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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Something New To Check For.....

Today is a shout out day of sorts. I love to make people aware of Black Cinema, as well as other bloggers that are out there doing good things and spreading knowledge, whether it be political, cultural, or humorous. I wanna share this with you guys; I think it's worth a rent. Just wish it could have been released theatrically, but you know how that goes. Those of you that comment on this blog that you would like to see something different or support the underdog, please check it out. From Undercover Black Man:

On Feburary 5, a new independent movie called “Blackout” arrives on DVD. It stars Zoe Saldana, Melvin Van Peebles, Latonya Richardson-Jackson, Jamie Hector and the great Jeffrey Wright.

Written and directed by Jerry LaMothe, “Blackout” tells the story of a Brooklyn neighborhood caught up in a 2003 power outage.

Judging by the preview (embedded top), “Blackout” has the vibe of an early-’90s black independent film. Remember the early ’90s? Every other week there was something new on screen to check out. “Straight Outta Brooklyn,” “Daughters of the Dust,” “Sidewalk Stories”...

It really felt like there was a movement happening.

And then it didn’t.

Oh well. At least there’s cats like LaMothe still out there righteously hustling. Embedded on the bottom is a video interview with him.

(Hat-tip: Qadree at Culture Critical. He reviewed a festival screening of “Blackout” last October.)

From IW: Sorry, for some reason I could only embed he second video. Maybe UBM can help me with the first one. Here is the review of the film from Qadree:

I had the chance to see some good films at this years Chicago International Film Festival, but of all the films that I had the chance to see, Blackout is the only one that I really want to see again. This film is loosely based on events that took place in Brooklyn, NY on the day of the 2003 blackout. It’s an ensemble piece so we end up following several situations in one neighborhood over a two day span that are all linked by one event, the blackout. This film combines elements of Do the Right Thing, Crash, and Barbershop, and Spike Lee’s influence on Lamothe’s style is quite apparent.

The film opens with a sequence showing different facets of neighborhood life in Brooklyn, the local eateries, the trash people leave on the street after going to the eateries, the handball courts, the everyday people going about their business, it gives us a good idea of what life is like before things get turned upside down during the blackout. Nelson (Jeffrey Wright) runs a barbershop. Claudine (Zoe Saldana) and James (Sean Blakemore) are a couple that lives together and are dealing with emotional and financial problems. George (Melvin Van Peebles) is the superintendent for Sol (Saul Rubinek) who owns the buildings that most of the main characters live in. Fatima (Susan Kelechi Watson) is dedicated to a man who is cheating on her and she is being courted by Ali (Nehal Joshi) who works at the corner store. Mrs. Thompson (Latonya Richardson) is the proud mother of CJ (Micheal B. Jordan) who is in his last year of high school and is going to college on a full academic scholarship, his best friend Tyrone (Robert Brickle-Tate) is starting to fall in with the wrong crowd, led by a fresh out of jail stick up kid played by Jamie Hector.

The character CJ is the stereotypical good kid, doing well in school, working, helping old ladies carry their groceries. I think this character could have been changed up a bit, the whole black kid with a scholarship concept is getting a little worn out. Ever since Cooley High this has become some kind of symbol of promise and success for black teen characters in movies. There are other ways to show that a character aspires to greater things and has intelligence than giving them a scholarship. This didn’t ruin the film, but it didn’t add much to it either. The only other thing that bothered me about this film was the bonding between George and Sol. The other characters in the film, though they have begun to address their issues, still have things to work on when the film ends. George and Sol’s situation, on the other hand, goes beyond resolution and goes into the realm of charity for a character like Sol. The extent to which Sol goes to make amends with George is hard to believe. I can see him changing his mind about firing George, but I don’t see him being as charitable as he is at the end of the film.

When CJ and the stick up kid first appear on screen together there is some foreshadowing with the stick up kid eyeballing CJ’s jewelery. You pretty much know that these two are going to have a confrontation, but Lamothe added a few subtle layers to what happens, some people will catch on to it, some won’t.

Claudine and James have some serious problems. James hasn’t held down a job in over a year and Claudine has been trying to take care of thing’s financially, but her patience and money is running low. At first glance this guy just seems to be a lazy bum taking advantage of Claudine’s kindness, but in the end things aren’t so simple. James was an eyewitness to the collapse of the twin towers. His job was obliterated along with the towers and his job search afterwards was a total failure. Over time his confidence eroded and he slowly fell into a state of depression. He tries to hide his depression and that only makes matters worse. Seeing the towers fall, in and of itself, doesn’t appear to have had much of an emotional impact on James. It’s seems that he associates all of the bad experiences that he has had since then with that one experience and that has created an entirely new meaning for what he saw that day and he can’t seem to get it off his mind. James and Claudine share moments that you rarely see from a black couple on the big screen, and the level of vulnerability that James is allowed to show is even more rare.

The barbershop scenes have the usual trash talk and humor with Lamothe making an appearance as a barber. Jeffrey Wright’s character, Nelson, is a person who’s issues are better left in the dark. He seems so thoroughly fed up with the ignorant behavior that’s going on around him that he just can’t leave things alone when the ignorance is directed at him, even if it means he might get himself killed.

This is a really good cast for an young director like Lamothe. Jeffrey Wright has won Emmy, Tony, and Golden Globe awards for past performances, and was honored at this years Chicago International Film Festival with a Career Achievement Award. He has appeared in such films as Syriana, Casino Royale, The Manchurian Candidate, and he is one of the producers for Blackout. I didn’t know Melvin Van Peebles was in the film until I was at the screening, it was a pleasant surprise. Zoe Saldana was in Drumline, and Pirates of the Caribbean, but most of the younger actors have been working on television shows like The Wire, Law & Order, andER, so if you watch those shows you’ll probably recognize some of them.

It would be nice to have something like this end up in theaters, but it will probably end up on cable or DVD. However it goes I hope they get a good distribution deal so everyone can get a chance to see it.

Check out the web site:


Sergio said...

I saw Blackout too at a press screening at the Chicago International Film Festival and I liked it very much as well. THOUGH I was very disappointed with the storyline involving the CJ character. Without giving too much away, it winds up going the way you think it's going to go and I felt the director could have gone into another less cliched direction. Admittedly, there's nothing really new here and LaMnothe has evidently seen Do The Right Thing too many times. Yet, still it's well made and acted and he knows his way behind the camera. I'm anxious to see what he'll do next. Check it out when it comes out on DVD.

asha vere said...

I know times are tough for black actors, but I really hope Jamie Hector doesn't find himself too typecast as a criminal.