Short Film Review “Across The Tracks”



First, the Recap:

The sting of prejudice. When leveled against anyone, its power to hurt knows no bounds, more so when fueled by those who never even try to understand or come to a new realization that perhaps those which they persecute are actually just like they are–simply human. How we deal with or refuse to relinquish past sins can haunt the soul until acknowledgement and release is achieved. Such is it for one African-American woman named Ella (Carla McCullough) as she recalls simpler, more innocent times as a child in Georgia during the 1960’s. Yet, she is also aware of how things never seem to change. However, upon an unanticipated death in the family, a reflective journey is about to take a potent turn.

Seeing her now big city living sister Tara (Thursday Farrar) for the first time in years, Ella’s reaction to her given the current circumstances becomes less than amicable, despite the best efforts by a longstanding family friend, Walter Lee (Don Battee), to calm them down. As tensions rise, Ella is forced to recollect about the peculiar situation she found herself in as a child, having been born with fairer skin than Tara, and making the attempts to “fit in” with the white society around her while Tara was often left to face the reality of racism. Knowing how much this ended up hurting Tara, both physically and mentally, will it be possible for the two sisters to forgive, but never forget, the bigotry and the scars left on their souls?

Next, my Mind:

Just being frank, there are many films that tackle the still-present spectre of racism and intolerance, whether set in the modern era or the past. But, it is that much more important, I feel, we continue to be reminded of this country’s not-always-so-clean past in this respect, as it causes us to take a look at ourselves as people again, examining the heart and mindsets that are so easily persuaded to harbor hate. The 15-minute drama from director/co-writer/producer/cinematographer/editor Michael Cooke deftly explores the nature of racism in 1960’s Georgia from a fresh and decidedly powerful perspective–not just through the eyes of sisters, but with the twist of one being born so fair, she’s almost white. As the hateful attitudes of the community rear up, she chooses to try and blend in rather than be herself, much to the consternation of her dark-skinned sister Tara, who ends up taking the brunt of abject hostility. It’s a jarring reality being faced that goes beyond the already base anger and contempt of the era, and it’s ramifications are still felt.

McCullough delivers a solid performance as younger sister Ella, who as an adult is carrying a chip on her shoulder as she’s watched the world around her change, yet at the same time still carry its ill will forward. In confronting her sister, whom she holds in judgmental disdain via a sense of abandonment, Ella is made to face her own mistakes from the past that initiates a wake-up call within and bring about the start of a healing relationship with Tara. It’s well-orchestrated and McCullough enacts the strife the character faces with poise and believability.

Farrar likewise shines in her role as Tara, the older sister who has since found success away from the small town world she knew. Her reaction to Ella’s hard words is both understood and necessary in order for her to become the catalyst she does to remind Ella of her past sins, not to be cruel, but to make it clear about what impact Ella had on her then and now. It’s a sibling love that’s undeniable, and Farrar does a good job and showcasing this through the conflict the character encounters and overcomes.

Supporting roles are also presented well via Berkeley Clayborne as the young Ella, who funds out trying to be something she really isn’t has a high price and sobering lesson about racial enmity, Brynn Crosby as the young Tara, whose realistic view of the world and the harsh truths it bears clash heavily with her younger siblings naiveté. Additional turns are made by Battee as Walter Lee who is forced to play peacemaker between the adult sisters, along with Nicky Buggs and E. Roger Mitchell as the girl’s parents, seen in flashback. In total, with a deeply relevant message that still carries needed influence today and had this reviewer in tears by its finale, “Across The Tracks” is a solid indie short film effort that certainly deserves consideration and, we can hope, causes some analysis of the soul about the need for hatred to be put aside in order to see a better world under God.

As always, this is all for your consideration and comment.  Until next time, thank you for reading!

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