Director: David Williams
Screenwriters: David Williams

Institute History

  • 1993 Sundance Film Festival


Lillian is a rarity. First of all it's a film that is essentially naturalistic, almost cinema vérité, which is quite unusual. Add to that the fact that the lead character is played by the woman on whom this portrait IS based. Indeed one has to wait until the end credits to realize that everyone else is actually an actor, a few for the first time. That's what makes this such a stunning achievement. It's a practically flawless real-life depiction of a fifty-seven-year-old black woman living in the South, whose life consists of caring for her granddaughter, several other foster children and three elderly patients.

Williams has composed an entirely unsentimental view of a woman whose day-to-day existence is all but overwhelming, and yet whose persona is unfailingly serene and caring. As one scene unfolds into the next, she seemingly never rests. She's a nonstop problem solver, instructing the children on how to play, talking to the insurance agent so she can set up an annuity for her granddaughter, insisting that a patient's reluctant daughter come by so that the elderly woman can be hospitalized, talking with welfare workers who have come to bring her more foster children, arguing with her daughter about her neglect of Nina, the granddaughter who lives with her, and all the while preparing meals, doing the wash, and bathing and dressing her charges.

The film feels authentic as much as it seems spontaneous. It is a hybrid of fiction and reality, utilizing documentary techniques to effect an emotionally touching, yet somewhat austere, illustration of nurturing and self-sacrifice. The performances are perfectly realistic as Williams combines tightly structured sequences with improvisational dialogue and blocking. If the measure of a director's craft is his ability to recreate reality, then this director has real talent. Lillian is a small film in the best sense of that word. On a miniscule budget, this film illustrates the originality and truth that so called regional filmmaking can bring us.

Friday Jan 22 Noon
Prospector Square Theatre

Saturday Jan 24 7:15 pm
Holiday Village Cinema II

Tuesday Jan 28 1:00 pm
Sundance Screening Room

Thursday Jan 28 4:15 pm
Holiday Village Cinema II

Saturday Jan 30 4:15 pm
Holiday Village Cinema II


— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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