The love for Neil Drumming’s breakout independent film BIG WORDS keeps building as it expands into more cities this week courtesy of the AFFRM (African-American Film Releasing Movement) multi-platform distribution label ARRAY (see the list below). This includes yesterday’’s premiere in Philadelphia, accompanied by a pre-screening filmmaking workshop by the Brooklyn-based director himself, produced by ReelBlack.
Starring Dorian Missick (Southland, Premium), Gbenga Akinnagbe (The Wire, The Taking of Pelham 123), Darien Sills-Evans (Cosby, Rivers Wash Over Me) and Yaya Alafia (The Kids Are All Right), BIG WORDS takes place on the eve of Barack Obama’s history-making 2008 election as three friends, once members of a promising hip-hop trio, cross paths once again and discover that some things never change. Former front-man John, once known as “Big Words”, is now a struggling IT guy who raps only to himself. James is a publicist living with his boyfriend, far removed from the days when he rhymed about getting girls, is afraid to confront his past. And DJ Malik still spins records, but he wants the old days back when his music meant something to the world, not just to him. Together again, the guys reckon with the past and dreams deferred.
Missick once more turns in a great performance as the lead John; though not in the light-hearted personality audiences are used to seeing him portray more recently, as he troughs through his menial living and tries to find meaning in it. Sills-Evans, an actor (and sometimes director) not seen enough on the big screen, also shines and is perfectly cast as the bitter Malik, still nostalgic about the old days but not doing enough for his own future.
Akinnagbe also stands out, his range as an actor and person largely expanding. He is becoming a renaissance man of sorts as a producer of films like Shaka King’s Newlyweeds and as an entrepreneur with his Liberated People line of t-shirts. The ladies of the film, Yaya Alafia and rapper Jean Grae also turn in electric performances. What’s also best about BIG WORDS, other than the humorous screenplay with great moments amongst these three men in a state of arrested development and selfishness, is Drumming’s ability to coax original performances out of his actors, showing us something you have not seen from most of them. Expect major things from him in the future.
In an unusual bit shameless self-promotion, my film festival New Voices in Black Cinema, premiered BIG WORDS at our February 2013 edition to a quickly sold-out crowd. Whenever I think about that movie I think of that night and Drumming’s comments at the end of the cast and crew-filled Q&A, in which he remarked, “I’m glad the people I made this film for have finally gotten a chance to see it.”
Here is the full schedule of cities and screening locations for BIG WORDS, from this week through September:
AFFRM’s BIG WORDS Tour Grows With New International and Domestic Dates
NOW PLAYING | NEW YORK | AMC EMPIRE 25
NOW PLAYING | LOS ANGELES | DOWNTOWN INDEPENDENT
NOW PLAYING | ATLANTA | GEORGIA PACIFIC AUDITORIUM
NOW PLAYING | WASHINGTON DC | ANACOSTIA ARTS CENTER
JULY 25 | PHILADELPHIA | INTERNATIONAL HOUSE
**JULY 26 | BIRMINGHAM, AL | THE EDGE 12
AUGUST 1 | SEATTLE | LANGSTON HUGHES PERFORMING ARTS INSTITUTE
AUGUST 8 | HOUSTON | HOUSTON MUSEUM OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN CULTURE
**AUGUST 15 | GARY, IN | GARY AQUATORIUM, MILLER BEACH
**AUGUST 18 | FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE | TESSA’S
**AUGUST 20 | CHARLOTTE, NC | THE STUDIO MOVIE GRILL
**AUGUST 25 | DAYTON, OH | FILM DAYTON
**AUGUST 26 | LONDON, UK | PICTURE HOUSE CINEMA
**SEPTEMBER 18 | BLOOMINGTON, IN | UNIVERSITY OF INDIANA
(**) Indicates new dates