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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Please See This Film...

Even though this film is not accessible in a lot of cities, I wanted to write about it as I am deeply disappointing in the numbers it's received. We all cry and complain about the dreck (well, most of us) that is the Ice Cube and Tyler Perry empire, begging for something more and something different, and when it's right in front of us, what happens? It is virtually ignored.

I am speaking of the film "Night Catches Us", starring Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington.

Since I've moved back to Oakland, I've had the very fine privilege of being around some original Black Panthers; the ones that were front and center when everything went down, both here and in Los Angeles. The vast majority of them epitomize the old saying "Still waters run deep". Silent, powerful, exuding the energy of all of the hurt, lessons, wisdom and knowledge that make up their being; and careful about the company they keep.

I would say this film is very much an allegory of that type of Black Panther personality, and it is fitting as it centers around two people that are former Black Panthers, struggling to get past their life-changing and disturbing experiences while in the party (Mackie and Washington).

That is basically all that the film is about. It is not an epic-type film (though they show original footage of the Panthers), but a slice of the very large pie that was/is The Panthers. And sometimes a slice is all we need to gather focus on a film's characters, and the beauty of the life it represents.

Kerry plays a civil rights attorney, seemingly having her old cohorts and her brother as her main clients. Her husband was tragically shot to death years before in a Panther strong-arm effort gone wrong. She has a daughter she's raising, and lives with a man who is apparently successful on a few levels. She has chosen to stay in the neighborhood where she's lived all of her life, because in some way, she still believes "the cause" will pick up where it left off.

Mackie is a former Panther that has been deeply branded a "snitch", and may have been the cause of Kerry's husband's failed attempt and ultimate death. He has left town years ago, immediately after the incident, and returns to tie up loose ends in the wake of his father's passing.

Without telling the whole film (which on the outside doesn't seem like a lot), the wonderful chemistry of Kerry and Mackie draws you in, and sneaks up on you, just like a panther. They have learned a lot of lessons over the years, and when they come together, even though the core of what they were is still the same, the changes they've been through have changed them as well. They represent in each other the idealism they once had, but slowly and carefully come together to overcome what their current differences are to get to something that is true and organic--something that has been missing from both of their lives: love.

Intermixed in this relationship is the background of Mackie still having to deal with his accusers (including Jamie Hector from "The Wire"), who haven't forgotten a thing, Kerry's brother's breakdown stemming from his deep disappointment in the revolution that never really seemed to happen, the easy comings of Black men in Black women's lives in the 70's and the decades beforehand (a likely offset of the way slavery set up the familial unit), and the very sweet burgeoning relationship between Kerry's young daughter and Mackie.

To me, this film is compelling, engaging, and involving. It makes you think, and definitely has very real-life parallels of love, friendship, and family, both the loving and contentious aspects of them. Some may feel a slow moving film that takes it's time to establish it's characters and get to the center of it's point may be boring. But guess what? This movie, just like a living former Black Panther, is selective about the company it keeps.

Black Cinema At Large Rating: B++. Ms. Invisibelle says check it out.




oh, and ps: the soundtrack by the roots is fantastic...this film is on cable on demand in many cities

18 comments:

Candice Frederick said...

i cannot wait to see this! i'm a huge fan of Kerry Washington and anthony mackie.

Invisible Woman said...

yes, see it before it goes away; i'd really like to hear your thoughts.

Alex said...

This sounds excellent! I will certainly keep an eye out for it, I hope it comes to Boston.

Invisible Woman said...

@alex: someone just told me they heard it's available on i tunes :-)

Sergio said...

Also read my interview with the writer/director Tanya Hamilton right here

http://www.ebonyjet.com/Templates/DetailsView.aspx?id=17769&terms=tanya...

ayankha said...

I have been wanting to see this for a while now! In all the places in the country, not showing anywhere near DC. I am going to check it out on itunes. Thanks for the sugg.

Invisible Woman said...

@sergio: thanks for that interview link--i really like it! she seems very cool...

@ayankha just found out you can rent it on amazon for $6.99 as well

Ash said...

I really wanted to see this, and now I want to see it even more. Thanks for this great review!

msladydeborah said...

This sounds like a film that I am going to need to find and watch.

madame z said...

Amazon it is. Thank you for the write-up and for the link. I'm one of the many who don't get 'regular' access to many independent features until after the fact (dvd release...Netflix). I'd like to support more and I will watch this very soon :) Thanks! Oh and I love Mackie! And Kerry!

V-Knowledge said...

Wonderfully written write-up, IW. I just watched this film on Amazon. What a great movie...shame that its theatrical distribution is near-nonexistent. Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington were strong, and I loved the tone of the film; people who let the past dictate their present.

The Independent Spirit Awards is showing some love for Night Catches Us. It's a nominee for Best First Feature. I'd also like to snag a copy of the soundtrack (part of it was like "name that Wu-Tang sample :) ).

Ms☆Go (dcmoviegirl) said...

I'm slipping.

I hadn't even heard of this film until I read your post, but it looks fantastic. :)

It's only in one theater in my area, but I'll check it out, ASAP.

Thanks, for the heads up.

Dasuntoucha said...

Thanks for the info about this film...will definitely be checking for it this weekend.

Josephine said...

Good for you getting to hang out with Panthers I'm jealous. Your review hits the nail on the head. Loved Night catches us ! It really pulled me in I wasn't ready for it to end. I liked that it wasn't over the top it seemed very real to me. I think all the actors were great too.

empathgirl said...

Liked the story very much, but the writing was just ok for me (storytelling) – You know how you have two uncles and they tell the same story, but one of them tells it flat and the other has you on the edge of your seat hanging off of their every word? Well this movie was the former.

I wasn’t looking for over-the-top dramatics but I wanted some passion filled lines for the actors. Although the actors did a great job, I wasn’t emotionally invested in them. The words written for them were dull. I struggle to describe the two main character’s personalities.

The set and wardrobe were authentic. I enjoyed the camera work. I was pleased with what she showed the audience. C+ for screenplay/B for story and direction.

TSR Admin said...

Found a torrent download of this and watched based on your recommendation. Truly enjoyable flick. It did take a while for the story to develop but the soundtrack helped to make up for that for me.

Old School Fridays said...

I will definitely watch. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

The Film Lunatic said...

This sounds like a really interesting flick. So many movies go unwatched and it is a shame. It is refreshing to look forward to something with such an intriguing plot. Have you ever seen White Wedding? It is a feel good comedy made in South Africa but is another film that everyone should see. I’m glad it’s finally coming out on DVD so everyone can experience it. Check out the trailer at: www.whiteweddingmovie.com