It’s always amazing to see crowdfunded films come to life, and Across the Tracks is something amazing to behold- and definitely could have been a feature-length film. Across the Tracks follows the story of two sisters in 1960’s Georgia and the fatal moments that destroyed a seemingly unbreakable bond. This gorgeous film was directed and co-written by Michael Cooke, and co-written by Kimberly James, both New York-based filmmakers. Across the Tracks has seen an impressive festival run, where it has won numerous awards which include: Best Diaspora Short Film at the 2016 African Movie Academy Awards, Director’s Choice Award at the 2016 Black Maria Film Festival, and Best Short from multiple festivals.
In the span of less than 15 minutes, Across the Tracks packs an emotional punch that many feature films fail to do in two hours. Following the death of their mother, estranged sisters Tara and Ella reunite after years of leading entirely different lives. Tara is a successful career woman and Ella remained home to be her mother’s caretaker. Facing her sister again, Ella reminisces about her past in the bleak Southern town- a place plagued by racism and hatred. And adding complications- Ella is fair-skinned, Tara is dark-skinned. Ella begins to notice the preferential treatment of the town’s white residents, and develops a dangerous preoccupation with pretending to be white.
After the integration of the town’s school, Ella decides to use her skin color to blend in with her white classmates, despite the the mistreatment of her and her sister. Aware she’s from the wrong side of the tracks, Ella changes her relationship with Tara forever.
What Across the Tracks depicts in perfection is the loss of childhood innocence in the face of peer pressure. At what point do children realize that not everyone is the same? At what point do they start to separate themselves? When does the desire to fit in start eclipsing doing the right thing? Realizing the benefits of fair skin, Ella opts to hide her true self and alter her future. Ella is a young girl, but can we really say she didn’t know any better? As seen in films such as Queen, and Imitation of Life– pretending to be something you’re not may reap temporary benefits, but have horrible repercussions later on.
After the 15 minutes was over, I found myself wanting more. What was the aftermath of that fatal moment on the tracks? What happened in the years leading up to Ella and Tara’s bitter reunion? Did that fateful moment prompt Tara’s success? Will Tara and Ella ever reconcile? I guess, it’s best left to the imagination. Looking forward to seeing more from Michael Cooke and the team of Across the Tracks.
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Thanks for reading,
ADRIANA, THE CINEMA SOLOIST