It's hard being from the city and trying to figure out rural life. It's even harder when you've just gotten out of prison.
In the film Halfway, that's where the main character "Byron Smith" finds himself. Played by actor Quinton Aaron, who also starred in The Blind Side, Smith is an African-American man just released onto supervision, who is given a chance to work on his step-brother’s dairy farm. While living on the farm, the character finds himself milking cows, carrying feed, and navigating relationships with townspeople.
The film's writer and director Ben Caird was born and raised in London. His mother, however, is originally from Brown Deer and he still has family all over Southeastern Wisconsin.
"Originally, I'd written the film about an English kid who came to get to know his American family," he says. "I moved to America about five years ago...and I thought, actually, it would be more interesting to make this an entirely American film."
Still, Caird wanted to keep the essence of his original story. "I was still interested in this idea of bringing an outsider into a farm town," he says. "Farms aren't shown often in cinema, and I had access to a fantastic one." He chose to set and film the movie in Montfort, Wisconsin, on his relatives' 400-acre dairy farm.
Caird also wanted to keep the outsider element, present in his original concept for the film. "I was playing with different ideas... farms tend to be worked on by either people that own the farms or [Hispanic] out of town workers...not many black people," he says. "I wanted to work out how I could get a black guy on a farm. So him taking a strange opportunity on probation that's set up by his family was a way to get him there."
"In essence, it's sort of a family drama," says Caird. "He is black and they are white and that plays a role in places. But it's not really a film that's based on race. It's much more a commentary on the broken incarceration system and how a person is walking the tightrope...of that situation."
The film, Halfway, has a screening at the Milwaukee Film Festival Tuesday, October 4, at the Downer Theater.