Ma (Sun Valley Review)
As a filmmaker myself, I appreciate the execution of experimental filmmaking. Crafting and producing a film–any film–is no easy task and is a feat in and of itself. Even if it’s challenging to enjoy every aspect of experimental films, you can often find some appreciation whether it’s the brilliant cinematography, vibrant colors, interesting sound design, or bizarre acting. While experimental films aren’t usually my favorite kind of film as a member of the audience, I certainly found beauty in Celia Rowlson-Hall‘s acclaimed indie drama, Ma, which played at this year’s Sun Valley Film Festival.
Ma opens with a gorgeous silhouette of a desert landscape. Our lead (played by Hall) is found wandering the desert with nothing more than a long, ratty tee-shirt, and a pair of bright red cowboy boots she may have stolen from Teddy “West-Side” Mosby. Eventually, this woman emerges from the desert to a road and is met by Daniel (Andrew Pastides)—who stops for her. She climbs atop his hood and the two drive to a dumpy motor lodge where “Ma” is raped while her driver sleeps in the car. The next morning, the two continue to drive—this time with our leading lady riding in the car with the driver. The two then travel without a destination and spend their nights in a new motor lodge. We are faced with great metaphoric imagery—sand pouring out of paintings and sink faucets—and some wonderful choreography from the writer/director/lead Celia Rowlson-Hall.
Ma is absolutely beautiful. The sound design used in the film is incredible considering it contains almost no dialog. As an experimental film, it knocks it out of the park in many ways. With its slow pacing, difficult narrative, and often confusing visuals, the film may be a bit too surreal for the average movie-goer. As a piece of art and a specimen of visual poetry, Ma is a welcomed addition to the cannon of the medium.