community of outsiders. Minervini's film never shys away from the ugliness, instead it attempts to find the underlying beauty in this repugnant setting. The access which Roberto Minervini is granted is truly impressive, which leads to some pretty startling imagery and a few moments that will be hard to forget, one in particular being when Mark shoots up a stripper with a shot of heroin before her performance on stage. While much of Louisiana (The Other Side) feels like an expose in ignorance, tender moments do exist among the darkness. Mark's relationship with his elderly grandmother and mother being one of them, as Minervini captures the affection and love he has for these two woman. Sparked by his mother's elderly status and impending death due to cancer, one of the most powerful scenes of the film involves Mark vocalizing his struggles with addiction, his desire to be clean and get his life together. Everything he says feels genuine, but there is an uneasy sense that he won't be able to get his life together, stuck in the grasp of addiction. In a way, Mark's plight is an important aspect of Lousiana (The Other Side) because it pulls the film away from feeling exploitative, adding a level of tragedy to the story of a man whose addiction to drugs is unshakable. If you haven't figured it out already, Roberto Minervini's Lousiana (The Other Side) is a unique documentary in that while it's observational and does a great job at exhibiting the world which these characters inhabit, I found myself sometimes questioning how many situations or scenes were constructed in an attempt to aid the filmmaker in reaching his desired level of impact. Mark, a small-time meth dealer and ex-felon, is certainly being himself, but because of the unique nature of Minervini's film, scenes feel constructed, though I'd be hard pressed to argue that they don't feel rooted in the realism of Mark's experiences, thus I'm not sure how much it matters. Roberto Minervini's Lousiana (The Other Side) attempts to exhibit the fringes of society, on the border of illegality and angst, documenting a group of men and woman who have fully embraced the decay of society.
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