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Soft Subtitled Screening: The Florida Project

Sean Baker

Sean Baker follows up his made-on-an-iPhone debut Tangerine with another story of life on the margins, this time focusing on a community on the outskirts of Orlando. Despite a larger budget and star power at his fingertips, Baker remains true to his vision, that stories about people overlooked by society are just as powerful and relevant as any others.

"...stories about people overlooked by society are just as powerful and relevant as any others." 

In the shadow of a cartoon theme park, little Moonee (Brooklynn Kimberley Prince) lives in a low-rent motel with her single mom Halley (Bria Vinaite). The fantasy of the park couldn’t be more different from the reality of this struggling family. Often left alone, Moonee spends her summer days getting into trouble with best friend Scooty (Christopher Riviera). Fearless and precocious, she grabs life by both hands and is determined to have fun, even if it is at the expense of the long-suffering but kind-hearted hotel manager Bobby (a lovely understated performance by Willem Dafoe). When the family’s fortunes become even more precarious, Moonee defiantly refuses to abandon her mother, whom she desperately loves.

Baker doesn’t shy away from the destitution that is a day-to-day reality for many families, but manages to capture the everyday magic that life still holds for little Moonee, who has never known any different. Mimicking the behaviour of the adults around them, these are children who have been raised with little structure and no boundaries. Bria Vinaite, whom Baker discovered on Instagram, gives an explosive, heart-breaking performance as Halley, a woman whose insecurities have blinded her to the limited future her daughter will inherit.