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THE ISLAND OF ST. MATTHEWS by Kevin Jerome Everson, 2013, 64 min, 16mm-to-digital
The new feature film from the remarkably prolific Kevin Jerome Everson (QUALITY CONTROL, CINNAMON, THE GOLDEN AGE OF FISH, ERIE, and more than 100 short films), one of the most interesting and original voices in contemporary experimental cinema, THE ISLAND OF ST. MATTHEWS is a richly evocative and open-ended work, and a beautiful example of Everson’s unique approach to the experimental documentary form.
ISLAND is a meditation on the loss of family history in the form of heirlooms and photographs. Years ago Everson asked his aunt about old family photographs. Her reply – that ‘we lost them in the flood’ – was the catalyst for this film, a poem and paean to the citizens of Westport, a community just west of Columbus, Mississippi, the hometown of the filmmaker’s parents. Residents, young and old, are seen and heard reminiscing about the 1973 flood of the Tombigbee River. Everson combines these interviews and conversations, filmed in front of a church, at a beauty school, on porches and backyards, with sequences of a waterskier on the Tombigbee River; a worker at the lock and dam; a young couple meeting with an insurance agent about flood insurance. The sound of a church bell – an original bronze sculpture made by the filmmaker and similar to the bell used to warn residents of an impending natural disaster – intones throughout, interspersed with a spare, elegiac score.
“Everson returns to Westport to create a portrait of the community, the remarkable insights he gleans via his personal access to the local residents amplified by the rich beauty of his 16mm cinematography. […] Through this beautiful and subtly revealing film, Everson once again captures the pull of personal roots by focusing on the resilience of a displaced community ever more committed to calling their land home.” – Chris Kennedy, TIFF CINEMATHEQUE
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