Producers and directors Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands documentary takes place in a tiny town called Uncertain in Texas, where the Caddo Lake is infected with salvinia, a botanic parasite. With a mere population of 94, the Caddo Lake is the town’s main source of income, with fishing and vacation opportunities. The harmful weed doubles in size in only a couple of days while killing off the life in the water. This documentary follows three residents and their stories and struggles to survive in the town. We follow Henry, a 74-year-old tour guide and fisherman. Henry’s main income comes from the tour guide, but unfortunately as the weed increased in the lake, the vacationers decreased. The second resident we follow is Wayne, whose hobby is to hunt a wild boar called Mr.Ed and the last person is Zach, a 21-year-old alcoholic with diabetes.
The documentary is filled with the lonely lake, right from the beginning. From the haunting images to the nature filled sounds, the directors do not miss the opportunity to show off this incredible but dying lake. The cinematography is incredibly impressive from the first second until the last and its just ample reason to carry on watching. The solitude of the lake easily interprets the town’s isolation too, as the sheriff simply explains that “you’ve got to be lost to find it”. The documentary magnificently captures even the smallest detail of nature.
Although the documentary covers the infected lake, McNicol and Sandilands have given us an extremely personal and sensitive outlook into the three residents. The imagery of the lake is gothic and lingering but the stories of the residents are more haunting. As we follow Henry, we find out a lot about his past. He recently lost his wife of almost 50 years and his daughter at a young age, but the most surprising thing we find out is his criminal past. Henry shot and killed a man who was taunting him about his friendship with white people and his decision to socialize with them. His regret and struggle is genuine.
Another convict is Wayne, who killed a young black man while drink driving. After serving his time and recovering from his drug addiction, he and his girlfriend (also recovering addict) decided to move to Uncertain to live a quite life. As Wayne tell us his story, we are shown actual images from his past crimes, possibly police evidence photographs. We see his damaged vehicle, followed by the vehicle of the victim, which has the roof of the car missing. The images even include the blood of the victim. Like Wayne, the audience is also haunted by his past.
Lastly there is Zach, who lives by himself in a dirty and trashed house trying to keep sober. Although he is diabetic, Zach takes every opportunity to get wasted. He’s part of the rare young residents of the town.
Even though the focus is on these three men and their stories, the directors continuously remind us of the lake. The weed growing and killing; the nature fighting with one another; the helpless man watching and waiting. The documentary won the Albert Maysles Documentary Director Award at the Tribeca Film Festival and it’s clear why. The directors’ simple approach to show a town on the brink of ruin and the many honest stories of the citizens mixed with spectacular cinematography is worth watching. Uncertain will be shown at Institute of Contemporary Arts from 10th March and will be available on Digital On Demand release on iTunes and other on demand platforms from 17th March.
Author: Busra Mutlu
Editor: Han Angus