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Blu-Ray : Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: May 30th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 2021

The Great Basin

Overview -

The Great Basin is a 2021 documentary that serves as an intimate portrait of a rural community in Nevada. Filmmaker Chivas DeVinck quietly observes life in the community as it struggles with its past, future, and a looming pandemic. More a collection of images and ideas, the film presents a fabric of existence for residents and their lives. It’s a postcard in motion. The Blu-ray from Circle Collective and OCN Distribution provides an excellent A/V package, an engaging commentary track, and two featurettes. As a fan of slice-of-life documentaries, this one is Recommended.  

From below the earth to the stars, The Great Basin is a documentary feature that builds a complex panorama of rural Nevada, in the Western United States, through a tapestry of characters who work, live, and play there. The Great Basin is the location of the "Loneliest Road in America" and can be seen as a microcosm of the economic, social, and ecological marginalization of 21st-century rural communities.

directed by: Chivas DeVinck
starring: Various
2021 / 92 min / 1.85:1 / English DTS-HD MA 5.1

Additional info:

  • Region A Blu-ray
  • Audio Commentary with Producer / Director Chivas Devinck, Sound Recordist Xan Márquez Caneda and Director of Photography Yoshio Kitagawa
  • Q&A with Director Chivas Devinck and Artist Oscar Tuazon (Laemmle Monica Film Center)
  • Cedar Spring Water School - featurette examining Oscar Tuazon's art project and the importance of Cedar Spring to the indigenous people of Nevada
  • English SDH subtitles

 

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OVERALL:
Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-ray Disc
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p AVC/MPEG-4
Length:
92
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.85:1
Audio Formats:
English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH
Special Features:
Audio Commentary with Producer / Director Chivas Devinck, Sound Recordist Xan Márquez Caneda, and Director of Photography Yoshio Kitagaw, Q&A with Director Chivas DeVinck and Artist Oscar Tuazon (40mins), Cedar Spring Water School (23mins)
Release Date:
May 30th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

“So, a single picture is not going to do it.”

The Great Basin isn't your typical documentary. Instead of a focused narrative, director Chivas DeVinck crafts a portrait of rural Nevada, weaving together stories of its inhabitants with breathtaking landscapes complimented by a subtle undercurrent of historical anxiety. His observational approach allows the film to shine in its quiet moments, capturing the resilience and struggles of a community often seen from the windows of passing cars. 

The film's strength lies in its characters. DeVinck introduces us to a diverse cast, from Keith, a rancher grappling with drought, to Delaine, a Tribal Elder fighting a water pipeline project. Each of their stories offers glimpses into the joys and challenges of life in this remote region of Nevada. The film doesn't shy away from the hardship and social isolation many face but celebrates the community's resourcefulness and deep connection to the land. 

The Great Basin is a sentimental portrait of the dissolution of rural America. What started out as a road trip with his newborn son became a reason to document a small town’s struggles to remain relevant against the rising tide of time and aggressive land authorities. Throughout the feature, POV driving shots offer a radio station narration glue that holds together the various vignettes. The DJ’s narration expresses the unseen energy that connects those living in the town and those passing through it. 

The heart of The Great Basin is messy and oftentimes darkly personal. How these strands are woven together forms the fabric of the film’s thrust. DeVinck smartly uses transitional footage to offer the audience a space for reflection and meditation on the scenes as they pass by, like the cars driving down the loneliest road in America. The film is also clearly fascinated by the town workers' pacing and rhythm. A butcher slicing meat cuts to hotel workers prepping food. Over time, their contributions to the tone matter as much as the larger subjects whose opinions and lives are fleshed out. A pattern of juxtaposed images occurs, dovetailing neon signs and small-town life with the stretches of open land and wildlife. “There’s life out here,” says Keith, surveying his land while hoping for a better tomorrow. 

While The Great Basin lacks a strong central position, its strength lies in its portrayals and exploration of human resilience. It offers a window into a world often overlooked, prompting viewers to ponder the complexities of rural America. Can you relate to the challenges communities face living on the fringes of societal progress? Ultimately, the film leaves a lasting impression, not with a definitive statement, but with a lingering sense of the beauty that defines life in this corner of the world.

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Great Basin arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Circle Collective and OCN Distribution. The disc is housed in a transparent keep case with a double-sided artwork. Playing the disc presents the Circle Collective logo before landing on the Main Menu screen with scenes from the film playing above typical navigation options. 

Video Review

Ranking:

Not surprisingly, The Great Basin sings with dynamic earth tones filling the frame. Landscapes are presented with lush greens, deep browns, and crisp white snowfall. The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 in an AVC-encoded 1080p HD image. Handheld cameras put us in the moment, offering detailed looks at the rural settings, colorful residents, and surroundings. Colors are naturalistic with strong primaries. Detail levels are excellent, with fibrous costuming textures evident and facial features revealing the hard lives of the residents of rural Nevada.

Saturation is good, depth is excellent, and contrast levels are satisfying. Some insert footage was shot through a phone, offering less detail, slight image warp, and over-saturation. It fits seamlessly into the film, offering a deeper connection to the subjects. Inky black levels are present from the start as the film opens inside the depths of a pitch-black cavern. 

Audio Review

Ranking:

The Great Basin arrives with an active yet somber DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround audio mix. As the film begins, we’re treated to the rear surrounds carrying a mumbling saxophone as it bops through the sound mix, luring us from the dark depths of a cave onto the empty surface lands. Ambient atmospherics trickle through the fronts and surrounds. Dialogue is clear and cleanly recorded. No hiss or pop was detected. Music is a melancholy synth organ. Chimes echo softly, transporting us through time and space. 

Special Features

Ranking:

Circle Collective and OCN Distribution pairs the feature with three avenues to further explore The Great Basin. Start with the commentary track before exploring the additional two featurettes. If you enjoyed the main feature, then you’ll be excited to experience these bonus materials. 

  • Audio Commentary with Producer / Director Chivas Devinck, Sound Recordist Xan Márquez Caneda, and Director of Photography Yoshio Kitagawa: An informative yet casual track in which the supply of anecdotes can seem disjointed but offer plenty of insight into the production, technical work, and themes of the film. 
  • Q&A with Director Chivas DeVinck and Artist Oscar Tuazon (HD 40:59) (Laemmle Santa Monica Film Center) November 2022 
  • Cedar Spring Water School (HD 22:59) This Zoom-styled presentation examines Oscar Tuazon's art project and the importance of Cedar Spring to the indigenous people of Nevada. 

Final Thoughts

As a lifelong road tripper, I am floored by how easily The Great Basin lures me into this small community before unraveling its complexities from the window seat. Intimate and yet bold, Chevis DeVinck crafts a series of small-town postcard vignettes held together by deeper issues of race, politics, and the uncertain future. It’s a remarkable achievement. The Blu-ray from Circle Collective and OCN Distribution provides an excellent A/V package with an engaging commentary track and two featurettes. As a fan of slice-of-life documentaries, I have to say this one is Recommended

Order your copy of The Great Basin on Blu-ray