For most of us, we live in a world of sanitized beauty. A world whose construct never varies far from the intended path that we are self-determined to travel. We live in nice homes, our parents love us, we go to good schools, and we are shielded from the realities that are world is full of miscreants, malefactors and lowlifes who seek to disrupt the social order that we seek and crave. “Gummo” is just the movie to pull aside those blinders that we wear so conspicuously and expose us to a way of life that we rather not know is there.
“Gummo” was filmed in a small town in Ohio; however it represents a realistic neighborhood that can actually be found anywhere. In my hometown, that neighborhood was Sherwood Park. A neighborhood that outsiders did not knowingly venture into willingly, the youth traveled in packs, the elderly walked the streets carrying clubs, and the kids who emerged from that neighborhood were well, those kids.
“Gummo” follows a cast of lost youth and young adults as they explore life with little hope of ever becoming anything other than petty criminals, leaches to the underbelly of society, and the miscreants who we tell our children to avoid in real life. This film is realism and not a Hollywood fantasy. We can all relate to the youth of this film. We all know a neighborhood like this. Filmed documentary style before cinema verite became the mainstream media sensation that it is today; the movie demonstrates pure genius on a number of levels.
Written and directed by Harmony Korine when he was only twenty four, “Gummo” is representative of filmmaking in its purest, rawest form and demonstrates how grit and determination can achieve a film of uniqueness; something Hollywood so often fails to do despite its oceans of money and beautiful people.
This film is not for everyone, which is why it was never a commercial success. Torturing animals, roaches and people you really would want to avoid in life are the main focus here. This is not your average movie; you may feel the need to cleanse yourself afterwards. However, this film should be required watching for every student of film as to what pure and unflinching film making is all about. This movie has won numerous film festival awards. It deserves much more.
Documentarians so often want to travel to faraway lands, find the exotic peoples, and photograph the unusual for our viewing amusement. Korine demonstrates that one does not have to travel great distances to find the bizarre. No, one simply has to cross the street, take of their rose colored glasses and accept that fact that the exotic and unusual are all around us. Even in our own backyards.