Monday, June 21, 2010

Interview with “Wild and Wonderful” Julien Nitzberg

Julien Nitzberg, director of the cult documentary “Dancing Outlaw,” which stars the notorious Appalachian mountain dancer Jesco White, has set himself up for the same criticism that often gets leveled at fiction filmmakers like Lars Von Trier and Michael Haneke. When directors show politically incorrect behavior without passing judgment on that behavior, it rubs many folks the wrong way, leading to charges of misogyny in Von Trier's case or nihilism in Haneke's. Nitzberg's latest film, “The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia,” has and will most certainly be judged exploitative for its celebratory portrayal of Jesco and his kin: poor, white, violent West Virginian drug dealers who have no qualms about smoking crack for the camera at their octogenarian matriarch's birthday party. But underlying the reality-TV hi-jinks is a true respect for the subjects. Nitzberg seems almost in awe of the Whites' ability to buck the system so thoroughly and blatantly. The Whites indeed have created their own lawless world where the primal, Biblical eye-for-an-eye rule trumps all. One can't help but think Werner Herzog would be tickled pink by both the doc and the rebel director behind its lens.

To read my interview visit Slant Magazine.

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