“You have to be lost to find it”, is how the town’s sheriff of Uncertain describes the area, which directors Ewen McNicol and Anna Sandilands have chosen as a point of focus in this documentary, or rather portrait of the small town Uncertain in Texas that banks the majestic Lake Caddo. Immediately you are sucked in by the gorgeous scenery that borders upon being a dreamscape. With a population of ninety-four, the directors follow three inhabitants, Wayne a reformed addict on a quest to hunt a giant boar, recently widowed Henry an ageing fisherman in his seventies and a young man Zach in arrested development with several cats and an X-Box to keep him going.
For the two older subjects, Uncertain is a place of refuge or place to feel comfortable in. With it’s slightly relaxed laws compared to Louisiana, Wayne has the right to use certain rifles that he goes to hunt with. He is obsessed with catching one male boar that he elevates to a status of beastly proportions. It provides the film with a good dose of comedy. Whilst the three are not considered the most educated, their lives fairly impoverished, they are each deeply reflective about their pasts or current situation, that eventually you look past the ‘dumb hick’ monicker some people maybe eager to quickly judge them as and begin to empathise with their situations. Zach who is practically orphaned and abandoned begins to make strides in bettering his life after initially trying to not even think of having dreams. Uncertain is not a place for someone of his age lusting for relationships and cultural excursions. Whilst Zach highlights Uncertain’s shortcomings, his story in leaving the town to try make a life for himself in Austin is uplifting, yet equally heartbreaking.
All be it a town for a different generation, an infestation of larvae on the lake threatens the eco system and tourism. It’s existence is under threat and the future of the town looks like it may fall to the irony of its own name. As a piece, the film is engaging but not engrossing, it does not quite tie all its varying strands to one conclusive piece of wisdom, or an outright character study of its selected subjects. It’s star quality is by far in the way it is shot, to a point it could be mistaken for the works of Terrence Mallick and for a little indie doc, then that is not a bad compliment to give.
UNCERTAIN is at the ICA from 10th March and On Demand from 17th March