Starring: Donald Holden, Damian Jewan Lee, Curtis Cotton III and Candace Evanofski
Rated: Not Rated Drama
This coming of age film centers upon the unique lead character, George Richardson (Donald Holden). A quiet, reserved but bright and creative tween, he was born with an underdeveloped skull. This malady renders him vulnerable physically and socially among his peers. However, it does not hinder his drive to do and be great, hence, the nickname reference to the first president of the United States.
Set in a rural, economically-disadvantaged community in North Carolina, George becomes friends with Nasia (Candace Evanofski), a popular girl who has recently broken up with her beau, Buddy (Curtis Cotton III), leader of their small, ne’er-do-well posse. When Buddy becomes aware of Nasia’s budding interest in George, he threateningly confronts the introverted boy. When tragedy occurs, life for those children left alive will never be the same.
This feature film of David Gordon Green, who served as the screenwriter, film director and film producer, debuted to immense critical acclaim. There were several critics who were not completely impressed with it, citing themes similar to other coming-of-age films. However, many more, including Elvis Mitchell of Time Magazine and The New York Times; Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader and Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, consider George Washington a masterpiece. Legendary critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times considered it one of the ten best films of 2000. In his review, Ebert wrote that George Washington was, “A haunting story … a bold stylistic achievement … one of this year’s really special films.”
Perhaps one of the most glowing reviews of this film was “George Washington:These American Lives” review written by Armond White at the Criterion Collection website. In it, he praised the film, stating it, “was quickly recognized upon its debut at various film festivals and subsequent theatrical release as one of the triumphs of the current American independent movement. Its original perspective transforms what is appallingly familiar in American life: destitution, nihilism, bewildered youth, and the history of racial deprivation. Green’s unpretentious approach to the backwater setting revels in southern atmosphere and casual intimacy. It’s not a social protest, as done in past movies that grew out of reform movements, but a private, delicate perception unconnected to Hollywood trends or cultural expectations. It comes from Green’s personal feelings about youth, race, and cinema, and these feelings can be felt … George Washington is a work of humbling, breathtaking beauty.”
Nominated for fifteen awards, George Washington won 9 awards in 2000, including David Gordon Green being given the Southeastern Media Award at the Atlanta Film Festival and the NYFCC Award for “Best First Film” by the New York Film Critics Circle.
The film won the Jury Award for “Best Dramatic Feature”; “Best Director” – David Gordon Green; and “Best Actor” (Ensemble) – Donald Holden, Curtis Cotton III, Candace Evanofski, Eddie Rouse and Rachael Handy at the Newport Film Festival (2000). George Washington was the 2000 “Official Selection” at the New York Film Festival, the Berlin Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, where Green won the Discovery Award. Green also won both the Prize of the City of Torino and the CinemAvvenire Award for “Best Feature Film” at the 2000 Torino Film Festival. Tim Orr won the award for “Best Cinematography” at the Stockholm Film Festival held in 2000.