A Steady Grind

December 2, 2009

Victoria Kerszi kindly sent along to me her recent documentary, A Steady Grind, a portrait of her grandmother Eloyse, a fiery fighter keeping her family’s junkyard afloat, despite tax debt, ill health, and compounded grief from the loss of two sons and a spouse.

It seems the two of us have a lot in common: Hungarian ancestry, Chester PA (the locale of Grandma’s junkyard as well as some past low-rent stomping grounds from when I taught at swanky Swarthmore, just across the Turnpike), and feminist film—Victoria curates Eye Am: Women Behind the Lens.

We also share a handmade, self-reflexive, familial aesthetic, letting the people we love say and show it all for themselves (with our hand clear): endless cigarettes, the mother-son mundane, legacies of dissatisfaction. I’d have loved to see more of the junkyard, but I was equally pleased to linger with Kereszi in her grandma’s disorderly kitchen. Domestic realness aside (place), it is also this documentary’s play with time that makes it work: it is made over many years, so Eloyse and her son (the filmmaker’s father) age before us (with no comment or cue to just what time has passed), even as we circle back to the past in both stories and photos, when Joe and the other children were alive, and Eloyse was a “happy” stay at home housewife.

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