Review: ‘Goreville, U.S.A.’

Initially intriguing but ultimately condescending, "Goreville, U.S.A." seems at first to be about the citizens of an Illinois backwater (the only town in the U.S. to pass an ordinance requiring at least one member of every household to own a firearm). But doc becomes too ambitious for its own good, changing gears midway to focus on right-wing militias and the broad issue of gun control. Theatrical distribution is unlikely for this hourlong doc, but public TV and cable play are not out of the question.

Initially intriguing but ultimately condescending, “Goreville, U.S.A.” seems at first to be about the citizens of an Illinois backwater (the only town in the U.S. to pass an ordinance requiring at least one member of every household to own a firearm). But doc becomes too ambitious for its own good, changing gears midway to focus on right-wing militias and the broad issue of gun control. Theatrical distribution is unlikely for this hourlong doc, but public TV and cable play are not out of the question.

Helmers Seth Henrikson, Dave Sarno and Rob Shields’ debut pic begins with a long sequence of Goreville residents discussing the local citizenry and why Goreville has the odd law that insists every household possess a gun. The very out-of-the-loop residents explain that Goreville passed the law in response to the growing sentiment across the country to ban weapons.

Up to this point, pic causes guilty laughs because every interviewee comes across as, frankly, an ignorant hick. There may be culturally savvypeople in Goreville, but none of them is on display here.

Filmmakers then go way off the beam by focusing on the local militia, which feels that firearms are a necessity for Americans to protect themselves against the increasingly liberal government. Like many semi-political docus, “Goreville, U.S.A.” travels to Washington for a rally, this one promoting citizens’ militias.

While subject is certainly an interesting one that’s been in the news over the last few years, filmmakers don’t offer any dramatic arc to keep the material compelling. A lot of footage must have been shot, and it seems that no one was really clear as to exactly what to do with it.

Quite annoyingly, pic seems to be mocking the people it’s documenting. One can’t help but feel that the filmmakers think they’re a lot smarter then their subjects.

Black-and-white pic features MTV-style onscreen descriptions and segment breaks. Tech credits are solid — the filmmakers were clearly after an offbeat grittiness that would complement their subject, and they certainly achieve that.

Alternative rocker Jeff Tweedy, leader of Wilco, has created a flavorful, easygoing soundtrack that makes the proceedings easier to sit through.

Goreville, U.S.A.

(DOCU -- B&W)

Production

A Leaning Silo production. Produced by James F. Roberts, James T. Volk. Executive producers, Jim Roberts, Robert Gould. Directed by Seth Henrikson, Dave Sarno, Rob Shields.

Crew

Camera (B&W), Henrikson; editors, Martha Kelly, Chris Segich; music, Jeff Tweedy; sound, Dave Sarno. Reviewed at Hollywood Film Festival, L.A., Aug. 10, 1998. Running time: 64 MIN.
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