This was my first time going to a screening at ImagineNative and I am so glad I got to see Barking Water. Although this picture is nothing new (I'm very familiar with the road movie genre) it introduced me to two wonderful actors: Casey Camp-Horinek and Richard Ray Whitman, and a very good young director Sterlin Harjo.
The plot is minimal: Frankie (Whitman) is dying and wants to go home, Irene (Camp-Horinek), his old flame, breaks him out of the hospital and drives him to his destination. The beauty of the film is the journey itself; we see via flashbacks the turbulent relationship between Frankie and Irene, lovers for years who just never got it right. In the present, we see through many quiet and contemplative scenes the regret and ultimate forgiveness between the two leads. I liked the quiet moments and the close-ups of the actors and their lived-in faces.
This film reminded me of the movies they used to make in the 70’s. Like those films, the outcome of Barking Water is not as important as the journey itself. I would say that my only complaint with the film was the music. Yes, it was great to have all these independent artist represented but it was just too much music for such a contemplative film.
I’m really glad I got a chance to experience this film, and I am thankful that we have a festival like ImagineNative that can bring these small films to us. I can’t wait till next year.
BARKING WATER Review by donna g
I have to start this review with my state of mind: I had seen the hilarious aboriginal road movie, Stone Bros. Saturday night at ImagineNative, and wasn't so sure that I wanted to end my screenings at the festival with a movie about a dying man on a journey with his old sweetheart to see his daughter. I wanted to end my attendance at ImagineNative on a high note (no pun intended), and Stone Bros. was a trip I had enjoyed because of the mix of characters and because throughout the hilarity the film had something to say about identity and culture. From its description, Barking Waters seemed to promise a somber journey that I didn't want to take. Besides, I knew there would be flashbacks of the past relationship between Frankie and Irene, and so many directors don't know how to handle this motif.
Well, I am very happy to report that not only did director, Sterlin Harjo know how to handle the flashback sequences so that they flowed with the present-day scenes, he knew how to tell a life story using the road as its metaphor. In brief moments that are never interruptive of the narrative, he encapsulates the history of Frankie and Irene's past relationship though glimpses of the past coloured in rich honey or desaturated tones. We understand why Irene would break Frankie out of the hospital and why she would be the one to take him on this journey. Riding along with them in the car, we get to know this couple through their interactions with one another. Their conversations are not always serious, and everything is not smooth and easy. At one point in the film, Irene slams out of the car because Frankie is driving her crazy. People retain their personalities until they die and yes, they can tick you off.
In many road trips, the main characters often encounter people along the way that are there just to provoke a laugh from the audience, but who have nothing to add to the script. (Writers/directors often forget that Absurdist Humour does have a format.) The characters that Frankie and Irene meet along the way are friends and family, so they contribute to the script. The strangers they do meet also add to the story by revealing, through dialogue, aspects of Frankie and Irene's relationship. One half of a couple they meet has no dialogue, but his expression tells all in his very believable and funny reaction to something Irene confesses.
Barking Water is not the barrel of laughs that Stone Bros is, but it is as equally effective in its storytelling as the Australian comedy. Writer/Director, Sterlin Hajo (left) demonstrates an adeptness at blending drama and humour with his cinematic vision. The use of the Oklahoma landscape, his colour palette, and the extraordinary performances he elicits from his actors (activists who act on the side) make this road movie one of the best I have seen since The Straight Story.
Mvto (thank you) ImagineNative.