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Saturday, 26 April 2014 21:35

'The Retrieval' finds freed slaves in 1864 as bounty hunters + Video

'The Retrieval' finds freed slaves in 1864 as bounty hunters
Written by Diane Carson
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A slow-paced but bracing antidote to "Django Unchained," writer/director Chris Eska's "The Retrieval" dramatizes a grim story of Texas bounty hunters in 1864, hunters who employ blacks to track and trap runaways. Eska writes that his curiosity about the period just after the Emancipation Proclamation led to his story set on the fringes of the Civil War.

Thirteen-year-old, African-American Will cautiously approaches a farmhouse, knocks on the door answered by a woman with a shotgun. She leads him to a shed where Will beds down with other runaways. But Will, a scout, soon sneaks out to let nearby bounty hunters know who's inside. This revealing, opening scene in "The Retrieval" establishes the mercenary, pitiless environment as young Will and his uncle John head North on their next bounty assignment: to lure back Nate, a valuable, freed but wanted black man. Will's life hangs in the balance.

Shot on location in Texas, the harsh landscape--from woods to plains to swamps--and variable weather function as another difficult facet of the journey by foot. But conflicted emotions dominate the interaction as the fatherless Will finds in Nate an empathetic, wise man. With tension always present because of the threat of encounters with soldiers or other bounty hunters, the story proceeds at an unhurried pace, showcasing the acting, offering time to think about the moral dilemma.

In this, his second feature, Eska has a strong feel for and emphasis on character. As Nate, Tishuan Scott won the 2013 South by Southwest Special Jury Prize for Best Acting. As Will, Ashton Sanders also holds the screen in multiple, lingering close-ups. It's refreshing to see a young director who avoids clichés while having something important to say.

The St. Louis premiere of the multiple award-winning "The Retrieval" is at Webster University's Winifred Moore auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 23rd through Sunday, May 25th. For more information, you may call 314-968-7487 or on the web at:


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