The townspeople of LaPorte, IN
CONCEIVED AND DIRECTED BY
Winner of the Hoosier Lens Award during the 2010 Indianapolis International Film Festival, Joe Beshenkovsky's LaPorte, Indiana chronicles a rather unique and fascinating discovery in B & J's American Cafe, a true archive of the town's history in the form of over 18,000 studio portraits taken by recently deceased local photographer Frank Pease.
These portraits could be just "pictures," but in Beshenkovsky's doc they become a surprisingly touching, nostalgic and entertaining account of the town's history, the history of its people and, in turn, how the turn is shaped by the people and the people by their town.
Beshenkovsky, who was nominated for a 2008 Emmy Award for Nonfiction Editing for his work on This American Life, wonderfully and honestly captures the stories of those whose pictures Pease left behind. Some of these people would spend their entire lives in LaPorte, Indiana, a small town founded in 1832 with a population just over 21,000 in the 2000 U.S. Census. Others, of course, would leave such a small town as soon as humanly possible. Fortunately, LaPorte, Indiana is a nice blend of small town affection and cultural revelation.
It's not surprising, really, that Beshenkovsky's background is so strong in editing. LaPorte, Indiana features a myriad of stories beautifully woven together often, it would seem, having past and present become literal mirrors for one another. Beshenkovsky, along with producer Jason Bitner, have captured an important piece of American history and, maybe even more importantly, made sure that it remains incredibly relevant even today. It isn't necessarily the individual photos that are so fascinating, but the way they weave together to reveal personal lives, testimonies, a town's history and the ways in which our lives tangibly and intangibly connect.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic