(Jon Matthews, United States, 2014, 65 min)
Sunday, Nov 02 at 05:00PM
Surviving Cliffside opens with a title card that reads, "dedicated to my homestate of West Virginia and all her complexities, contradictions, and immense beauty." Those complexities and contradictions are explored through tender contemplation and unconventional narrative structure in this rare portrait of rural West Virginia.
Jon Matthews chronicles the daily struggles and habits (ranging from drugs to beauty pageants) of his cousin EJ's family by layering images of the impoverished Cliffside community with the hardy spirits that persevere in Appalachia's forgotten corridors. At the center is Makala, an irrepressible seven-year-old set on becoming Miss West Virginia.
Matthews, who quit his ACLU lawyer job in order to go to film school in New York, doesn't serve up Little Miss Sunshine with a slum tourism twist. Unusual editing flairs combine freeze frames, experimental sound design and rapid montage to push the formal limits of documentary. An ethereal acoustic soundtrack by Matthews' fellow film student evokes the ragged, haunting beauty of the title card.
Northwest Film Forum (View)
1515 12th Ave
Seattle, WA 98122