White Lightnin' scores a hit in both Sundance and Berlin

// 3rd of February, 2009

Before the first midnight screening of "White Lightnin' " Sundance
programmer Trevor Groth noted that "sometimes we show films that defy
categorization" and this film certainly lived up to that. A rollicking,
terrifying trip through good-times Americana and nightmares of madness and
revenge, the film tells the not-entirely- true story of Jesco White.

For those who have not seen Jacob Young's 1991 documentary "The Dancing
Outlaw" -- and if you haven't, you really should -- Jesco White is a
champion Appalachian dancer, continuing a tradition that has run in his
family for generations. Part tap, part clogging, part quest for spiritual
freedom, Jesco's dancing is truly one-of-a-kind.
Add to that his larger-than-life personality -- marked by violence,
addiction and more than a little genuine crazy -- and he is everything
strange and sad, funny and wonderful about rural American culture.

Directed by Dominic Murphy from a script by Eddy Moretti and Shane Smith,
"White Lightnin'" is no simple reading of Jesco's story.
Rather, they use the bones of his life as a jumping-off place, taking the
story to places fantasical and horrifying. "Walk the Line" it is not.

Edward Hogg stars as Jesco, in a star-making performance of remarkable range
and quicksilver agility. In preparing for the role, the British-born actor
met the real Jesco -- "He's crazy as hell, but you fall in love with him
straight away," Hogg said in an interview the day after the screening -- and
even learned steps from the master himself. Though a stand-in was shot, the
actor exhibited such a feel for the dancing that all the footage that made
it into the film is Hogg himself.

As for the amazing, implacable look of serene bliss that is on Hogg's face
whether he is dancing, huffing gasoline or attacking someone with a hatchet,
both Hogg and Murphy recalled that the director would shout "be nice!" at
the actor as he delved into evil behavior. "I told him, the more angry you
get, the more polite you've got to get,"
recalled Murphy the next day.

Murphy told me how the filmmakers made the decision to follow Jesco's real
story and where to leap off into a world of violent revenge and salvation
that is of their own devising.

"It wasn't about the real Jesco, it was a more twisted imagining of what
could have been, or might have been. And some of the things that happen in
the movie are things Jesco describes, that he has imagined or he wants to
do. For me it made complete sense in a kind of poetic sense."

-- Mark Olsen

"Vice magazine quickly cornered the market on trucker-hat-generation
hipsters by celebrating everything un-PC in the most self-consciously
unironic way. Their contribution to Sundance '09 is a film called
White Lightnin', a white-trash psychobilly nightmare with midnight
movie appeal. The film fictionalizes to the extreme the life of Jesco
White, an oddball whose life was chronicled in the cult-fave
documentary Dancing Outlaw. British actor Edward Hogg throws himself
bravely and unreservedly into the insanity of his character. The
inexplicable but inspired casting of Carrie Fisher as "Cilla", the
object of the gas huffing, tap dancing, demon-plagued main character's
affection, might attract some Hollywood attention"


Dominic Murphy's White Lightnin' is a demented slice of genius that's about
as far away from commercial as you can get. I doubt it will get a US release
and I don't know if it has a UK distributor, although the sales agent is a
British company called Salt. Edward Hogg is magnificent as a glue-sniffing
antichrist hillbilly called Jesco White who keeps his violent urges in check
by performing on stage. It's based on the life of a fabled mountain dancer
and is one of those surreal sand traps that just pulls you in. See it if you

Jeremy Kay in The Guardian

'a phantasmagoric tumble into the dark corners of artistic genius,
addiction, and insanity'

"hillbilly slasher saga"

'a demented slice of genius'

la times
'a rolicking terrifying ride'
'a star-making performance'

'white-trash America scarily recreated'

'Oozing with style - a gut-punching combination of fast-paced Jean
Pierre-Jeunet-type compositions and immensely accurate, gritty, West
Virginia trailer trash sensibility'


'White Lightnin' might be the very best film at Sundance this year.'

'a surreal and lurid story of vengeance, heartbreak and murder'
'edward hogg is astonishing'

'deeply disturbing and dark'

'An incredibly unsettling journey into the heart of darkness'


'performances (including Carrie Fisher's) completely off the ritcher scale'