South of Pico is immediately reminiscent of Crash, only better. It's a similar type of film, taking a multifaceted cast, each with their own stories, and putting them in situations that make the audience ask themselves what they would do under the same circumstances. The film, which is based on a real-life incident, is director Ernst Gossner's first feature.
The action takes place over the course of approximately four hours. In trying to deal with their lives during this interval, the five main characters make decisions and struggle against things they can't change. By the time the five storylines intersect, the characters have all been brought to a point where they are ready to well... to say it would be a spoiler.
The film is not manipulative, nothing is included for shock value, and everything seems to flow seamlessly. Although a film with this kind of structure risks lacking tension, this film gets around that problem by expertly inserting us into the emotions of the five main characters. The pace is slowest at the beginning, as we're getting to know these people, but then the film builds each storyline to a crescendo, and we're glued to the screen.The cast members play well off of one another (this was a consideration during casting), and no one steals the show unintentionally. They each get their moment.
Although the film raises questions, it offers no solutions. There's no Hollywood ending. But we don't walk out of the theater with a sense of dissatisfaction, either. Instead we walk out deep in thought; this film exists to show us what humans are capable of and make us question ourselves. In the hands of a less talented director, writer, and cast, the film might not have worked. There's a delicate balance to be struck in a film of this kind, which runs the risk of being either heavy-handed or inexplicable. But South of Pico strikes exactly the right balance.
Writers: Ernst Gossner, Richard Marcus (story)
Director: Ernst Gossner
Cast: Kip Pardue, Richard Simmons, Gina Torres, Soren Fulton, Paul Hipp, Jimmy Bennett, Car'ynn Sims, Giovanni Lopes
Release Date: TBD
World Premier: American Black Film Festival, October 25, 2007