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George Washington

Executive producer, Sam Froelich. Co-producers, Erin Aldridge, R. Craig Zobel.

Executive producer, Sam Froelich. Co-producers, Erin Aldridge, R. Craig Zobel.

Directed, written by David Gordon Green. Camera (color, widescreen), Tim Orr; editors, Steven Gonzales, Zene Baker; music, Michael Linnen, David Wingo; production designer, Richard Wright. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 11, 2000. (Also in L.A. Independent Film Festival.) Running time: 89 MIN.

With: Candace Evanofski, Donald Holden, Curtis Cotton III, Eddie Rouse, Paul Schneider, Damian Jewan Lee, Rachel Handy, Jonathan Davidson, Janet Taylor.

Attractive widescreen lensing and a pungent taste of small-town atmospherics are the major selling points of “George Washington,” an otherwise undistinguished and uninvolving attempt to offer a rural spin on “Kids.” Predominantly African-American cast of nonpro thesps simply can’t do enough of the heavy lifting required to render compelling, full-bodied characters. Writer-director David Gordon Green doesn’t help much by simply standing by and waiting for inspiration to strike during what appear to be semi-improvised riffs. Fest programmers may warm to the docu-style indie drama, but commercial prospects are bleak.

Title refers not to the first president, but instead to a taciturn 13 -year-old boy in a North Carolina hamlet where, apparently, most of the few gainfully employed adults labor at a salvage yard. George (Donald Holden) and his playmates spent their days at aimless games and wanderings while stuck in hardscrabble lives below the poverty line. When a playmate accidentally dies, the survivors — fearing punishment from their parents — opt to hide the body and say nothing of the demise. Guilt and anxiety take a toll on the youngsters, but that’s not nearly enough to provide sufficient narrative drive to sustain audience interest.

George Washington

Production: A Youandwhatarmy Filmed Challenges production in association with Blue Moon Film Prods. and Down Home Entertainment. Produced by David Gordon Green, Sacha Mueller, Lisa Muskat.

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