#52FilmsByWomen: AMERICAN HONEY

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47/52 AMERICAN HONEY

We’ve grown up mainly on male stories, and most of the films have been written and directed by men – and that’s only half of the human race. ~ Andrea Arnold

Based on a New York Times article that Arnold read, American Honey centers around the world of magazine crews that employ impoverished youth (who are often homeless, troubled or neglected) to tour around the country selling subscriptions. At just under three hours, it’s a sprawling and critically-praised glimpse into the cracks of Midwestern America most people never see unless you’ve lived there. What’s remarkable is that Arnold is an English filmmaker who seems to understands these places as well as any American.

The film reminds me of a modern New Wave approach. Arnold shoots in an aspect-ratio that appears square on screen because it’s closer to a human portrait. Her film is populated with non-actors, current music, achingly beautiful shots that cut before they become sentimental and a sense of scope that’s achieved while her camera lingers on faces rather than landscapes. It’s harsh and graphic at times, pulling no punches about a world that pulls no punches with these kids.

American Honey won the Jury Prize at Cannes and Arnold’s other films (including Fish Tank) have garnered a slew of awards including BAFTAs and an Oscar for Best Short. She also directs for Transparent. Arnold is one of those groundbreaking filmmakers whose work qualifies as an Event whenever she comes out with something new. This film is available on VOD.

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