Dead Man's Burden
USA, 2012, 93 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: American Indie, Historical/Period, War
Program: New Directors Showcase
Martha (Clare Bowen) and her husband, Heck (David Call), live and work on the family’s spectacularly beautiful but desolate land in New Mexico in 1870. The young couple are determined to get off the land and trade their chore-ridden days for urban living in fabled San Francisco. They’ll do anything that needs to be done to get there. Their plans are moving apace when Martha’s big brother, Wade (Barlow Jacobs), who she thought had died in the Civil War, rides in with an enigmatic letter from their father in his pocket. All the characters in the small cast have more than one firearm at the ready, and need little provocation to pull the trigger. Martha, flouncing through the dust in her full-skirted gingham dress, is herself a crack shot. Gunfights alternate with dialogue to lead the story to its inevitable bloody showdown.
In his directorial debut, screenwriter Jared Moshé focuses on the characters’ conflicting motivations, letting details of the plot unfold in tantalizing dribbles. With the nearest settlement–and the district judge–three days’ ride away, moral and ethical codes are left largely to individual interpretation. The Civil War’s legacy of wounds and divisions only exacerbates the characters’ personal convictions and passions, revealed little by little as they chat comfortably—or argue heatedly—in their Texas drawls. Careful attention to period details adds authenticity to the depiction of harsh frontier life. Shooting on location using film stock, Moshé captures the eerie beauty of the vast, unchanging landscape that dwarfs its inhabitants, staying true to the Western classics that he loves while incorporating a contemporary film-noir twist.
- JULIET SHERWOOD
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DIRECTOR: Jared Moshe
Producer: Veronica Nickel
Editor: Jeff Israel
Screenwriter: Jared Moshe
Cinematographer: Robert Hauer
Principal Cast: Barlow Jacobs, Clare Bowen, David Call
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