26 July, 2016

Georgia Filmmakers Spotlight an Iconic Location and a Quirky Phenomenon in Documentaries "Hotel Clermont" (****) & "Eat White Dirt" (****½)

Tammy Wright, the primary subject of "Eat White Dirt."

One of the greatest appeals of a film festival is its ability to introduce audiences to stories from around the globe. And while I enjoy seeing the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong's nighttime streets and the breathtaking high-altitude views of the Himalayas on the big screen, there's something remarkably special about seeing a film that highlights the stories right in my backyard.

Two Georgia-lensed documentary shorts have been making waves among the southern film festival circuit: "Hotel Clermont" by Heather Hutson and "Eat White Dirt" by Adam Forrester. Both screened earlier this year at the Atlanta Film Festival and both came away with notable awards"Hotel Clermont" won the Audience Award for Best Documentary Short and "Eat White Dirt" won the Seed&Spark Jury Award. Although I missed their screenings in Atlanta back in April, I made sure to catch them this weekend during the Macon Film Festival's "Southern Stories" shorts block, and I'm so glad I did.

"Hotel Clermont"
For Atlantans new and old alike, the Clermont Hotel stands as an iconic, yet mysterious landmark. Many know of the hotel and of its famous basement counterpart, the Clermont Lounge (the city’s longest operating strip club), but few know the stories of the hotel’s inhabitants. Director and Atlanta-native Heather Hutson does an excellent job taking the audience behind Clermont’s storied walls, exploring the residents and staff who called it home during its final days. "Hotel Clermont" is a very interesting and intimate peak into a mostly ignored segment of Atlanta society, one that natives and non-Atlantans alike can appreciate. 4 out of 5 stars.

"Eat White Dirt"
“Eat White Dirt” is perhaps my favorite documentary I have seen in my time as a Reel Georgia writer. Director Adam Forrester expertly weaves the story of four women (including magnetic 37-year-old Tammy Wright) who practice geophagy, or earth-eating. Each of the women have their own personal relationship with, and reason for, eating white dirt, and the conversations with them in conjunction with the in-depth interviews with scientists and local historians are incredibly insightful. Pair these interviews with unique, clever animations, and Forrester delivers a powerful documentary that entertains, engages and educates an audience on a phenomenon few may know. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

"Hotel Clermont" and "Eat White Dirt" played at the Macon Film Festival as a part of the Southern Stories shorts block with screenings on Friday, June 22 at 10:00 AM and Saturday, July 23 at 5:00 PM at the Macon Theatre. "Hotel Clermont" won the Audience Choice Award for Documentary. 

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