Sunday, February 19, 2023

The Harvest (2023) Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2023

Based on writer and star Doua Moua's experiences, THE HARVEST is the story of a Hmong son who returns home to help his ailing father. This sets up a clash between his traditional parents who fled Southeast Asia and himself. It is a story of life and family and things we don't always recognize bind us together.

While nominally a "family drama" THE HARVEST is much more.  It  is an example of why we need to have diverse voices making art in the world. On the most basic level it shows us something new. I say this because until I saw THE HARVEST I had never heard of the Hmong people. I didn't know their story or anything about them. However because this is their story I had to look things up and see who they are. In doing so I opened a door to a group I don't think most Americans know anything about. 

More importantly THE HARVEST artistically makes it clear that there are more stories waiting to be told. While the story in film is on the face of it the story of a family and the "prodigal" son, the film doesn't behave like a typical Hollywood or even American Inde film. The rhythms are slightly different. the world view is different. We are looking at the characters in a different way. Moua by focusing on the life he knows is showing us a family in different light. The dynamics are different and as a result we get a better understanding of not just the life of the characters on the screen but the lives of everyone everywhere. This new view gives us insight and wisdom.

This is a wonderful film. It's a beautifully moving story acted by a fantastic cast who seem more entwined than most casts. There are times when you will wonder if they aren't all related and not just actors since there is a naturalness to their interactions. They behave like family in small moves and gestures that clue us into the bonds between them.

I really like THE HARVEST a great deal. I wish I had seen it at the start of the festival so that I could have directed you to it's small wonders. As it is, please put the film on your must see list and catch it at it's next stop on the festival circuit.

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