Out of Omaha, directed by Clay Tweel (Gleason), is a new documentary that tackles the subject of race relations in America. Unfortunately, this is yet another documentary that has noble intentions and an interesting backstory, only to never come together into a cohesive or satisfying whole.
The film follows two twin African-American brothers as they grow up in the racially-divided city of Omaha, struggling to defeat the racial injustice that faces them. Some of the most iconic documentaries about race take this approach of documenting a particular person or group of people over a period of time, but sadly, this movie is inferior to the films to which it obviously owes so much for a myriad of reasons.
One of the main issues with the movie is that it is unable to develop its subjects in an adequately compelling way. Although most audience members will sympathize with the struggle the characters are facing, this is a story that has been showcased on film many times before. It is sad that the same story keeps happening over and over again, but to keep that story cinematic, a personal touch has to be added, which is what Out of Omaha is missing.
For all of the trials and tribulations that Darcell and Darrell Trotter face, you would expect that the film would have a great emotional impact. However, because the movie does not form a connection between the audience and the subjects early on, the film does not resonate as it should. Ultimately, the story feels too distant or maybe even sanitized to have the intended effect.
Another issue with the movie is its pacing. Even though the film was shot over a period of eight years, the runtime clocks in at just over an hour and a half. As such, the filmmakers had a lot of material from which they could pull and had to cut out quite a bit to make a story. One can’t help but wonder if something more compelling was left on the cutting room floor, as there are significant portions of this movie that drag.
On a technical level, the film was also somewhat underwhelming. The movie is mostly shot in a fly-on-the-wall format, but there are some talking head interviews and archival footage slipped in every now and again. The film could have been significantly more immersive had it stuck with a single style of storytelling.
Additionally, the soundtrack of the movie is often overwhelming. There really isn’t a reason for music to be as prevalent in the film as it is other than perhaps that rapper J. Cole produced it. In many sequences, the music is overbearing and draws you even further out of the movie, creating an even greater divide between the audience and the story.
Out of Omaha definitely has some important things to say, but it is unable to say them in a way that is particularly compelling or cinematic. Plenty of other documentaries cover a similar topic, so your time would be better spent seeking out one of those more effective versions of this story.
Out of Omaha debuts on Starz Network at 9pm ET/PT on Sept 9 and is available on VOD the same day.