Truth or Consequences, located at 33°8′1″N 107°15′10″W, Sierra County, New Mexico population 6,475 as of 2010, down over 800 on the previous decade and with a demographic which skews older. A town in decline, it was formerly known as Hot Springs after the natural hot pools of the area until it was renamed on March 31st, 1950 in order to win a challenge on the then-popular radio show Truth or Consequences.
The forward projection of that decline is the interest of Hannah Jayanti, writer, producer, director, cinematographer and editor of Truth or Consequences, a meeting with some of the population of the town, going about the slow days of their lives in the bright sun and under the shadow of an uncertain future, the counterpoint of which is Spaceport America just over thirty kilometres to the southeast in the Jornada del Muerto desert basin.
The Spaceport’s associated visitor centre on Foch Street in the town, with its laminate floors, tablet interfaces and curved surfaces of no hard edges it is a contrast to the dust of the outdoors, the last vestiges of the wild frontier celebrated in the town museum, but although fighting the desert is an endless battle despite appearances it is full of life, if one looks closely and patiently.
The location for the Spaceport chosen for the predictable and stable weather conditions, dry and warm, as well as its proximity to the restricted airspace of White Sands, ensuring no conflicts with commercial air traffic, there is a sense of a town waiting for something which will likely never happen, and if it does the featured interviewees will most likely be bystanders rather than participants.
The conceit of the film implying that they are already those left behind, among them are Katie, youthful and ambitious but frustrated with the limitations of her life, George who scrabbles in the sands for discarded junk which he hoards as treasure, and the endearing Yvonne, at peace with her hard life and living without regret, in her eighties and caring for the animals in the shelter beside her trailer home, defiantly showing the scars left by the tiger which once bit her face.
From high above the desert plains, the people and their lives fade together, indistinct, an inescapable truth mediated as a consequence of their distance from the observer, and Truth or Consequences is overly abstract, as in want of purpose and meaning as Jayanti’s subjects, her film substantially about nothing other than the passage of time and its commensurate inevitability of decline, the two strands of her documentary parallel lines which by definition can never meet.