Sunday, February 3, 2013

New Black Directors' Series (Rhoades)

“New Black Directors”
Is Future Black History

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Unlike most celebrants, the Tropic Cinema is not looking into the past for Black History Month (February). Instead, the Tropic is celebrating young, gifted filmmakers that it expects to become a part of black history as time goes by.
This “time shift” programming is the idea of Lori Reid, Theater Manager of the Tropic. “It came to me while attending the recent Art House Convergence Film Theaters Conference 2012,’ she says. “That films can represent history in the making.”
So the Tropic’s regularly scheduled Monday Classic Film Series is turning back to the future during February with a program titled “New Black Directors.”
Reid has lined up four interesting films:
The program kicks off with “Night Catches Us” on February 4 at 7 p.m. This inner city drama by writer-director Tanya Hamilton focuses on Marcus (Anthony Mackie) who returns to his old Philadelphia neighborhood after serving a jail term. His father has just died, his old acquaintances shun him, nevertheless he hooks up with Patricia (Kerry Washington), the wife of an friend killed by cops. Patricia is now a lawyer and spends her days defending young black men. Branded as a “snitch” by his old friends, Marcus suffers the consequence moral choices. Secrets swirl as he comes to terms with Pattie and her fatherless daughter.
From its animated opening credits to the insertion of archival footage, this story set in 1976 reminds us of the upsurgence of the Black Panther Movement, one of the most significant social and political currents in US history. “Night Catches Us” has been called “a love poem to a turbulent age.”
That is followed on February 11 by I Will Follow.” Written and directed by Ava DuVernay, this quiet little film explores the emotions that follow the loss of a loved one.
“I Will Follow” chronicles a day in the life of a woman (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) who is grieving over the loss of her aunt. As she packs the belongings of the home they shared into a truck, a succession of surprising visitors help her learn how to move forward with her life. This subtle and nuanced drama is about living life with no regrets..
On February 18 is “Mooz-lum,” a film written and directed by Qasim "Q" Basir. Providing a different (more personal) perspective on Muslims, we meet Tariq (Evan Ross), a young man raised in a strict Islamic environment, but now going off to college. Here he faces new classmates and would be mentors, as the events of 9/11 forces him to come to terms with his past.
And “Middle of Nowhere” wraps up the four-film program on February 25. Written and directed by Ava DuVernay, we’re introduced to Rudy (Emayatzy Corinealdi), a young woman who elects to drop out of medical school to care for her husband when he’s sentenced to 8 years in jail. A film is about relationships in a vacuum, she faces a difficult process of self-discovery as she puts her life on hold. Don’t expect a Hollywood ending.
This is only Ava DuVernay’s second feature film, her first being earlier-scheduled “I Will Follow.” And she won the Best Director Award for Middle of Nowhere” at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
Lori Reid hosts each program in the “New Black Directors” series, introducing the films and leading a discussion about their themes and messages.
“For Black History Month we didn’t want to dredge up old films from the past,” says Reid. “We wanted to look at cinematic history in the making.”

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