Dirt Road To Lafayette


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Dirt Road To Lafayette
"The clash of cultures is right here, the black music and the white rejection"

The journey is not what you expect. A dour, grieving Scotsman and his shy, repressed teenage son, take the plane to the States and then a bus to the South where the boy's uncle (David Hayman) lives with his American wife.

Their cultures are like rain on a summer's day. John Knox meets KKK? Almost, but not quite. These white folk would never wear the hood but they like who they are and what they do, Republicans in spirit if not in fact, drinking beer from the bottle, friendly and effusive and overweight.

The boy's name is Murdo (Neil Sutcliffe). Before his mum died he liked to play the accordion. But not since. His grief forced him away from what she loved. Tom (David O'Hara), his dad, speaks out of darkness and then only to criticise him. The shadow of the Kirk is like a cloak around his shoulders. Joy and hope have lost their relevance in the language of his heart. The world has closed and he is jealous of Murdo's ability to walk his own path, always with innocence.

The film is not comparing degrees of sadness with a lack of communication as the source of despair, although they influence the story. It's about music and what it can do and always has done for the dispossessed, except now the children of the children of slaves are given respect for their musical heritage.

In a small town close to where his uncle lives Murdo is sent to buy provisions from the local store. On the way he hears Cajun sounds, someone playing an accordion. It turns out to be Zydeco, another kind of blues, and the player is the famous Queen Monzee-ay (Margo Moorer), but Murdo doesn't know this. She allows him to join her with a borrowed instrument and tells him she and her band are playing in Lafayette in 10 days. You must come, she says.

The clash of cultures is right here, the black music and the white rejection. Murdo is determined to go. He has no fear because he cannot sense the racist undercurrents. Tom won't allow it. Murdo has learnt that confrontation changes nothing. He stays quiet. He makes plans.

Sutcliffe conveys Murdo's hidden emotions perfectly. He can blush on cue. O'Hara feels so locked into Tom's negativity it affects everyone around him.

The film captures a moment in a young man's life. There are limitations and there is sentiment. The dour East coast Highland way is seen for what it is and the negro celebration expressed with energy and pride.

Who's free now?

Reviewed on: 24 Jun 2018
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A teenager and his dad travel from Scotland to Alabama to visit relatives after a family death.


EIFF 2018

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