Watch Easter Snap, a New Documentary Short From Oscar Nominee RaMell Ross

Few filmmakers build on the intimacy of the gaze like RaMell Ross, who is part of the new wave of artists working with the documentary form to reveal the inner logic of relationships through careful observation and aesthetic innovation. Nominated for an Academy Award in Best Documentary, Feature, for his 2018 feature Hale County This Morning, This Evening, Ross’s latest, Easter Snap, journeys to the Deep South where we meet Johnny Blackmon, who is helping to resurrect the homestead ritual of hog processing.

The film begins with a large hog wrapped in a distinctively American blanket as a team of five men prepare the animal with careful consideration. Ross’s ability to frame each scene with precision and win the trust of his subjects is one of the filmmaker’s extraordinary talents. The camera never quite disappears, as we’re made conscious of its presence, power, and the limits of its lens, but neither is Ross detached, hiding behind his machine when one of the men ends up on his back and the filmmaker places his camera down to react. The humanity of the artist is central to so much of Ross’s work, never pushing away from his subjects but continually inching closer, like a long conversation with a good friend. He never reduces his scenes to an image, making us aware of what we cannot see, but impregnates them with symbolism that seems to open them up to wider issues.

From Easter Snap (courtesy Field of Vision)

The five men never address the camera, but we feel embraced into their circle and part of this ritual that connects them to a history of a place we may never see more closely than here.

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