"Searching for Salvation"
What You Need To Know:
GEORGE WASHINGTON is a brilliant, enigmatic stream of consciousness feature film by 25-year-old filmmaker David Gordon Green. It focuses on a group of racially mixed children, including George, Nasio, Buddy, Vernon, and Sonya, who see the beauty in the fallen world around them where death and decay are part of the very fabric of life. In the story, an accidental death upsets the children's world, and spurs George first to seek to be a hero and then to seek salvation from Jesus Christ.
GEORGE WASHINGTON is a small film that will probably not reach big audiences. It had trouble finding a distributor. The audiences that would respond to its spiritual themes may be upset by the life and death issues of the movie, including the little children talking about sexual activity and using obscenities. There is an air of hyper-realism here that is transformed by director Green into a lyrical insight into mankind. Hopes and fears, good and bad, life and death happen, and the most real moment is when the title character cries out for salvation. After producing a masterpiece like this, it is difficult to see what Green will do for an encore
(CCC, BB, LL, VV, SS, D, M) Christian worldview with moral imperatives limited only by the fallenness of man; 12 obscenities, 1 exclamatory profanity, girl draws on wall with dog feces, & discussions about going to the bathroom; boy slips on bathroom floor, hits head & dies, boy almost drowns in pool, man kills dog offscreen, punching & shoving among boys, & threats of violence; discussions of sexual activity among girls, some of whom are very young, kissing, discussions of dog sexually attacking child; no nudity; smoking; and, children lie & cover up boy’s death.
GEORGE WASHINGTON is a brilliant, enigmatic stream of consciousness feature film by 25-year-old filmmaker David Gordon Green. It is enigmatic because it focuses on a group of racially mixed children who see the beauty in the world and yet live in the fallen world where death and decay are part of the very fabric of their lives.
Rejected by Sundance, GEORGE WASHINGTON became a must see movie at Berlin’s International Forum of Young Cinema. Dismissed by Variety, it was hailed by the New York Times as a movie for the ages.
Using real people, and natural dialogue, it appears to be cinema verité, yet filmmaker Green had a clear vision for what he wanted and provided strict boundaries, including telling his young cast members that they could not use profanity. Green notes, “When we did improv during rehearsals, there was a natural tendency to cuss all the time, but when I gave them boundaries where that wasn’t permitted, they had these bizarre, very rich things to say. They started speaking these very lyrical sentences.”
It is these lyrical sentences that have confused reviewers, who contend that children wouldn’t be so self-reflective. Perhaps the reviewers don’t realize that Green has a point, if children are not allowed to cuss, they would be self-reflective.
The story starts out with 12-year-old Nasia breaking up with her little boyfriend, Buddy. Buddy can’t commit to telling Nasia that he loves her, but he would like another kiss before they part.
Seeking self-esteem through relationships with the opposite sex, Nasia decides that George is the boy for her. She sees him as a future president of the United States or a superhero, hence she calls him George Washington. At the very least, she wants him to lead the upcoming Fourth of July parade.
George, meanwhile, is quiet and reflective. He has a medical condition that is extremely dangerous because the soft spot on the top of his head that all babies have (which usually seals when the skull knits itself together) never did so with George. If he gets hit in the head or even if he gets his head wet, the results could be fatal.
Perhaps because of his own physical limitations, George appears to have compassion for all things living and even takes in a stray dog, even though he knows that his Uncle, with whom he lives, hates dogs. When his uncle eventually kills his dog, he listens to his uncle confess and bare his soul, and George even adopts the dog-skin cap that his uncle makes for him as a strange act of contrition.
Several other children hang around George and Nasia. Among them are a little white girl named Sonia and her boyfriend, a big, amiable black boy named Vernon who is consumed by guilt and fear.
As it so happens, it is not George who dies from a hit to the head, rather it is Buddy, who dies after he and George are scuffling in a bathroom of an abandoned amusement park, and Buddy slips and falls, hitting his head on the tile. Although the bloody death was clearly an accident, it shakes everybody to the core. Vernon is so consumed by guilt that he wants to run away with Sonya, even though he had nothing to do with the accident.
Reacting to this tragedy, George decides to become the hero that Nasia sees in him, and risks his life (remember his head condition) saving a white boy who is drowning in the pool. He even takes up the job of directing traffic, decked out in a football helmet and a cape like some crazy comic superhero.
There’s a strange cacophony of beauty and decay in this movie. It is a fallen world, where the beauty of God’s creation shines brightly in spite of the junk that man has discarded.
God is evoked, and George actively seeks Jesus for salvation. In the last scene, George is readying himself for his baptism, although the full immersion in water could harm his brain. Thus, the theme of the fallenness of man and the need for salvation runs throughout the movie, and it is this theme that is appealing to audiences, including the secular reviewers who have written glowing reviews without addressing the spiritual side of the movie.
GEORGE WASHINGTON is a small film that will probably not reach big audiences. It had trouble finding a distributor. The audiences that would respond to its spiritual themes may be upset by the life and death issues of the movie, including the little children talking about sexual activity and using obscenities. There is an air of hyper-realism here that is transformed by director Green into a lyrical insight into mankind.
Hopes and fears, good and bad, life and death happen, and the most real moment is George crying out for salvation. After producing a masterpiece like this, it is difficult to see what Green will do for an encore.