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The Other Side

[…] The story grows from the individual to the collective, through the friends, family, and – in a coherent climax – into a paramilitary group. The truth of war and its blind violence are the horizon in which all the events are drowned, without escape.

[…] The real force is in the surprise when we discover how this “other” side is charged by the same “American” values that support the glory of the “one” side: family, freedom, and America itself.

I have always praised the many virtues of Buñuel’s Les olvidados. Now, Roberto Minervini gives us its contemporary version. With a meaningful shift, we move from Mexico to the USA, where the documentary film paints a pitiless picture of the parallel world of war veterans in Louisiana. Whereas Buñuel’s fresco has an urban and choral character, in The Other Side we are anchored to the subjective camera. A nice camera, that often helps us forget the purely documentary dimension, also thanks to the pregnancy of the main “character”. He lays in the sad depths of drug-addiction, together with his girlfriend and entourage. The story grows from the individual to the collective, through the friends, family, and – in a coherent climax – into a paramilitary group. The truth of war and its blind violence are the horizon in which all the events are drowned, without escape. Even the personal drama of our “hero”, rich in existential and emotional notes – at one moment even a hint of hope –, seems condemned, by the dramaturgy of the film, to the blindness of violence. The real force of The Other Side is not here. This film is not simply the vindication of “the other side” of the United States: abandoned, poor, hopeless. The real force is in the surprise when we discover how this “other” side is charged by the same “American” values that support the glory of the “one” side: family, freedom, and America itself. Actually, rather than speaking of values, one should speak of ideology: an ideology that is so dogmatic and incoherent that it could be labelled as fascist. If the family rhetoric, here, seems to express only the pathetic cry of lonely men, and the patriotic faith in the nation assumes religious and irrational connotations, then the very core of this ideology is freedom: a collective obsession, which constitutes the very fil rouge of the entire film. It is difficult to understand the meaning of freedom in this “other side”. We see only the drama of human affection and anarchist individualism struggling together, hurting each other, and bleeding together. In this regard, the film reaches the greatest efficacy and serves us with an unforgettable experience. Is this the universal picture of misery or just of the misery of America today?

Text: Giuseppe Di Salvatore

First published: May 04, 2016

The Other Side | Film | Roberto Minervini | IT-FR 2015 | 92’

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