“Uncertain is not on the way to anywhere. You’ve either got to know where you’re going or to be lost to find it.” So says the sheriff of Uncertain, a small oddly named town near the Texas – Louisiana border, with a population of only 94. The town is so remote that historians of the area aren’t even sure why it was founded in the first place, though some speculate it resulted from a survey of making a mistake on a map.
Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands’s visually eye-opening and disarmingly funny portrait of this town entitled simply Uncertain won the Directors Award at the Tribeca Film Festival and can now be seen at the ICA and selected cinemas nationwide.
Uncertain’s defining characteristic is its swamp-like lake which most of the inhabitants depend on for their livelihood. The expansive lake has an eerie quality, with its still water covered in moss, thick brush of trees and misty air. Unfortunately for the town’s residents the lake is in peril, threatened by an invasive species of parasite waterweed called salvinia which spreads across the surface of the water and kills fish below by blocking the oxygen and light.
Despite the scientific nature of the threat, however, the film isn’t concerned with the problem’s botanical detail. Rather it focuses on three of the town’s residents, each haunted by their own demons and threatened by the potential downfall of the lake. They comprise an ex-convict obsessed with Mr Ed, a gigantic boar he hunts to stay on the straight and narrow, a young idealist with big plans but few prospects, looking for a better life, and an ageing fisherman, learning to let go of his youthful ways and making peace with a fateful moment thirty years ago,
Sandilands and McNicol’s examination of the three men is refreshing nuanced and non-condescending and provides a sympathetic look into the lives of three individuals living on the margins of US society.
In short then, this documentary is a fascinating feature debut which captures a vivid cast of characters as compelling as any fiction.
Uncertain, released nationwide 10 March 2017