This Fall sees the release of many highly-anticipated films directed by and starring Black talent. The list is so long that it is split into two parts with this edition covering September and October.
If there are any films you know if that haven’t been covered, tweet me at @MediaManWatch with the hashtag #BlackFilmWatch2013 and I’ll check it out.
directed by Darrell Roodt
with Jennifer Hudson, Terrence Howard and Elias Koteas
In this biopic of South Africa’s “Mother of the Nation,” Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson plays the eponymous Winnie Mandela, who instead of suffering silently fro 27 years when her apartheid-fighting husband Nelson Mandela was jailed, fought and made long-lasting strides for the freedom of Blacks in South Africa. Most expected Winnie Mandela to be released in 2012 after premiering at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, yet it is not until now that distribution is happening. There was initial controversy with having an American actress cast as Winnie, as well as white South African director Darrell Roodt, who also made the South African films Sarafina! (1992) and Cry the Beloved Country (1995), to direct a film about South Africa’s most revered leaders. Now with the film’s release hopefully Hudson’s performance, which various critics have lauded, coupled with Terrence Howard’s depiction of Nelson Mandela, will win viewers over.
First impressions: Though it looks to have those cliché biopic moments, it looks like Hudson’s performance will indeed be what should bring you to theater.
Directed by Alexandre Moors
with Isaiah Washington, Tequan Richmond, Cassandra Freeman, Tim Blake Nelson and Joey Lauren Adams
The striking feature film debut of writer-director Alexandre Moors, Blue Caprice is a harrowing yet restrained psychological thriller about an abandoned boy lured to America into the shadows of a dangerous father figure. Inspired by true events, the film investigates the notorious and horrific Beltway sniper attacks from the point of view of the two perpetrators, whose distorted father-son relationship facilitated their long and bloody journey across America.
Marked by captivating performances by Isaiah Washington and Tequan Richmond (Drew from ‘Everybody Hates Chris’), lyrical camerawork, and a unique and bold structure, Blue Caprice documents the mechanisms that lead its subjects to embrace physical violence. It is riveting portrait of 21st-century America.
My full review of this powerful film will come next week ahead of the film’s premiere.
Mother of George
directed Andrew Dosunmu
with Danai Gurira, Isaach De Bankolé, Anthony Okungbowa, and Yaya Alafia
Fresh off his 2011 hit debut film Restless City, former fashion photographer Andrew Dosunmu returns with a tale of new bride who when having trouble conceiving has to deal with her overbearing mother-in-law. Ultimately, she must take desperate measures to have a baby in her struggle between tradition and contemporary life. Once again Dosunmu focuses his artistic lens New York’s African community, this time taking the tale to Brooklyn’s own Crown Heights neighborhood and the seldom – and never in a feature film – focused upon Yoruba community. The film stars The Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira, sans her questionable dreadlock wig from her star-making role of Michonne on that zombie show, and showing her Nigerian roots in her second-take as an actor in a Donsunmu movie.
First impressions: Okay, we know the photography from Dosunmu’s vision coupled with cinematographer Bradford Young will leave us breathless. This is a given. But the story appears to be just as interesting and the actors are top-notch. This is a must see for those who missed it at various film festivals.
with Amari Cheatom, Trae Harris, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Tonya Pinkins, Hassan Johnson and Colman Domingo.
(at the Film Forum, NYC)
This hotly-anticipated first feature film from Brooklyn writer/director Shaka King stars Amari Cheatom (Night Catches Us, 2010) and newcomer Trae Harris as Lyle and Nina, a young stoner couple made for each other in their love of weed. However, they become embroiled in a screwy love triangle with their best friend ‘Mary Jane’ that ultimately exposes all that is wrong in their relationship. King has a sardonic sense of humor that keeps the film going, and the on-screen chemistry between Cheatom and Harris enhances his material. Highly comedic turns from co-stars Colman Domingo, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Tonya Pinkins, and Anthony Chisolm cement this film into a must-see.
I have indeed covered Newlyweeds repeatedly on Bold As Love as it has shown in NYC a number of times this past summer….and I’m telling you to go again! Look for my full review next week prior to the Wednesday September 18th premiere. Meanwhile, catch the brand new trailer
Directed by David E. Talbert
with Paula Patton, Derek Luke, Taye Diggs, Jill Scott, Boris Kodjoe, Adam Brody, Lauren London and Djimon Hounsou
Pledging to keep herself from being the oldest and the only woman in her entire family never to wed, Montana Moore (Paula Patton – 2 Guns, 2013) embarks on a thirty-day, thirty-thousand-mile expedition to charm a potential suitor into becoming her fiancé.
First impressions: I’ve finally stopped confusing Baggage Claim with 2009’s Next Day Air! Talbert’s comedy is very broad, as evidenced by his popular stage plays and previous film First Sunday (2008). Nonetheless, it’s sure to be a crowd pleaser, though I’m not confident in Patton’s turn at comedy. See the trailer for yourself, but she seems wooden (more than usual). Hopefully Jill Scott and Adam Brody as her besties will bolster any deficiencies.
Directed by Greg ‘Freddy’ Camalier
with Aretha Franklin, Clarence Carter, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Percy Sledge, Jimmy Cliff
The logline encapsulates it best: The incredible true story of a small town with a big sound.
Located alongside the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals, Alabama is the unlikely breeding ground for some of America’s most creative and defiant music. Under the spiritual influence of the ‘Singing River’ as Native Americans called it, the music of Muscle Shoals changed the world and sold millions upon millions of copies. At its heart is Rick Hall, founder of FAME Studios. Overcoming crushing poverty and staggering tragedies, Hall brought blacks and whites together in Alabama’s cauldron of racial hostility to create music for the generations while giving birth to the ‘Muscle Shoals Sound’ and ‘The Swampers’. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge, Gregg Allman, Clarence Carter, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Bono, and others bear witness to Muscle Shoals’ magnetism, mystery, and why it remains influential today.
First impressions: Any documentary that can get you dancing in your chair while learning about the history of where great music was first generated will be a crowd pleaser.
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete
Directed by George Tillman, Jr.
Screenwriter: Michael Starrbury
with Skylan Brooks, Ethan Dizon, Jennifer Hudson, Anthony Mackie, Jordin Sparks, Jeffrey Wright, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
During a sweltering summer in New York City, 13-year-old Mister’s (Skylan Brooks) hard-living mother (Jennifer Hudson) is apprehended by the police, leaving the boy and nine-year-old Pete (Ethan Dizon) alone to forage for food while dodging child protective services and the destructive scenarios of the Brooklyn projects.
First impressions: Poor kids trying to survive on the mean streets of Brooklyn? What’s not to love? Seriously, this looks to be Tillman’s most personal piece of work since his debut directed Soul Food (1997) and maybe arguably Men of Honor (2000). The trailer is impressive, I just hope the film can follow suit.
Directed by Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson
American Promise spans 13 years as Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, middle-class African-American parents in Brooklyn, N.Y., turn their cameras on their son, Idris, and his best friend, Seun, who make their way through one of the most prestigious private schools in the country. Chronicling the boys’ divergent paths from kindergarten through high school graduation at Manhattan’s Dalton School, this provocative, intimate documentary presents complicated truths about America’s struggle to come of age on issues of race, class and opportunity.
First impressions: Audiences have been waiting to see this film for years, and now that it will soon be finishing its film festival rounds with its NYC premiere at the 2013 New York Film Festival, expect to be among the patrons upset that your screening is sold out because you didn’t buy your tickets online. It is that serious. This is the documentary ticket of the season.
Twelve Years a Slave
Directed by Steve McQueen
with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry, Alfre Woodard, Michael K. Williams, Marcus Lyle Brown, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch and Sarah Paulson
Chiwetel Ejiofor (Inside Man, American Gangster) plays Solomon Northup, a man living in New York during the mid-1800s (pre-Civil War) who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the deep south.
First impressions: Early buzz is that Northup’s escapes, and his failures at them, are harrowing to watch – as I suppose they should be. If most anyone else directed this movie I would be wary, but Steve McQueen is a next-generation auteur and his films never fail to take a controversial or even seemingly dense subject and elevate it to grand material. Even if his storytelling or visual style is not to your liking, his perspective is unarguably original. And Ejiofor also seldom disappoints and the ensemble cast is incredible.