as an undertaker’s son was probably not easy for a Georgia teenager, even
before the crematory scandal. Based on
the notorious case of over three hundred supposedly cremated bodies discovered
dumped in the Blue Hills, John Henry Summerour’s adds a slightly macabre spin
on the tried and true coming of age tale in Sahkanaga
opens this Friday in Brooklyn and Atlanta.
Kershaw dies a bad death. A popular
public figure, the entire town mourns his passing. Of course, the anti-social Paul is hardly grief-stricken. Frankly, he is quite okay with the Sheriff’s
untimely demise, since it was the catalyst bringing his granddaughter Lyla to
their sleepy town. She makes quite the
impression on the awkward teen when as he assists his father with the
funeral. Much to his surprise, Paul
finds the Sheriff’s body sprawled out in the woods shortly thereafter.
father subcontracts cremations to the amiable Chris. Yes, his one man operation is the most
affordable on offer, but he always seems reliable. Unfortunately, Chris clearly has issues
Summerour only hints at. However, he
also might be able to incriminate Paul for a stupid kid mistake he now sorely
regrets. Naturally, the truth will
eventually come out, forcing Paul’s family to face the community’s
summer infatuation story is rather standard stuff, but at least co-leads Trevor
Neuhoff and Kristin Rievley look like real life kids. Surprisingly though (particularly for a film
screening in Dumbo, Brooklyn), Sahkanaga
treats themes of faith seriously and fairly.
The Walker County citizenry are church goers, but that does not make
them closet hypocrites. It turns out the
Sheriff was, but that subplot is merciful left to wither on the vine. In contrast, rather than a venal predator,
the town’s television prayer line host is a sympathetically dotty elderly
lady. Viewers rather feel for her when
she is pulled into the grisly tale.
fact that the troubled Chris is African American is neither belabored nor
ignored. Likewise, the responses to his
crimes run the gamut of social enlightenment.
This is not a film out to score cheap shots against the Deep South. As a result, Sahkanaga feels grounded in reality without getting preachy or
burying its head in the sand. Richly
nuanced, Charles Patterson’s performance as the cremator is low key, but quite
powerful. It really helps make the film.
pay-off is subtle, but it stays with you.
Ultimately, Sahkanaga suggests
faith might indeed help people face adversity.
Despite the somewhat weak presence of its protagonist, it is a
distinctive film, capturing a vivid sense of place. A mature, forgiving work, Sahkanaga is worth seeing, if playing
somewhere relatively convenient. Recommended
for patrons of the indie film scene and Southern audiences, Sahkanaga opens this Friday (12/7) at
the ReRun Gastropub in Brooklyn and Plaza Theatre in Atlanta.
Labels: Coming of age films, Indie Films, Religion in film