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BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA

USA, 1996 (MIFF 1997, International)

Director: Anjelica Huston

Anjelica Huston's splendid directorial debut is a harrowing examination of child abuse and backwoods ciose-mindedness in South Car­olina. 'Bone' Boatwright lives with the stigma of illegitimacy and began life the hard way. Her mother, Anney, is nearly killed in a car accident while in labour with Bone and en route to the hospital. Bone's doting stepfather is killed not long after; thus precipitating a spiral of poverty and ill treatment. Determined to remove the perceived curse of birth out of wedlock, Anney marries a man called Glen; his sweet demeanour conceals a violent temper which he unleashes on Bone.

lennifer Jason Leigh delivers one of her most sympathetic performances in years as a home-maker countering terrible psychological and phys­ical odds; the flip side is Ron Eldard and the compelling manner in which he portrays 'Daddy' Glen, an earnest young man who it seems is fated to become increasingly more vicious and vile.

Jena Malone, at the tender age of 11, is aston­ishing as Bone, the child protagonist of the piece. Her range - vulnerability, terror, defiance, rage and resignation, all played with equal conviction - is a talent to be coveted by many thesps thrice her age. Bastard Out of Carolina is not an easy film to watch; it is even harder to turn away from.

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