On the Texas/Louisiana border is a small town by the name of Uncertain. It sits next to a beautiful body of water called Caddo Lake, which is iconic for its swamp-like Cypress trees covered in Spanish moss. I’ve actually been to Uncertain on numerous occasions, as my grandparents were two of the residents that made up its less-than-one-hundred population. When I learned that a documentary was being released about this area of the Deep South, I was immediately intrigued. While my personal connection made this film automatically interesting to me, I fear that the average person might be turned off by the lack of a real “hook” outside of the foreign nature of this location and its inhabitants.
The film focuses on three different residents of Uncertain: a boar hunter seeking his version of a white whale, an elderly fisherman eking his way through his final years, and a young man fighting with both diabetes and alcoholism. Admittedly, none of these people’s lives are particularly compelling, yet there’s a sheer fascination with how different these three men live their lives, not only from what so many people are familiar with, but also each other. Outside of these three men, the film also focuses on Caddo Lake itself, which is sadly slowly dying due to a foreign plant that is quite literally choking the town’s lifeline. Uncertain almost feels like another world or something out of work of fiction. Sadly, this might not be enough to draw an outside audience.
Here’s what stood out the most to me with this documentary: the absence of any kind of narration or voice over. Directors Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands simply let the people of Uncertain tell their stories on their own, talking to an interviewer off-camera from whom we never hear a single word. This is a bold choice for a documentary that shouldn’t work, but this was a refreshing approach to the genre that I wish I would see implemented more, as it makes the film feel more about its characters instead of the producers behind it.
I’d love to recommend “Uncertain” to you, but I’m nervous to do so. While I personally enjoyed learning more about this blink-and-you-miss-it Texas town, I worry most will probably look at this as a documentary about hillbillies instead of a genuinely interesting and beautiful spot in our country. If you’d like to learn about a completely unique community, give it a shot. If you’re expecting another Honey Boo-Boo to point and laugh at, this probably isn’t the documentary for you. This is solid filmmaking; it just might not appeal to a wide audience.