Respect to Ava DuVernay (@AVAETC), Mira Nair and Nate Parker… filmmakers, storytellers I’m absolutely in awe of who, instead of waiting for next Feb to join the cries of #OscarsSoWhite, are out there crafting stories about us…
I felt so inspired watching “Queen of Katwe”, not just because there were so many sights, phrases and nuances that were wonderfully reminiscent of Ug’n life, but because of how boldly it was all mounted, in crisp, vibrant colour and wrapped in a sure shot crowd-pleasing story that has won over (the majority of) critics and audiences alike… can you imagine what it took for the makers of this film to secure backing from Disney for a Ugandan-set story about Ugandan characters that doesn’t involve war, AIDS or the obligatory white savior? I can totally see the studio wanting to rewrite David Oyelowo’s character as a McAvoy/Gerard Butler type to “increase crossover potential/marketability” but Ms Nair and co. stood their ground in the name of authenticity. And made a truly beautiful family film.
Ms. DuVernay’s mass incarceration doc, “The 13th”, has had me unsettled and deeply contemplative of its implications since I watched it last night. It’s a non-partisan, highly critical look at the role both major parties, and commercial/political ambitions have played in creating and sustaining the troubling, insidiously systemic imbalance in America’s justice system and how mass incarceration has fed a centuries-old economic beast. I don’t think the large section of this country that remains in denial of there even being a problem will give this doc a chance, let alone change their minds because of it. But it’s easily the best one I’ve watched on this subject; engrossing, informative, impactful and impossible to shrug off. Much like the rest of Ava’s sublime filmography to date and I can’t wait for “A Wrinkle In Time”.
And finally, Nate Parker’s “The Birth of A Nation” which tells an important story and is full of passionate performances, but which flinches where “12 Years A Slave” had the nerve not to look away. I’m not just talking about the brutality of the violence but the issues raised by those very acts of brutality… there’s no way to elaborate without spoiling the film but it felt like crucial themes were set up and then abandoned midstream, which might have been for pacing reasons but ultimately dulled the impact of the finale. Still definitely worth the watch.
It’s the best time of the year (minus the weather and months and time of the year)… Lots of great adult fare on show. Don’t wait for the Oscars to ignore or pander to you… go out and see some good black stories alomg with all the superhero/animated/horror/Nicholas Sparks blather out there.
Oh and Luke MUTHAFUCKIN Cage!