Sundance Film Festival 2013 Recap: Directors to Watch


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Beautifully crafted, “To The Bone” portrays an intimate day in the life of a migrant farm-working family of three — a father and his two young children, who work days as long as his. Valencia, a defiant 11-year-old, walks a fine line as both the caretaking older sister and rebellious pre-teenager.

The film’s bucolic establishing shots perfectly place viewers in the middle of a vast vegetable farm. Valencia is seen wading in a row of leaves, her face dirtied from the beets she’s pulled and piled into her wooden crate.

There is a sweet sadness in the juxtaposition of a young child set against a farmland setting. If only she was roaming the fields to play, the scene would be sweeter. It is here where Li’s narrative takes shape.

Due to loosely-regulated labor laws for agriculture, children as young as 12-years-old are allowed to work with little oversight and limits outside of school hours. When a labor inspector arrives at the farm, Valencia’s father instructs her and her brother to lie and say that they’re 12-years-old, if asked their ages. Like most defiant children, Valencia disobeys her dad, yet unlike many of her peers the consequences are severe.

The harsh result of her choice suddenly hits Valencia in the heartbreaking final scene as the family walks down a long, dirt road at sunset. At this moment she learns that they must find work and a home elsewhere, and the viewer learns that the film is more than a reflection on labor laws.

It’s an exquisitely-executed, tragic tale of the sacrifices that such families endure in order to survive…

Full article here.