Monday, September 13, 2010

The Wild Wonderful Whites of West Virginia

So I went to see a movie about Jesco White and his family as my final movie viewing at the Warner Theater. I usually have hearty positive recommendations for most movies, but this particular movie is not one that I would recommend. It was actually pretty heart-breaking.

In the past I’ve watched the movie “The Dancing Outlaw” which put Jesco and his family on the celebrity map. That movie is a mixture of tragedy and comedy as Jesco, at that time, was a pretty charismatic storyteller. The movie was originally made to tell the story of his father, Donald Ray White, but unfortunately he was shot by a neighbor before the documentary about the greatest mountain tap dancer could be made.

The new movie, tells a different story. It tells the story of Jesco being harassed by fans with regularity as they want to say they have met the legend. It tells a story of drug use and abuse and dealing by many members of the White family. It tells a story of criminal activity and a destructive lifestyle happening for several members of the family as well.

In the midst of the tragedy, there’s a wonderful sub-plot about Jesco’s mother, Bertie Mae. It appears that she was a woman of deep faith, who worked hard to care for own as well as many other children in their community. It was clear throughout the film that most of her descendants at least had heard the message of the Gospel, and from what was demonstrated in the film, they saw the messaged lived out in Bertie Mae’s life.

During the course of the movie, the viewer watched as multiple family members and friends chronicled the life and times of the family. One is serving in prison after attempting to shoot another relative’s boyfriend along with a police shootout. Another enrolled in rehab after giving birth to a child and having CPS take that child away because of her drug addiction and the child being born with a similar addiction. The viewer watched as members of the family stuck together in picking up other members from prison and traveling to hospitals and to bars together. The Whites have achieved a celebrity status among the people of Boone County West Virginia, and now through the film, the notoriety has made it’s way to the big screen.

I think the most heart-breaking part of the movie is knowing that this isn’t just a Hollywood drama—these are real people, and they all live just a few hours away. Beyond the fact that this isn’t fiction, it hurts watching this film because I feel like I have known people in my life who have lived similar lives. The other families I have known, didn’t have their stories on the big screen, but they lived lives that were just as tragic.

While I can not recommend this movie to anyone, I do sincerely hope that something happens to help this whole family heal from the losses they have experienced, and to live a different kind of life, a life filled with hope, and with joy. That would make a much better story, and it’s possible. Not only for them, but for us as well!

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