During a five year period an Italian filmmaker documents the world of down-on-their-luck individuals who live in a Californian desert trying to get by one day at a time. None of them has more than a vehicle, a dog and some clothes.
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Characters called down and out live another kind of American dream, the kind without things. I think this movie requires direction by someone from another country. It is a little like a Herzog doc, or any German
documentary, but the response in Italy is predictable, we always knew America was really like this.
3.5 Glad to get the chance to see this. Good documentary that gives an excellent sense of the isolation and quiet of this location, and how the space provides a safe zone away from the sound and fury of "regular life." Loved the conversation scene on the bed where the Doctor gets upset about homeless men. Classic. Fascinating to hear stories of each person's unique way of dealing with tragedies in their life.
An amazingly intimate documentary. The camera is truly a fly-on-the-wall and the subjects seem utterly unconcerned about its presence. Makes it all that much more personal.
This doc reminded me of Errol Morris' "Vernon, Florida" a little bit, although without the direct addressing of the camera itself. A deep dive into the lives of people that seem so very close to us, but then again, so very far way.
I wish I had rated this while it was still showing on MUBI. An excellent documentary that treated its subjects humanely while acknowledging their strangeness. Nearly all the people in this movie had lost a family member and was wrecked by it. Yet there was a lot of humor throughout the movie.
'Below Sea Level' is a documentary that neither glorifies nor denigrates the lives of its desperate outcasts. "Objective" or "neutral" isn't right to describe the film's perspective, either. Maybe "critical": cognizant of what the desert affords those whom society rejects (desert sunset space, silence) yet highly aware that these rugged beings are no saints (their relationships falter, fray, become inscrutable).
Given the lack of narration, title cards (e.g., no dates are provided) and really any larger context, this documentary starts to feel a bit claustrophobic after a while. I imagine that is partly intentional. Some of the details about how they make it through the day are informative, but without the distance provided by analysis, at times it seems intrusive. Is it illuminating or slow-disaster-porn? Both?