PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

'The Other Side' Shows a World Turned Inside Out

This film offers art that is alarming, life that is ruined, rage that is ongoing.

The Other Side

Director: Roberto Minervini
Cast: Mark Kelley, Lisa Allen, James Lee Miller
Rated: NR
Year: 2015
US date: 2016-02-18 (UMB Film Series)
"Drugs, alcohol and violence are some of the most effective primordial ways of self-defense, of protecting oneself. Of course, they all stem from fear."

-- Roberto Minervini

"You never know what the fucking future brings." The room is dark, the camera close, and Mark and Lisa are busy. Both addicts, they're smoking what looks to be crack with another guy whose long hair and glasses frame a soft face. You learn later that he's under 18, during a conversation about voting -- Mark can't do it because he's a felon, the kid is underage -- but here, he looks less young than unshaped.

Mark, by contrast, looks hard, his skin darkened by sun, tattooed and gnarled. When you first see him in The Other Side, Mark's on a roadside in Louisiana, naked and passed out. He doesn't have a context: the scene just before this shot of Mark shows a couple of guys with guns, stalking through the woods, wearing camouflage, patrolling or maybe hunting. Mark appears as if from elsewhere, deposited on earth.

He wakes and walks, the camera follows behind him as he makes his way back to the shack where he finds Lisa and the kid with glasses. By the time he gets there, Mark's wearing a t-shirt and a backpack: you don't see where he's picked them up.

Such shifting in time and circumstance is disconcerting. Roberto Minervini's film, premiering at the University of Massachusetts Boston Film Series on 18 February, where it will be followed by a Q&A with the director, doesn't only observe Mark and Lisa and a Louisiana militia group, but also works with them to tell their stories. Mark serves as the primary focus, appearing in a series of scenes where he voices and acts out his desperation and frustration, selling drugs, drinking, engaging in explicit sex with Lisa, breaking into a local school with the young man wearing glasses. Here they contemplate the fundamental unfairness of US institutions, from education to voting (noting that a felon, like Mark, can't vote) and blame a most obvious target, President Obama, who, Mark lectures while standing in a classroom, pointer in hand, "did nothing for this stupid country but make the fucking blacks proud."

Mark's performance here is as broad as anywhere else, when he shoots up a stripper before she goes on stage or when he injects a needle into Lisa's breast. Elsewhere, he appears less wound up, but also playing a role, steering a canoe through the bayou or sharing a rudimentary picnic with his family. "I like to work," he announces, asserting his similarity to you, "I like to take a shower, take a bath." Here his young niece declares her dismay with an abstract system, echoing her elders: "I wish Obama would do something about the rest of the world, too, beside the White House and himself he's so self-centered."

By film's end, such sentiments take more concrete forms. The militia group members practice invading a home and taking a prisoner, then assemble to take turns stating their goals (to take back their freedom, to protect their families), then set up a dummy with an Obama mask in a car they shoot up with automatic weapons and explode, the crackling flames as much a celebration of destruction as the raucous party they throw themselves. Here again, the film observes and appears to take cues from its subjects, its frame compositions impeccable, camera movements laid out as poetry.

Like Mark's family -- his dying mother, his various "siblings" (including anxious drug clients, who declare their love and thank him for letting today's payment slide) -- the militia members, in other sections perform their love of family as a form of outrage. That they share their rage with the filmmakers so apparently openly suggests they also share a sense of trust, a relationship that recalls Actress, find truths in fictions. But the effects are changed -- and charged -- when the subjects whose participation is framed by addiction or illness or even youth, as in Toto and His Sisters or Left on Purpose. In these films, subjects perform, as in all other films, but your relationship to those performances is shifting and tweaked. You can't feel easy watching.

The Other Side cranks up these shifts and tweaks. It offers art that is alarming, life that is ruined, rage that is ongoing. The film resists naming, reading, and judging. It asks you to imagine an other, other side, a world that is abject, unmoored and frightening, one where your view is turned inside out, not fitted to what you see.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.