Winner of numerous prizes at prestigious film festivals all around the world, including Sundance, San Francisco, and Buenos Aires, BALLAST is a stunning, emotionally powerful feature-film debut from Lance Hammer, who wrote, directed, and edited the film and served as one of the producers. After his brother commits suicide, Lawrence (Michael J. Smith Sr.) stops going to work at his convenience store, instead just sitting alone at home, staring straight ahead at the television, like a zombie. When his 12-year-old nephew, James (JimMyron Ross), pulls a gun on him and demands money, Lawrence barely reacts, not caring about anything. James needs the money to pay off the local drug dealers for the crack he has been smoking. Meanwhile, James's mother, Marlee (Tarra Riggs), is scrubbing toilets to earn whatever she can to afford food and clothing for her son. But when Marla finds out that her son's life is in danger, they run away to stay with Lawrence, triggering long-held memories and problems that slowly boil to the surface. BALLAST is set in the Mississippi Delta, shot on location with nonprofessional actors who live in the region. Although there was a script, the dialogue was mostly improvised, and Hammer uses only natural sound and light, heightening the reality of the hard lives these people lead. Director of photography Lol Crawley often creates beautiful exterior landscapes that offer hope for the main characters, juxtaposing them with interior shots that find them contained in small places, trapped in their situation. BALLAST is a bold, brutal work, filled with pain and honesty, violence and warmth, offering no easy answers.