As climate change erases the Louisiana coast, the last two teenagers on Isle de Jean Charles fight to stay on an island that’s been their family home for generations. The Audience Award Winner at Palm Springs Shortfest.
A selection of Short of the Week, the web’s leading curators of quality short films.
“We vouch for all the films we feature on Short of the Week, but today’s pick, Lowland Kids, is especially remarkable. A coming-of-age tale wrapped inside an environmental issue doc (or vice versa?), the film successfully puts human faces to the pressing issue of climate change. While it is a topic that most concede is vital in importance, it is one that, via its enormity, is often abstracted away from the particulars of individual lives. Celebrated commercial director Sandra Winther rectifies this gap in the discourse with an intensely intimate look at the on-the-ground stakes of environmental devastation, taking her crew down to the Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana, site of America’s first “climate refugees”, to profile two teenagers who are desperate to remain in the only home they’ve ever known—even as they come to grips with the inevitability of their loss.
At its heart, the film is a profile doc, that ubiquitous format so popular on the internet. We have conflicted feelings about the genre, which is the most popular type of film submitted to our site. The documentary boom of the past decade created a profusion of these kinds of shorts, capitalizing on both the relative ease of their production and audience’s inherent fascination with quirky or inspiring characters. They have become so popular as “content” for publications and brands that it is easy to be cynical and forget the subversive potential of the form. Profile docs can provide the rare opportunity to highlight normal people and normal lives with the intensity and care we usually reserve for fictional constructions. There is nothing “special” about the Brunets, the teens at the heart of Lowland Kids, they are just two kids trying to make the best of a situation over which they are powerless. When profile docs are utilized towards this end instead of highlighting celebs, titans of industry, or news-cycle heroes, the results can be exquisitely poignant.
It is a challenge for filmmakers to operate with these types of subjects though. To profile people that do not possess a strong human interest “hook” requires a high degree of execution during production, as one does not have the inherent buy-in of audiences via the premise. Climate change is, in a sense, the high-concept cover for the project, the existential force which drives its drama, but the film is at its weakest when it tries to tackle the subject head-on. Time spent with the Brunets is the beating heart of the film, and Winther and her producers, William Crouse and Lauren Avinoam, obviate the need for character exceptionalism through depth—the crew spent 2 weeks in Louisiana for the shoot, creating a level of familiarity and immersion with their subjects that is both rare for profile doc shorts, and also apparent on-screen. It allows for magic to occur in the in-between spaces, as Winther, and her cinematographer, Todd Martin, are able to transcribe to the screen the poeticism and grace of what is seemingly routine. ” – S/W Curator, Jason Sondhi
Director, Sandra Winther
Todd Martin, Cinematographer
Emi Stewart, Line Producer
Lily Bernstein, Sound Recordist
Raphaël Ajuelos, Sound Mix & Design
Stelios Phili, Zak Engel and Pip Van Genabeek, Composer
Sofie Borup, Colorist
Reproduced on this channel with the permission of the filmmakers.