The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, April 13-19

sweaty betty

Sweaty Betty (2015)
Directed by Joseph Frank and Zachary Reed
Made on the cheap by residents of the neighborhood it depicts, this shaggy pig story offers a low-fi snapshot of Hyattsville, Maryland, a low-income, predominantly African-American town just outside DC. As seen through the eyes of teenage friends Scooby (Seth Dubois) and Rico (Rico S.), it’s a lively yet mostly aimless place, peopled with loving parents, loyal friends, and local characters the rest of the community appreciates and supports—like Floyd (Floyd Rich), who’s trying to get his beloved Washington football team to make a mascot of his gigantic pet pig, Charlotte. All the actors, who were encouraged to improvise based on their own lives, seem comfortable and unself-conscious, and their (subtitled) slangy banter and the largely improvised rhythm of their days feels refreshingly free of capital-D drama. Frank and Reed raise the perils that ride the coattails of poverty and racial discrimination deftly, both through throwaway comments made by the characters and through the animals in the story. Floyd is eager to do something with Charlotte in part because she’s getting too big to easily feed, and a young pit bull Rico and Scooby wind up with goes unfed for far too long, gets lost, and is eyed by a loudmouth who brags about how he could turn it into a fighter by brutalizing it, all over the course of just one or two days with the boys. Their risky situations are an unsettling reminder that poverty can make a life dangerously unstable, even when most of its individual moments are good. Elise Nakhnikian (April 17, 1pm at the Museum of the Moving Image’s “New Adventures in Nonfiction”)

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