The Other Side
Distributed by Film Movement
Produced by Marc Bordure Muriel Meynard Paolo Benzi Dario Zonta
Directed by Roberto Minervini
DVD , color, 92 min.
High School - General Adult
Drug Abuse, Politics, Poverty, Racism, Social Problems
Reviewed by Tom Ipri, St. Joseph’s University
Date Entered: 2/12/2018
Roberto Minervini’s deft blend of documentary and staged drama provides an intimate look at the lives of the couple, Mark Kelley and Lisa Allen, as well as their extended family and some friends. Mark, an ex-felon, and Lisa are drug addicts struggling to survive in rural Louisiana.
Many of their actions are difficult to watch. Mark cooks and sells meth, assists not only Lisa in shooting up, but also a pregnant stripper. He sells drugs to his sister. He often drops the n-word and derides Barack Obama (during whose administration the film takes place). Despite many of the unpleasant aspects of Mark’s life, he comes across as complex and sympathetic. He is kind to his family and friends and devastated at the thought of losing his mother. He talks with Lisa about strategies for getting clean. He proposes to Lisa in the woods by a river. He wants to take responsibility for his actions and is aware how he is a victim of his circumstances.
For the first hour of The Other Side, the viewer is immersed in Mark and Lisa’s world, but the film then takes a sudden a jarring shift. The pre-credit scene follows several men with guns stalking through the woods but the film abandons them to follow Mark and Lisa only to return to them for the last third of the running time.
The men are part of a militia led by a couple of veteran soldiers. They believe their rights are being taken away. They think that Obama is coming for their guns, that the U.N. will be bringing martial law. They take part in a wild party involving wet t-shirt contests and feigned fellatio by a woman wearing an Obama mask. The film ends with a memorable sequence of the militia men destroying a car with an Obama dummy within and derogatory statements spray-painted on the side. It is a shocking and disturbing ending to a film that spent most of its time in sympathetic portrayals of the poor South.
The Other Side is beautifully shot by Diego Romero Suarez-Llanos with natural lighting producing many picturesque images.
Despite being difficult to watch at moments, The Other Side is a rich viewing experience that provides daring insights and a plethora of talking points regarding the often unaddressed rural poor. Although it takes place prior to the election of 2016, it sheds a great deal of light on how neglected people felt by prior administrations and laid the groundwork for the Trump presidency.
The Other Side also presents possible discussion topics regarding objectivity in documentary film-making. Minervini had intimate access to Mark and Lisa’s lives, and it is difficult to imagine that all the sequences occurred without and staging or prompting.
This film could spur excellent classroom discussion; however, it only would be appropriate for a well-prepared, upper-level environment as The Other Side depicts making and ingesting drugs, nudity, un-simulated sex, and foul language.