Indie Focus: Fictional yet real lives on ‘Putty Hill’
Taking place on the edges of Baltimore, in neighborhoods at once rural and urban, leafy and developed, “Putty Hill” unfolds to become an absorbing look at loss, a portrait of grief and the emotional heft of carrying on in the face of fresh absence.
Family and friends assemble for the funeral of one of their own who died from a drug overdose, and as they go about their routines many are asked interview-style questions from off-screen by the film’s director, Matt Porterfield.
Though this may sound like the stuff of a documentary, “Putty Hill” is a work of fiction, albeit one that, in the words of producer Jordan Mintzer, is “a story invented for the screen but true to life.” The film, which opened in Los Angeles on Friday, had its world premiere at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival, with its North American premiere at last year’s South by Southwest Film Festival.
It screened locally as part of the AFI Fest last fall and recently won the first Heterodox Award from the Cinema Eye Honors, a prize given specifically to a fiction film that uses techniques of documentary filmmaking.