Uncertain is an independent film for which directors, Anna Sandilands and Ewan McNicol just won the Albert Maysles Award for Best New Documentary Director at the Tribeca Film Festival. And Newsweek named it one of the best documentaries of 2015 (so far).
The southern gothic tale — an observational documentary — is set in Uncertain, Texas, with the backdrop of Caddo Lake.
It follows the stories of three men — Henry, Wayne, and Zach — battling their own demons in search of forgiveness and redemption as the town struggles to save their lake, and livelihood, from an invasive aquatic weed.
McNicol and Sandilands said they were first intrigued by the town’s name and set out to find out more about it.
"When we arrived we were immediately taken with the feeling of the small, one-road town, and the hub of activity at Johnson’s Ranch, the town’s boat launch, general store, and bait shop. Everyone knows everyone. Everyone, in some way, is relying on the land. And the lake was breathtaking, almost primeval with its moss-laden giant cypress. We spent our first days there feeling as though we’d gone back in time.
"We met Henry within our first hours of arriving, and he took us out on the lake in his boat. It’s fair to say we fell in love with him. A straightforward and honest man who seems to belong to another time. And very we quickly we came to find out he’s not without a mischievous side.
"We met Wayne the next day and he took us out to the middle of the woods to show us his hunting stand. When we asked him why he hunts with a powder rifle he told us he was a convicted felon. Both our hearts skipped a beat. Then he told us why. We were so touched by his honesty. Why would he tell this to two perfect strangers, with a camera?
"When we met Zach we felt we’d met the town jester — the one who tells it as it is. So bright an affable, with the world in front of him, but almost too gentle to get himself unstuck.
"These men couldn’t be more different from each other. But they are each honest, candid, and very funny. And it seemed clear that each of their lives was in some kind of limbo.
"We knew we had met three amazing men, great characters with great stories. But we didn’t know where their stories would take us."
They filmed just over a year and a half and said they tried to do justice to the stories of these three men and to the beauty and mythical quality of the lake.
It appears they did accomplish that, but a more appropriate title to the film might be, "Three Uncertain Men on Beautiful Caddo Lake." From the trailer and initial reviews, the film does not give a good depiction of the entire community of the town — one full of a diverse group of interesting, cultivated, and hard-working people that both live and visit there on a regular basis.
The larger community of Uncertain may do well to take a cue from another Northeast Texas town depicted in the movie Paris, Texas, which premiered in 1984. Although it is not a documentary, the film does use the town’s name and the story has very little to do with the real town. In the long run, it’s done an enormous amount of good versus harm in the way of publicity for the real Paris, Texas.
Uncertain is playing at film festivals around the world at this time and not in local theaters "just yet" the producers say. Look for it on DVD for sure in the coming months.