All to often I find Hot Docs passing me by and a few months later (or in this case a full year later), the trailer for a film I overlooked pops up online and I kick myself in the ass for having missed it. This time it’s Robert Persons’ ‘General Orders No.9′, an intriguing look at the changing landscape of the American South.
I’d heard the trailer for this film being described as Malickian, and with Tree of Life fresh in my mind (and competing with Attack the Block as my number one film of the year thus far), I thought I should check it out for myself. Sure enough, a pull quote in the trailer claims — with a fair bit of hyperbole — that General Orders No. 9 “Makes Malick look like a straight shot of Hollywood.” While I could give a fuck about who’s out-Malicking Malick, there’s no denying that the combination of images and sparse, contemplative narration on display in this trailer certainly points to that particular filmmaker as a possible inspiration for Persons film. My interest is definitely piqued! Here’s the synopsis:
Awarded for its visionary cinematography, GENERAL ORDERS No. 9 breaks from the constraints of the documentary form as it contemplates the signs of loss and change in the American South. The stunning culmination of over eleven years’ work from first time writer-director Bob Persons, GENERAL ORDERS No. 9 marries experimental filmmaking with an accessible, naturalist sensibility to tell the epic story of the clash between nature and man’s progress, and reaches a bittersweet reconciliation all its own. Told entirely with images, poetry, and music, GENERAL ORDERS No. 9 is unlike any film you have ever seen. A story told in maps, dreams, and prayers, it is one last trip down the rabbit hole before it’s paved over.
There are a few words in that synopsis that typically set off alarm bells in my mind; those being “experimental filmmaking” and “poetry”. It takes a delicate hand to utilize poetry and experimental filmmaking techniques without causing my eye-roll reflex to kick into overdrive. Terrence Malick manages to navigate this terrain with great success because he’s a master filmmaker. Here’s hoping General Orders No. 9 hits that same sweet spot while maintaining its own sense of identity.
Check out the trailer below or head over to Apple Trailers and watch it in glorious HD. General Orders No. 9 is now playing in limited theatres. Head over to the official website for updates and play dates.