Barbecue...a Love Story

Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: Stacy Kirk

REVIEWED: 03-16-98

So how is it possible that Barbecue... a Love Story, as sympathetic, dead-on, and passionate a portrait of a Texan culture as any ever put on film, was made in Canada with an all-Canadian cast? "There had to be a Texas heart thumping somewhere in this production," I told myself while watching the film. It wasn't until later that I found out a Texan was the heart of the production.

Writer-director Stacy Kirk grew up a self-described "oil field brat," moving with her West Texas-based parents around the globe as demanded by her father's job in the petrol industry. Something of that rambling spirit must have stayed with her, because she's been on the move ever since. After graduating from TCU in Ft. Worth, Kirk moved to New York where she studied photography at the School of Visual Arts (this training shines through in her filmmaking - Barbecue is remarkable for its sense of visual composition). After a stint in L.A. she took a few years to learn the ins and outs of fishing in Wyoming before heading to Vancouver, where she attended an eight-month "boot camp" film school. The absence of an overcrowded stable of writers and directors that existed in places like L.A. and New York, as well as the desire to develop for herself a working film community, made the Canadian city a fitting place to call home and shoot her debut feature.

Kirk got the idea for Barbecue, the story of an exterminator in a Texas trailer park and his not-always-healthy desire for slow-cooked meat and sweet women, after attending a Southern Culture on the Skids show full of songs about the stuff of trailer parks and fried chicken. "It was a world I knew well already," says Kirk, "but it wasn't until the concert that I was reminded of all the gem-like elements it contains." Whereas most movies use Texas cultures as either cheap targets of condescending humor or exploitative sources of violence and seediness, Barbecue concerns itself with the wholeness of the subject. "I wanted to take this "white trash" culture that's almost always rendered imperfectly and incompletely," says Kirk, "and raise the level of its humanity."

Despite filming in Canada in the middle of October (where it rained for 14 out of 16 days of shooting and the average temperature was below 40), Kirk pulled off a believably sultry Texas atmosphere. But it's the completely on-the-mark Texas accents that her all-Canadian cast pull off that are truly remarkable. "The key is that the sing-song quality of Texas-speak has as much to do with word order as it does with accenting syllables," she explains. "In most movies, even when the actors get the accents right, they're getting the language wrong." While in production, Kirk sent the script to childhood friend and Austin musician Darden Smith, who composed the score without seeing the film. His music blends perfectly with the Texana on the screen.

"I chose SXSW and Texas for the American premiere of Barbecue because I felt here was the audience that would not only appreciate the film, but understand it." Kirk says. It's for her faithful and passionate portrait of our state that we should welcome her back with open arms - that, and because, despite her years away, she still retains a little bit of our accent, too.

--Jerry Johnson

Full Length Reviews
Barbecue...a Love Story

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