Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Micheal J. Smith, JimMyron Ross, Tarra Riggs, Johnny McPhail
Director: Lance Hammer
Similarly Requested DVDs
Adrift . . .
Ronald Scheer | Los Angeles | 11/20/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Like the debris of Hurricane Katrina scattered in the fields of this rural Mississippi setting, the lives of the three central characters of this wonderful film have been shattered by forces beyond their control. A mother tries to rescue her boy from the dangerous influence of some nasty drug dealers, while a man reels from the suicide of his twin brother, who is also her ex-husband. Under grim winter skies, the emotional distances between them - anger, fear, distrust, lost hopes - verge on despair and then careen away from disaster, as the three tentatively reach out to a resolution that involves each other.
It's an alarming and saddening portrayal of lives slipping through safety nets and, by a kind of miracle of circumstances and determination, saving themselves, one day at a time. Filmmaker Lance Hammer uses hand-held cameras and an elliptical style of editing to heighten the urgency in the characters' situations. Performances are restrained and remarkable, especially JimMyron Ross, who plays the boy with a sullen silence that betrays the terror and confusion that his character is trying to hide. The DVD includes three improvisational scenes in which the actors explore their characters' relationships. Deserves every award it has won."
Riveting in its simplicity
R. Gawlitta | Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA | 11/22/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Ballast", writer/director Lance Hammer's low-budget Indie darling, is a slice of life, profound in it's realistic approach to simple, good people facing adversity. Without blabbing away the plot, our 3 central characters have their own individual issues, all of which collide and provide a new understanding among them. Marlee (the excellent Tarra Reed) shows great range of emotion; loving mother, scorned wife, a woman of integrity. Her young son, James, (JimMyron Ross), still craving the attention of an absent father, finds himself caught up in the naîve world of peer pressure and drugs. Lawrence (Michael J. Smith) is reeling over the suicide of his twin brother, James' father. Suspicion, confusion and mild deceit color the interaction of the three, leading to a sensible resolve. I'm glad I had the opportunity to rent the DVD, after all the awards it's received. The widescreen transfer is quite fine, showing a desolate landscape, which is a character in itself. The cinematography is quite fine. The fact that the story revolves around African-Americans is incidental; these characters could be of any color, since their issues are universal. Highly recommended!"
Ballast -- something that gives stability
Westley | Stuck in my head | 11/14/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Ballast" is a small independent movie that was shot with primarily nonprofessional actors. Set in a rural area of the Mississippi Delta, the film focuses on Lawrence (Michael K. Smith, Sr.), a 30-something African-American man who lives on the same property as his twin brother. In the opening scene, a neighbor visits Lawrence, who is in a near catatonic state and won't respond; he's clearly experienced some kind of trauma. Slowly, we learn the back story and the relationships between the other characters who drift into the movie. This is a slice of life not often examined in movies - the realistic lives of poor African Americans in one of the most down-trodden areas of the country.
The movie is extremely low-key and slow paced. Likewise, the acting is often flat and doesn't always feel genuine (the extras show how the scenes were rehearsed and sometimes improved with the cast). However, "Ballast" overall does feel shockingly genuine, and even though it focuses on depressing issues the movie manages to be fairly uplifting without feeling manipulative. First-time director Lance Hammer has managed to tell an original American story that despite its pace is quite captivating. The film was nominated for and won various indie film awards, including a win at the Sundance Film Festival for Best Directing (Dramatic). "Ballast" reminded me a bit in tone and content of another recent indie hit, "Frozen River," and I think it will appeal to a similar audience.
Portrait of Southern Despration
The Movie Man | Maywood, New Jersey USA | 11/18/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Ballast," a double prize winner at the Sundance Film Festival, takes place in the Mississippi delta and focuses on three people affected by a tragedy. Lawrence (Michael J. Smith, Jr.) is grief-stricken after the loss of his twin brother. Twelve-year-old James (JimMyron Ross) is starting to encounter the drug culture of local teenagers, and his single mother, Marlee (Tarra Riggs), is too exhausted from her low-paying job to see the clues. Writer/director/editor Lance Hammer tells his story episodically, providing glimpses into these lives and tracing how they intertwine with one another.
Hammer worked for months in rehearsal with his mostly untrained actors and the performances are extremely natural. The film is sparse on dialogue, strong on visuals. Hammer knows how to present a narrative with his camera and let incidents build an overall portrait of his characters. As editor, he lingers on a scene so the viewer can take in facial expressions, reactions, and thought processes. "Ballast" is available in both DVD and Blu-ray. Special features include a making-of featurette, theatrical trailer, and a critical essay."