July 12th, 2009 18:36:00
Everybody's seen THE DANCING OUTLAW, right? Well, if you haven't don''t worry, because you can get your fill of West Virginia crazyman Jesco White this weekend at Fantasia with two new films focused on the life of this eccentric mountain mutineer. He's now been the subject of 4 movies, 2 TV specials, has appeared in a Beck video and a Roseanne episode - and if you're not acquainted with Jesco White and his boozing, brawling famous family, now's the time.
Jacob Young's PBS-commissioned THE DANCING OUTLAW (1991) was often paired with the Julien Nitzberg documentary THE WILD WORLD OF HASIL ADKINS (1993) whenever it screened at microcinemas around North America, and between both films it was hard to know which way was up when you exited the theatre. One-man band Hasil Adkins (cult painter Joe Coleman is a big fan and did an amazing portrait of Adkins) passed away in 2005, but like Jesco White he was an incredibly talented, one-of-a-kind individual devoted to the power of rural rumpshaking and all the booze, drugs and bad decisions that might go along with that. In both cases their rural axis was/is a small area known as Boone County, West Virginia, nestled within the Appalachian mountains. Jesco's father D. Ray White (who was murdered) had been a renowned Appalachian tap/clog dancer and young Jesco would be one of the few people able to carry on the legacy. But like many families in rural Appalachia, the Whites are no strangers to poverty, crime, alcoholism, drug abuse, and senseless death, and these demanding daily activities necessarily override Jesco's dedication to his natural-born talent on occasion.
Now that Jesco's had the spotlight to himself several times over, this time Julien Nitzberg - director of the aforementioned Hasil Adkins documentary and a producer on the original DANCING OUTLAW - turns the camera on Jesco's whole family in THE WILD AND WONDERFUL WHITES OF WEST VIRGINIA (Fantasia hosts the Canadian Premiere on Friday July 10th at 9:30pm and again on Wednesday July 29th at 9:50pm, both in the Salle JA de Seve). It's a raucous , out of control document of an equally out of control family - most of whom have been declared legally insane after years of arrests, murders, attempted murders, robberies and more. Society has given up on them, but they continue to party like it's 1999.
On Sunday July 12th at 10:00pm in the Salle JA de Seve, Dominic Murphy's controversial bio-pic of Jesco White, WHITE LIGHTNIN' - co-written by the VICE team of Eddy Moretti and Shane Smith, who also made the incredible documentary HEAVY METAL IN BAGHDAD - makes its first appearance in Montreal. Shane Smith will appear in person to host the screening and Q&A.
Vanity Fair called WHITE LIGHTNIN' a "white trash psychobilly nightmare", and while that's certainly accurate, it does make you wonder how strange your life would be if it could be summed up with so many instantly quotable catchphrases. It also makes you wonder whether you would have the guts to call anyone in the White family "white trash" to their face. My guess is probably not. And that's not just because any member of the White family could flatten you into a whiskey-soaked pulp, but also because what the Whites represent is way more terrifying: an utterly fearless sense of autonomy. There is no potential consequence that would sway them from whatever they want to do. And that, in the words of Hank Williams III, is what makes them "the true rebels of the south".
- Kier-La Janisse