Uncertain (2015)


Writer/ Director: Ewan McNicol (The Roper), Anna Sandilands (The Roper)
Genre: Documentary | Humor | Philosophy (82 minutes)


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With just a beam of light from a flashlight, we begin to size up this place… navigating a steamy, swampy lake… trees on shore dripping with Spanish moss… the buzz of lake bugs. “Hello, hello.” He must have known where to look. The half naked man could be dead… but more than likely, he’s just passed out. When day breaks, fog has set in and the sound effects are lake birds. Henry bates a hook and teases it over the surface of the water. When the fish jumps, Henry’s so skilled at hooking it, he doesn’t even lose his bate. Wayne seeks a different pray. He hunts at night covered in camouflage from head to toe. Through his infrared sighted rifle, the herd of wild pigs comes into view, and with one shot he gets one. Traveling the area in daylight, we see little houses on stilts and trailer homes here and there. We see the Uncertain Flea Market, Uncertain City Hall, The Church of Uncertain, and the town sign… Uncertain, City Limit, Pop. 94.

“Uncertain is not on the way to anywhere,” the sheriff tells us. “You either have to know where you’re going, or you have to be lost to find it.” In Texas, right on the Louisiana boarder, Uncertain has always attracted “persons with criminal histories or problems with the law… It’s a good place to hide.” Zach knows from experience, “Once you turn 21, you retire because there’s nothing for you to do in Uncertain, other than drinkin. There are not a lotta new faces and not many women…” unless you bring your own. As Wayne and his girlfriend clean the pig, he tells us that after recovery, they’ve “been able to make a little life for each other beyond our dreams.” He’s obsessed with hogs… especially the one he calls Mr. Ed because he has a horse’s head. Mr. Ed rules the herd. Other animals can’t come in, as long as Mr. Ed is there. Wayne needs to kill him! This morning Henry is a “catfish dude” because that’s what’s running. “You do foolish stuff when you’re young,” he tells us. “It’ll catch up with you.” He once picked cotton, he says in an accent so thick, they needed to put subtitles. At 74, he’s found “heaven on earth… and a little bit of hell.”

The future of Uncertain is uncertain… especially the lake, which is steadily choking up from a weed that’s not from here. “They threw it out, and now it’s taking over. If the lake dies, Uncertain dies.” The fish are dying. The few tourists don’t come any more. And even the hog population is down… Wayne is determined to change that… only, not tonight, because Mr. Ed takes off just as he’s in Wayne’s sight. “Mr. Ed, that son of a bitch… that’s one lucky pig.” Uncertain introduces us to many colorful Uncertain locals… each with a story and a reason for being here. It’s a live-and-let-live kind of community where long-range plans are a foreign concept. As they tell us early on, if you’ve found Uncertain, you’re probably lost. But once you find the film, it’s a fascinating look at a world that may be as foreign as anyplace you can think of. It won’t entice you to plan an Uncertain vacation, but it’s an interesting detour from whatever corner of America you call home. You have to wonder if Uncertain can survive. A team of scientists tell us, “Bio control is needed on a scale that’s never been done before.” That’s awfully ambitious for a community that more adrift than proactive. Yet there’s no shortage of gems of wisdom… such as Wayne, the alcoholic diabetic drifter. “Some say it’s hopeless. It’s only hopeless if you stop trying.”

popcorn rating

3 popped kernels

Drifting through Uncertain… a town that attracts “persons with criminal histories”

Popcorn Profile

Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: Art House & Small Screen
Mood: Sober
Tempo: In No Hurry
Visual Style: Unvarnished Realism
Nutshell: Small lake town in Texas
Language: True to life

Social Significance: Thought Provoking

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