Thoughts On: Out Of My Hand - The Grind

16/11/2018

Out Of My Hand - The Grind

Quick Thoughts: Out Of My Hand (2015)


Made by Takeshi Fukunaga, this is the Liberian film of the series.


** SPOILERS **

Out Of My Hand is a film about struggling to be and have more than life hands you and, ever so subtly, is also a commentary on Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. It follows Cisco, a rubber plantation tapper who lives an honest, yet difficult life. For his family, he'd like to figure out a way to make more money, but cannot do so without huge risk. With his union, he eventually decides to go on strike so that wages and hours can be made more just and liveable. Many of the plantation tappers look to Cisco for inspiration as his cousin managed to move to America to live what they think is the American dream despite Cisco's constant denial of such a thing. As the men laze around on their days off, hiding from their wives as they strike, one worker becomes increasingly confrontational with Cisco over his defamation of the American dream. Alas, all comes to an end very soon. The plantation managers get the local authorities involved in the matter and begin out-casting from the village workers on strike. Cisco's co-workers scramble back to the plantation, willing to beg for their old job back. Cisco cannot bend. He moves to America to work with his cousin as a taxi driver. There he is haunted by the ghosts of his past as a solider in the Liberian Civil War (whether it is the first or second is not clear). Despite only wanting to work and send money home to his wife, he eventually gets tangled in with a prostitute who he thinks he has the opportunity to maybe help, but all is for nothing. The ex-solider who worked for Cisco during the war merely manipulates him with the prostitute as to get money out of him. The two confront one another on the street and the pimp is hit by a car. Cisco drives away. Later that night he gets a flat. He changes the tire.

Shot almost as a documentary, we are brought into this world with patient observation. Much attention is paid to the silent process of working - especially with one's hands, which is where we are made to feel most at home. It then says much that this opens with an extended sequence that only watches Cisco clean and re-tap a tree and then ends with him procedurally changing his car tire. These moments are significations of equilibrium in two different contexts unified by Cisco's commitment to physical, honest work. There is a little more to this, however. As implied, it is rather hard to not think of Taxi Driver whilst, haunted by the remnants of war and confronted by the troubles of a prostitute, Cisco drives around New York City. Alas, where Taxi Driver holds at its heart something of a vigilante's hero narrative, Cisco fails where Travis only gets started. He cannot then find a just cause to fight for via the prostitute, only self-indulgence and naivety. Having already made his integration back into society via his family, his wife and children, Cisco needs not listen to the hero's call in New York City - he has already made this journey before we meet him it seems. The subtle statement made by Out Of My Hand then seems to be pessimistic or cautiously optimistic. It seemingly asserts we have a limited amount of chances for transformation in our lives and only so long before our children must take our place. As we watch Cisco silently grind away, stoic despite the tragic limitation underlying his being, we find solace in the fact that his youth ended with a positive transformation, that he has the power to clean up, fix up and keep moving through life--that this has not changed since the film began. What we see ground by Cisco is then not necessarily his essence, but the rough edges of his will and of life. To grind is then to slowly make life smoother. As difficult and attritious as this may be, with each bump overcome, things seem to flow freer.

The only draw backs of this film concern the fact that the realism that secures the film's affecting subtext is perturbed by sometimes shaky acting. Beyond this, Out Of My Hand is a strong film. I recommended you see it as it is currently on Netflix. A good supplementation to the film would be a Vice documentary on The Liberian Civil War. Little is spoken of the war during the film and the contextual references are easily overlooked. This documentary will help fill in the gaps and let you know who General Butt Naked is, if you do not yet know.


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