Tonsler Park Screen 7 articles

Tonsler Park


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  • These people cared. And Everson cares about them, letting his grainy black and white camera capture them for ten minutes or more at a time. It gives them a full portrait just by letting them exist in a common element. Everson's been making charming experimental documentaries of this sort for over a decade and he never looks like he's breaking a sweat. His charming and vivacious images just seem to spill out of his camera.

  • Given the cynicism and dismay that now surround our last presidential election, this portrait of a community interacting around that fundamental democratic act of casting ballots is particularly affecting.

  • Tonsler Park, shot in 16mm black and white, makes entrancing a fundamentally unexciting bureaucratic process. Everson, in homing in on, for example, the moments of laughter that that the workers at the voting precincts share while squeezing in between the people that come to ask them for help, is trying to remind us of the pleasure we should take in being part of the election process.

  • A work of great beauty, simplicity, and hope... Essential to the movie’s impact is that Everson does not belabor the “point.” Tonsler Park is not just a forthright counterpoint to the deluge of violent images and condescending sermonizing offered by mainstream media. It’s an act of artistic and political clout that should run as a permanent installation on museum walls across the country in a continuous loop.

  • Mr. Everson tests your patience with an opening that initially registers as a tediously obvious formalist gesture. Keep watching; it only looks simple. Because, as one leisurely held shot gives way to the next, “Tonsler Park” reveals itself beautifully and with incremental, unexpectedly moving force. Mr. Everson is asking you to look, really look, and he is asking you to think, including about documentary cinema’s history of representing black people as problems.

  • Art can be at its most powerful when a modest idea comes to signify a seismic shift, while retaining the integrity of its original intention... Instead of being another film in Everson’s oeuvre that focuses on the processes and practices of everyday life for black Americans, Tonsler Park has acquired a level of monumentality. This most unpretentious of filmmakers, who is also a professor of art at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, may well be uncomfortable with that status.

  • Everson’s films are examples of just how fiercely cinema’s plain vernacular can be rooted in politics. Not much happens at the polls: the voters’ polite small talk and steady gestures reflect the occasion’s decorum. And yet, we can’t forget that this is a battleground, the America many would say we’ve lost (even though Virginia itself voted Democratic). Tonsler Park softly plays out such monumental concerns over the fate of the political system, access and power in the US from the micro-level.

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