After having stumbled across the opportunity to interview Bill Straus, a producer on the 2015 hit film Straight Outta Compton, I found myself intrigued by a film he mentioned he was producing that wa due for release in the coming year.
Here, we go...Sweaty Betty.
An unusual little film, Sweaty Betty could in some ways bring to mind Tangerine, the little film that could that was shot using an iPhone 5S and an $8 app. In this case, Sweaty Betty was shot on a camcorder bought at Best Buy. Perhaps the true break-out from SXSW, where the film had a sold-out world premiere, Sweaty Betty has been described as sort of an urban mumblecore, a film featuring parallel stories that take place in a cramped row house on the border of Washington, D.C.
In the first, Floyd and his family have raised a 1000-pound pig in their backyard and are determined to turn her into the team mascot for the Washington Redskins football team. Floyd puts his plan into motion, butthe pig, named Miss Charlotte, draws unwanted attention.
In the second story, taking place a few blocks away, Rico and Scooby are two teenage single fathers who are best friends spending their days hanging around the neighborhood and dreaming and scheming of a new life for themselves and their children. Then, they are presented with an unexpected opportunity.
After having talked with Straus at length, it's clear that this is the type of film he loves to produce, an urban tale filled with real life characters, real stories and brimming with hope and possibility.
Sweaty Betty is far more about the journey than it is the actual triumphant overcoming of one's past, though perhaps it's most refreshing as a break from the usual stories that we see coming out of urban neighborhoods where drugs and violence and gangs may be ever present but there is, and there really is, another side of the story.
Or, in this case, there's two sides.
As an interesting note, Sweaty Betty is entirely subtitled despite being entirely presented in the English language, a fact you will understand once you start listening to the regional dialect/dialogue that has a strong local flavor and a use of language and terms so individualized that you may find yourself both confused by it and utterly drawn to it.
At times, the film even feels a little bit like an urban Beasts of the Southern Wild, though it's a lot more casual and the story itself is a lot less structured.
Sweaty Betty definitely isn't for everyone. It's an obviously low-budget film that plays out in real time. As another refreshing note, these two stories, despite taking place relatively close to one another, never actually intersect.
Real life. Ya know?
Sweaty Betty proved to be quite popular on the film festival circuit despite the filmmakers not having any connections prior to hitting the road. The film was nominated for the Narrative Feature Grand Jury Award at SXSW, picked up a Special Jury Prize for Cinematic Non-Fiction at the Little Rock Film Festival, and won Best Narrative Feature and the Grand Chameleon Award at the Brooklyn Festival.
For more information on the film or to pick up your own copy, visit the Breaking Glass Pictures website linked to in the credits.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic