Off the Black

Director: James Ponsoldt
Screenwriters: James Ponsoldt

Institute History

  • 2006 Sundance Film Festival


Ray is a mess. Instead of being a baseball player, he's an aging high school umpire. Instead of being married, he's divorced. Instead of having a real relationship with his son, he makes grandiose video diaries to send him. Instead of being sober and fearless, he's drunk and scared and alone. Ray is the stuttering heart and soul of Off the Black, James Ponsoldt's fearless portrait of small-town lives in crisis, and acclaimed actor Nick Nolte utterly devastates us in the raging lead performance.

Coaxing Ray's self-discoveries is the chance friendship he forces on troubled teen David, a local pitcher who can't refuse Ray's demands after being caught vandalizing the umpire's house. Ray's alcoholic and urgent needs escalate until he strikes a deal to wash the slate clean with one last request—David must go to Ray's fortieth high school reunion and pretend to be his son. Perceptions and realities then collide as the men find in each other the surrogate companionship obviously missing from their daily lives.

Off the Black develops patiently and rewardingly, pulling us deeper into the inner lives of its characters with each redemptive discovery, and exploring what it means to be a son, a father, a man…sometimes all at once.

— Joseph Beyer

Screening Details

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