Minimalist film, Valley of Ditches, from director and co-writer Christopher James Lang is a deceivingly simple and raw experience about survival and the brutality of our existence. We follow a young woman named Emilia (Amanda Todisco, also co-writer) who’s left for dead in a ditch under the desert heat, along with the dead body of her boyfriend, who was killed in front of her by a sadistic bible-thumping religious zealot (Russell Bradley Fenton).
Left in her supposed grave by her captor and tormentor, Emilia must overcome her plight if she wants to make it out alive, which includes doing things that only extraordinary circumstances, like these, would necessitate. My vagueness is purposeful, only because there is a moment in the film, which I won’t reveal because I feel it would take away from the immediate shock, when we know that Emilia is willing to do anything to survive. The scene I’m talking about will be apparent once it’s seen and might even warrant a cringe for some viewers.
Largely singular and taking place in just two or three locations, director Lang does what he can with his story of survival. Interspersed with flashbacks the film offers a look at Emilia’s life before any of this misfortune befell her and as it turns out, life wasn’t all that perfect then either. Emilia lives trapped under the strict rule of her physically abusive father (Andrew Novell), who scolds Emilia for talking to boys on the phone. We are, however, granted some moments with Emilia and her boyfriend, moments that exude melancholy despite their intimate setting.
Valley of Ditches exemplifies a uniquely sparse and layered vision that director Christopher James Lang expertly brings to the screen. Despite the film’s lack of outstanding production design, the filmmaker uses minimal resources to create a film that is complex despite its surface appearance. Valley of Ditches is a surprisingly deft and economical film that conveys a deeply evocative tale of survival in a cruel world.
Valley of Ditches had its World Premiere at Dances With Films Festival on June 4, 2016. The film is also a part of the official selection of the Central Florida Film Festival