Directed by David Gordon Green, starring Donald Holden, Candace Evanofski, Curtis Cotton III, Damian Jewan Lee and Rachael Handy.

With only one feature to his name and at just 26 years of age, David Gordon Green has found himself hailed as the new voice of American cinema. Topping US film polls and dominating the festival awards circuit from Edinburgh to Toronto with 'George Washington', he's also been dubbed the successor to that errant genius Terrence Malick ('Badlands', 'The Thin Red Line') – two minutes into this film you can see that the critics, for once, aren't exaggerating.

In a rundown North Carolina town, a bunch of kids try to fill up a long hot summer. 12-year-old Buddy (Cotton) can't understand why he's been dumped by first love Nasia (Evanofski), Vernon (Lee) and Sonya (Handy) are the unlikely pals hungry for mischief and with lofty ambitions to escape town, while George (Holden) is the taciturn one with the stray dog who can't partake in all the 'fun' because of a cranial condition. As the months wear on, it seems nothing will break the monotony, but when tragedy strikes, the survivors are forced to face up to adult problems very fast.

If there's any justice every child should see the world of 'George Washington', a world far removed from black and white, malls and labels where kids just get on with it and each other the best they can. Green has said his film is a response to the Indie movies he sees and dislikes (which, he adds, is most of them) and the wonder of his debut is that its simplicity towers above the pofaced, worthy efforts which intellectualise the mundane and wind up rather than reel in an audience.

With the loosest of plot structures, he hones in on the small acts and talk which hold such importance in young lives; through every exchange his unprofessional cast (found in churches and youth clubs down South) are superb and arguably the most unaffected child actors in cinema history.

Thanks to the stunning cinematography of Tim Orr, public pools and landfills become worlds of fantasy and adventure and the film's movement is almost literary - you never feel you're moving from scene to scene as much as turning the pages in a newly discovered treasure of a book.

With Zwigoff's 'Ghost World' and now Green's gem, maybe kids are getting the films their lives deserve. But whether 'George Washington' is a false dawn or the start of a whole new hope it remains one of the films of the year. Dream with it while you can.

Harry Guerin