Panorama | Contemporary World Cinema
Fusing the Southern Gothic imagery of William Faulkner with the impressionistic style of Terrence Malick, this debut feature by 19-year-old filmmaker Phillip Youmans displays an aesthetic maturity far beyond its director’s years. As with executive producer Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, another film of seemingly sui generis inspiration, Burning Cane poignantly captures the destitute conditions of rural New Orleans while evoking a spiritual crisis that seemingly transcends the circumstances of this particular place.
The apocalyptic flavour of the film is palpable upon meeting the town’s shepherd, Rev. Tellman (Wendell Pierce of The Wire), a recently widowed drunkard, but it gains in intensity as we acclimatize to the routines of an impoverished matriarch, her unemployed son, and her lonesome grandson. In following these characters as the town continues to atomize and depopulate, Burning Cane accrues the power, ferocity, and catharsis of a bona fide exorcism. Call it a season in hell.
"Youmans doesn’t fixate on the awe-inspiring visuals as much as he uses them to convey the desperation of his small ensemble, and it’s here that the movie’s true strengths come into focus." - Eric Kohn, IndieWire
Best Feature, Best Actor, Best Cinematography, US Narrative Competition, Tribeca 19