Movies

‘The Death Of Dick Long’ Director Daniel Scheinert On Properly Satirizing The South And Why So Many Get It Wrong

The Death Of Dick Long is very much “my kind of movie,” but it’s also the rare “me” movie that I feel great recommending to almost anyone. It’s funny, but also: touching, thrilling, tragic, and heartwarming. I honestly believe that if more movies were more like The Death Of Dick Long, we’d be a less divided nation.

The film is the work of director Daniel Scheinert and his long-time friend and collaborator, Billy Chew. Scheinert is half the directing duo, along with Daniel Kwan, known professionally as “Daniels,” previously of Swiss Army Man, a movie in which Daniel Radcliffe played a flatulent corpse. The Death Of Dick Long is set in small-town Alabama. It tells the story of Zeke and Earl (Michael Abbott Jr. and Andre Hyland), a couple good ol’ boys who play Nickelback and Creed songs in a cover band, and their subsequent attempt to cover up something terrible, which remains a mystery for most of the movie.

With such a quirky logline, and two main characters whose personae certainly are but are not limited to “dumbass yokel,” the temptation would be to make a quirky movie. You read it and expect a quirky movie, full of comedic actors winking and mugging and doing bad accents and generally conveying “isn’t this quirky??” But if you actually reckon with those characters as human beings, it’s not quirky. It’s real life.

Most movies about rural America are either quirky comedies that skate above the material or serious dramas that fetishize poverty. The Death Of Dick Long is neither, and even in telling an absurdly high-concept story it manages to capture rural America in all its eccentricity. It helps that Scheinert and Chew both have roots in Alabama, and that the movie was actually shot there, but plenty of Southern filmmakers have failed that challenge.

The Death Of Dick Long‘s authenticity is just one aspect of its empathy. And achieving that authenticity isn’t just some pointless hipster obsession, it has real-world consequences. As Scheinert points out in our interview, inaccurate satire is the enemy of self-reflection. Most people don’t mind if you have a little fun with them, but you have to get it right. I would point out that the reverse is also true: accurate comedy brings us together.

So I can’t remember the last time I sat in the theater while the credits rolled and was laughing so hard that I had to sit through almost all of the credits before I could collect myself.

Wow, I hope you include all this in the article.

Done and done. So you and the other Daniel, you guys had such a good shtick going calling yourself “Daniels.” Why did you want to screw it all up and get sole credit on this one?

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