"Manhattan, Kansas" Available on DVD November 18
Carnivalesque Films announced yesterday that it’s releasing Tara Wray’s personal documentary Manhattan, Kansas, on November 18. I watched the film this past weekend with my friend Sarah. We both found it to be very emotional, gritty, perplexing, and inspiring. Sarah plans to write a full review on The Write Bunch soon. In the mean time, here’s some more info on the film.
The parent-child relationship is emotionally charged from the moment a person is born. But it becomes especially complex when your single parent is mentally unstable, as is the case for filmmaker Tara Wray.
In her first film, Wray travels to rural Kansas in an attempt to reconnect with her mother, Evie, for the first time since Evie’s psychotic breakdown five years earlier. She finds a parent still chasing her demons, both real and imagined, struggling to make a career for herself as an abstract artist and searching for the Geodetic Center of the United States, the finding of which, Evie says, will bring about world peace.
When Tara takes it upon herself to help in her mother’s search, it sets into motion a surprising chain of events that may just rescue Evie from a catastrophic fate and help Tara reconcile with her mother on different terms. Manhattan, Kansas breaths new life into the personal documentary form.
Awards, Honors, and Reviews
Best Film, Brooklyn Arts Council 41st International Film & Video Festivals
Best Independent Films of 2007, FilmFest Reloaded Screening Series
Audience Award Runner-up, 2006 SXSW Film Festival
Tallgrass Film Festival Opening Night Gala Selection
New York Foundation for the Arts Featured Artist of the Month
“Painfully intimate, Manhattan, Kansas plumbs a contentious mother-daughter relationship, showing a family’s journey from estrangement to reconciliation and posing lingering questions about the line between mental illness and unconventionality. It’s an honest look about growing up and letting go … it’s everything a personal documentary should be.” Marrit Ingman, The Austin Chronicle
“Anyone who’s ever struggled through a long-standing family rift, only to come back together in tentative fashion, should appreciate Tara’s low-key and no-frills approach to storytelling. Her self-deprecating attitude only serves to amp up the ‘reality’ of the tale. This is not a filmmaker aiming for a huge sweeping statement, but a girl with a camera hoping to reconnect with one lonely parent. The “smallness” of Manhattan, Kansas is what makes the film so engaging.” Scott Weinberg, eFilmCritic.com
“Simple and direct - and emotionally blunt and affecting - Manhattan, Kansas acknowledges that love abides, even when forgiveness is not always easy or possible.” Film Society of Lincoln Center
About the Director
Tara Wray – Director. Wray was born and raised in Manhattan, Kansas, also known as “The Little Apple.” She is an eighth grade dropout with a degree from NYU, and a self-taught filmmaker with a background in fiction writing. Her first film, an autobiographical documentary named in honor of her hometown, premiered at the 2006 SXSW Film Festival where it won an audience award. The Austin Chronicle called it “everything a personal documentary should be.” It went on to screen at New York’s Lincoln Center, and at more than two dozen film festivals worldwide including showings in India, Croatia, Italy and Newfoundland. Manhattan, Kansas received funding from the Jerome Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts and the Anthony Radziwill Documentary Fund and is a sponsored project of the New York Foundation for the Arts. Wray is currently in post-production on a new documentary called Cartoon College, about a school for cartoonists in Vermont.