Normal. Just like everybody else.
Director Joshua Tate‘s LOVE LAND (2014) film made its debut at the 25th annual New Orleans Film Festival. The film is set against the backdrop of the Disability Rights Movement and features a unique group of characters both traditional and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Their performances aren’t simplified and are thrust into the complicated mixture of honesty and betrayal–drugs and alcohol. The actors with disabilities prove to be the most interesting of them all. They are not asking you for a handout, nor are they demanding of your sympathy or time. Love Land just isn’t that kind of film. It is, however, a movie that has a sophisticated method for approaching very real adolescent themes, sexuality, emotional struggle and acceptance.
Ivy (Monica Gaseor) is a 24-year-old aspiring tattoo artist with a developmental disability who crushes on her much younger co-worker, 16-year-old Oscar (Skyy Moore). Still too young to buy beer, Oscar asks Ivy out on a date, so that she could buy beer for him and his friends. Jeanette (Angelica Briones), the actual object of Oscar’s affections, is there to meet them in a cut-off in the woods. Here the teens and Ivy, engage in smoking pot, drinking beer, and sex. They are caught in the act by the authorities. After that, Ivy is placed in the Love Land Ranch, a living community of individuals with disabilities, where she begins to manipulate her way to freedom and reunite with her boyfriend. Her actions are detrimental, affecting the emotional stability and safety of those around her. Specifically, that of Roger (Michael Lovine), a fellow resident with Down Syndrome, who wants nothing more than to have a family of his own.
The direction focus on the meaningful relationships between the characters in the film and appropriately supports the disconnect surrounding Ivy and Roger, the story’s two main protagonists. The film also was careful not to promote stereotypes about the uniquely challenged. There is a respective understanding that the livelihoods of these residents and the caregivers there to assist them to depend on their relationship to one another. Charlie (Regan Linton), a supervisor at the ranch, fears that she may lose her job if Roger and the others at the ranch, became too independent. Also, the films’ director was also inclusive in depicting a fallacy of the parents of people with particular needs who perhaps still see their very adult children as child-like, and incapable of making important decisions on their own.
Filmed candidly in and around a small town in Texas made for an almost intimate setting which allowed for these talented performers to effectively self-represent people with intellectual and development disabilities on screen. Gaseor and Lovine’s on-screen pairing and performances were beyond remarkable and were intriguingly believable. Memphis DiAngelis‘ “Armen” held his successful moments on screen and provided just enough energy and enthusiasm needed to break the intensity within such a dramatic landscape.
There is something truly unexpected and almost magical about Love Land. That such direction, story, and characters can make for an all-encompassing feature film.
*AWARDS: Winner, 2013 San Francisco Film Society/Kenneth Rainin Foundation Filmmaking Grant
Director: JOSHUA TATE
Writer(s): PAUL GLEASON and JOSHUA TATE
Producer: MARITTE GO, ANDREW C. RICHEY and JOSHUA TATE
Cinematographer: DAMIAN HORAN
Composer: AARON GUIDRY
Editor: ANDREW NACKMAN, ANDREW C. RICHEY and JOSHUA TATE
Costume Designer: KAYLA FAYE
Production Designer: ROBIN NATIONS
Runtime 101 MINUTES
Art and supplementary materials courtesy ©2014 of LOVE LAND film. All rights reserved.