Tribeca 2019: "East of The River" Review
Not every life is a fairy tale, but every life has moments of levity, beauty, and love that can be found in them. East of The River is a day in the life film about a young girl who doesn’t seem to have the best life, but she’s making the best of it. Teonna (Ayiana T. Davis) is unexpectedly suspended from school. After trying to find out why and getting no answer, the only question she has is if she can still get breakfast. Suspended and forced to hit the streets, Teonna links up with her friend Malik (Malachi Mack) who seems to ditch school often. They find Sara (Steloni Mason), who has given up school completely for money opportunities in the streets.
Sara takes Teonna and Malik on an adventure through Washington, DC and east of the Anacostia River. Teonna’s admiration of the older, seemingly more sophisticated Sara is seen through lingering shots of Teonna’s eyeline gazing up at her. Director Hannah Peterson has certainly picked up a few things after serving as a production assistant for Shawn Baker’s The Florida Project. Her use of first time actors to tell this story makes it soaked with authenticity. Peterson’s constraint in allowing a scene to breathe and take shape permits the audience to live in the moment with this group of teenagers. They may not make the most ethical decisions, they’re the kids you wish would be quiet and sit down on the metro, but this is life for them. These are the cards they’ve been dealt and this is how they deal with it.
East of The River is a short that could very well be turned into a feature down the line. Its characters are fully developed and interesting to watch. If nothing else, it’s a good reminder that you can find beauty in the little things of life, and sometimes that gratitude can overcome your surroundings.