The subtitle of Tales From Dell City, Texas reads “(pop. 569 and dropping),” but Josh Carter’s multifaceted doc isn’t strictly a lament for a once-prosperous town now fallen on hard times. It is that, as locals recount the town’s mid-’50s heyday, when a new irrigation system turned Dell City into a farming boomtown, and rue the subsequent decline. But it’s also a celebration of the town as it is now, as well as a reflection on its future. The film’s episodic nature, which not only focuses attention on different locals, but also allows the denizens to craft their own short film segments highlighting an aspect of the town of their choosing, reveals the varying attitudes even within such a small pool of residents. While Angela Martos chooses young coupledom as her subject and aims to show that Dell City is a great place to start a family, and Rosita Martinez reflects on her decades running the town’s favorite breakfast joint, the older farmers and ranchers muse over the increasing difficulty of plying their trade and the tendency of the young to flee town after high school. Carter obliges with correspondingly ambivalent visuals, capturing both dingy basements and glorious, still-wide-open landscapes.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 16, 2012