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