Vernon, Florida (1981)

Directed by Errol Morris

There is a special character trait in documentary filmmakers that makes them curious people. There must be. I have seen it within the great Werner Herzog, and now, having seen a few of his films, I have seen it in Errol Morris. The acclaimed director brings his open mind and curiosity to the table perhaps more than ever before in this 1981 documentary about a small backwoods town in Florida and the strange things the people do and say. I can see how some may take the film as a negative outlook on these people, emphasizing their eccentricities and even exploiting these citizens. I disagree, though I have no idea of Morris’ true motives.

I found the film to perfectly capture Americana and the things that make this such an interesting country. Sure, it could be easy to laugh at every single one of the people chronicled in the film. But that is only because what we see, what we do, what we believe is different. The practice of turkey hunting may be laughable in our community, but have you been as passionate and proud of a thing as the man who spoke so fondly of the sport? These may not be the smartest of people, but have you done as much research in the history and meaning of a word as the pastor did with the word “therefore”? Everybody has their curiosities, some are just far less common, and therefore “different” than our own or those which we are used to seeing.

Errol Morris simply observes these differences, and in my opinion, does not pass judgement on any of the subjects of his documentary. He lets them speak and they freely do so because they finally have the chance to tell their stories. I really found the film to be entertaining, getting caught up in these people’s pastimes and passions, especially as strange as they were. The lack of voiceover allowed the characters of the film tell their story without interuption. And the editing freely moved the focus from person to person in such a flowing manner. As short as the film was, it really was a fun little ride through the lives of a few normal people’s lives. Because face it, we’re all eccentrics.

*** – Very Good

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