The Wild And Wonderful Whites Of West Virginia * Julien Nitzberg (2009)

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I do not know if this is a coincidence, but this documentary is about the family of Jesco White about whom in the same year the magnificent film “White Lightnin’” was made. That film is relatively successfull (I think) and since the documentary was produced by Johhny Knoxville and some other “Jackass”s, I figured that it would be hyped at least a bit more. In fact, I had to get this documentary from abroad because I was unable to find it in my country. In the Netherlands we had this film “Flodder” (from Dick Maas) about a lowlife family living in an expensive villa-residential (1986) and more recently some tv-series (that I never saw) about a familie called “Tokkie”. Since then a(nti)-social people and families are called “Tokkies”. Well, the Whites seem to be the American counterparts. In a hip documentary we follow a year in the lives of the wild and wonderfull life of the West-Virginia White family. Interviews with law-and-order officials from the area where the larger part of the Whites live, but of course most is about the family members themselves. The documentary opens with short introductions to most of the Whites with a family tree to see the relations to eachother. All Whites, whether young or old, look (and sound!) awfull. The suggestion immediately rises that this is due to their excessive life with drink, drugs and violence and as the film continues, this will prove to be very true. What we are presented with is completely asocial behavior. A family with no working members, but with plenty of cash, subtely explained how profit is made with selling all kinds of pills. Members talk openly about their murders and other violent outbreaks, of of them is in jail for shooting his mother’s boyfriend. The result is grimly humorous. Funny, when they are not actually your neighbours. Jesco is the most famous White with his tapdancing, the tragedy of which is explained by his musicians. Jesco seems to not be the only dancer of the family though. Drama unfolds with the mother of the family dying at the age of 84 and the birth of a baby that is taken from the mother by the authorities. The documentary is well-made, because inspite of obviously portraying the low-of-the-low (like with a heavy drinking/drugs scene before one member goes to rehab), during the course of the film, the Whites really become ’empatisable’. Add to this a lot of music and the documentary gets an eerie, good atmosphere. Grins, chuckles and laughs in abundance, drama and surprise, “The Wild And Wonderfull Whites Of West-Virginia” is a wild and wonderfull documentary about a colourfull family.

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