Archive for "Ava DuVernay"

Movie Review: “Middle of Nowhere”

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, October 19, 2012 at 12:00 am.

(Photo: Courtesy Forward Movement Pictures)

Summary: Ruby is struggling with loneliness and loyalty with her husband incarcerated for over four years.  With him soon to be released, Ruby looks forward to his return but is faced with unexpected twists.

Review: There must be something in the water where Ava DuVernay and her company, AAFRM (African-American Film Releasing Movement), reside.  The four films from the groundbreaking film distributing company are a hit with critics and shook up the box office with numbers that indie — especially Black indie films — rarely garner.  I Will Follow, Restless City, Kinyarwanda and now Middle of Nowhere, which expands to seven cities today, are a part of  the impressive résumé DuVernay and her team have under their belt.

For those who are fans of AAFRM and DuVernay, her latest film is not a reincarnation of anything you’ve seen from her previously.  For those who may not be familiar with Ava DuVernay, her latest project is a must-see with its accessible story and poetic visuals.  To put it plainly: Middle of Nowhere is intoxicating.

The AAFRM film is a heartbreaking but teachable story about love and the morbid sacrifices we make to find it.  Ruby, elegantly portrayed by Emayatzy Corinealdi (who bears a striking resemblance to vintage Toni Braxton), is a woman whose husband is behind bars.  For four years, she has dedicated her life for the moment he will be released, which leaves her in the “middle of nowhere.”  Love behind bars is no unheard of tale.  But similar to AAFRM’s previous films,  it is transformed by the smooth ability to tell a relatable story with a raw grace.

Corinealdi as Ruby emotes onscreen, relying on subtlety, which is often the hardest emotion to express.  Omari Hardwick, as Derek, the incarcerated husband, once again proves his acting chops go beyond the thug-type roles he is most known for (For Colored Girls, Next Day Air). David Oyelwo (Red Tails, The Paperboy) — who is always stellar — rounds out the cast.  But, lest we forget, the underrated Lorraine Toussaint, who is best known for the series Any Day Now, plays Ruby’s mother. Much like Viola Davis before Doubt, Toussaint does not get the recognition she deserves.

Written and directed by DuVernay, the Cali native is not trying to be avant-garde; her goal is to make you feel.  Although the director proudly identifies as a Black, woman filmmaker, the movie has no allegiance to race or gender.  “I see options in front of me.  Roads that could be traveled … but I am still here.”  Who cannot relate to that?  If you walk out of Middle of Nowhere with no feeling then you are missing some soul.

Middle of Nowhere is playing in select cities and opening today in Chicago, Detroit, Oakland/Berkeley, Seattle, Houston, East Miami and Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

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Movie Review: “Kinyarwanda”

Published by Clay Cane on Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 2:00 pm.

(Photo: Courtesy Blok Box IMG)

Summary: Six Interconnecting stories about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Review: There have been many films on the horrific 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The most memorable is Idris Elba in 2005’s Sometimes in April from HBO (Ishmael Ntihabose, who was the executive producer of Kinyarwanda, worked on Sometimes in April) and of course the Oscar-nominated Hotel Rwanda.

Most films and docs on Rwanda are soaked in bloodshed, nightmarish images and terror that rival horror films.  The Rwandans are framed as berzerk savages with no conscience. Although it wouldn’t seem possible — considering the crimes are extreme and the explanations are still unfathomable — Kinyarwanda humanized the genocide on celluloid with a nuanced script and powerhouse actors.

For those who say, “I don’t want to see another movie on Rwanda with dead bodies and machetes beheading people!”  I promise you, this is not Kinyarwanda (named after Rwanda’s most commonly-spoken language). Written and directed by Alrick Brown, the film is more human than bloody and more soulful than violent. This could be why it was named the 2011 Sundance Film Festival winner for the Audience Award in the World Cinema Drama category.

Unlike most films on the genocide, Kinyarwanda was created by Rwandans.  Therefore, there is an insider and authentic perspective — many of the cast and crew were Rwandans. It’s one of those movie-going experiences where you wonder if it’s a documentary and you’re Googling the actors as the credits roll.

The entire cast shined, but a stand-out was Cassandra Freeman as Lieutenant Rose.  Freeman had a riveting presence on screen, playing a lieutenant seeking peace and later redemption for “criminals” of the genocide. But the home-run performance was from Edourd Bamporiki as Emmanuel, a Hutu man who killed many, including his Tutsi neighbors. Bamporiki delivered a haunting monologue in his native tongue. With all of the award buzz around Viola Davis in The Help, Brad Pitt in Moneyball and others — know this, Bamporiki’s is, effortlessly, one of the best performances of 2011.

All respect to Alrick Brown for giving audiences a fresh take on the Rwandan genocide. In a movie that was shot in 16 days, viewers will be educated and moved.  Hopefully, from the director to the cast, a new flock of international Black filmmakers and actors are born.

Kinyarwanda is distributed via Ava DuVernay’s AAFRM (African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement).  The film is currently playing in New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Seattle.

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Ten Things We Want to See in Film

Published by Clay Cane on Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 12:00 am.

Now that awards season is over, we are hoping for a more diverse and interesting 2011 in the year of film. 2010 didn’t give us much, but we have high hopes for this year. Check out 10 things we want to see in film for 2011.

10. The Aaliyah Movie
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Aaliyah’s passing. So, where is the Aaliyah movie? Last we heard, the director of Dreamgirls, Bill Condon, was set to direct and Canadian actress Keisha Chante would play Aaliyah. Hopefully, we at least get a release date in 2011.

9. No More Horror Movie Remakes
I’d love to go through a year without these horrible horror movie remakes that consistently bomb (Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, etc.). Freddy and Jason need to stay in the ’80s and ’90s. They had their run—let someone else think of a new horror movie plot.

8. Imitation of Life Remake
Now, if someone wants to remake a movie, they should take on Imitation of Life, the classic story about a light-skinned Black girl who tries to pass for white. With a solid cast, this could be award-worthy.

7. A Lady Gaga Movie
Considering her epic music videos, I would love to see Lady Gaga on screen. Not in some silly romantic comedy but more of a Quentin Tarantino/Lee Daniels/Rocky Horror Picture Show–type experience. Bring Gaga to the big screen!

6. I Will Follow by Ava DuVernay
We raved about this film last year, and it was selected as the best movie of 2010 by BET.com.  The film deals with family, loss, love and life. It’s a tour de force of emotions. The film is getting a release in select cities this Friday. It’s a must-see for 2011!

5. Nicki Minaj Movie
Nicki Minaj went to a New York arts school for theater. So, we would be interested to see what her acting chops are like on the big screen. Maybe a small, supporting role just to get her feet wet, but Minaj in movies is a good look for 2011.

4. Juice DVD Re-Release?
2Pac’s classic, Juice is a masterpiece of minimalism on DVD. No special features, no commentary, just an extreme disappointment. Can we get a re-release with deleted scenes, cast interviews, and commentary? Paramount needs to make it happen!

3. More Viola Davis!
I need more Viola Davis! We are looking forward to The Help, her first starring role about a Black maid in the ’60s. According to IMDB.com: “Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, [the fiml is about] a Southern society girl who returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns the town upside-down when she interviews the Black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent Southern families. Aibileen (Viola Davis), Skeeter’s best friend’s housekeeper, is the first to open up—to the dismay of her friends in the tight-knit Black community.”

2. Wanda and Sheneneh in Skank Robbers
Jamie Foxx and Martin Lawrence need to halt all production on all other projects and get this film off the ground. Last we heard, Halle Berry and George Lopez signed on and it got the green light. Oh—and let’s hope they don’t forget Tichina Arnold as Pam—she needs a cameo or a full role. We need a release date for Skank Robbers in 2011!

1. Wesley Snipes Out Of Jail
I’m still confused on why Snipes was jailed for three years on misdemeanor charges, especially after a juror admitted that two other jurors said they thought he was guilty when they “looked” at him. Free Wesley, because I think it’s about time for a Jungle Fever sequel—and Keeping Up With the Kardashians don’t count!

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‘I Will Follow’ Trailer

Published by Clay Cane on Monday, February 14, 2011 at 12:00 am.

Since the Urbanworld Film Festival BET.com has been on top of Ava DuVernay’s film I Will Follow. The story follows Maye (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) grappling with the loss of her aunt who died of breast cancer. While cleaning out the house she shared with her aunt, she has interactions with several people who help the grieving process. A tour de force of emotions, touched with sadness, but ultimately resulting in inspiration and optimism.

For those of you who didn’t get a chance to see the film at a festival, the movies opens March 11th in New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Atlanta.

The official trailer has hit the web. Check it out and make sure you buy your tickets in advance!

I Will Follow – Trailer from AFFRM on Vimeo.

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‘I Will Follow’ Director Expanding Distribution of Black Films

Published by Clay Cane on Monday, January 10, 2011 at 8:00 am.

A few weeks ago I deemed I Will Follow the best film of the year. However, I had many folks asking, “Where can I see this film?” Unfortunately, if you didn’t catch it at a film festival, you weren’t able to see it.

As a viewer, it’s frustrating to hear about these critically acclaimed films but not be able to see them. I remember the days of Kasi LemmonsEve’s Bayou – that film wasn’t available in a 50-mile radius of where I lived, and when it was, it only played for a week. Well, writer and director of I Will Follow, Ava DuVernay, is trying to change that through her organization, the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM).

In a recent interview with The New York Times, DuVernay talked about her goal to get Black films in commercial theaters.

The plan is to put black-theme movies in commercial theaters, initially from the independent film program recently begun by the AMC theater chain, for a two-week run supported by social networks, mailing lists and other buzz-building services at the disposal of allied ethnic film festivals.

The films will not be part of normal festival programs, but will screen in all cities simultaneously with promotional backing from the festival organizations, which will share in revenue. The inaugural group of backers is expected to include the Urbanworld Film Festival in New York, the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, the ReelBlack Film Series in Philadelphia, the BronzeLens Film Festival in Atlanta and the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival in Seattle.

This sounds like a brilliant and overdue idea. While Tyler Perry and Spike Lee manage to bring in the cash, they can’t be the only ones depicting Black life on film – I’m sure they don’t want to be the only ones.

2010 was a dead year for dramatic Black films.  But, things might be different in 2011. The Sundance Film Festival is featuring several films about African-American life such as Pariah by Dee Rees and Gun Hill Road by Rashaad Ernesto Green.

Hopefully, after Sundance these films will get the chance they deserve.  With the help of Ava DuVernay, this just might happen.

For those of you who still haven’t seen I Will Follow, which stars Omari Hardwick from For Colored Girls and Salli Richardson-Whitfield from I Am Legend, the film opens March 11th in New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Atlanta.

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Best Films of 2010

Published by Clay Cane on Monday, December 27, 2010 at 12:00 am.

We already talked about the bad, now check out the best movies of 2010.

10. Children Of GodIf there were any faults in this movie, Margaret Laurena Kemp’s performance redeemed every moment. All I could think was – why haven’t I heard of this woman before?  Children of God is gloriously shot, each frame strikingly beautiful, despite its low budget. It’s refreshing to see an independent filmmaker who knows his craft. Unfortunately, the discipline of independent film-making has gotten lost in the age of the Internet, where anyone with web clips can claim they are a director.

9. Night Catches UsThis might be Tanya Hamilton’s debut film, but this was not a movie for amateurs. She clearly took her time and did research. A Columbia University grad, she made a movie that is leagues ahead of that of a typical first-time filmmaker.

8. AftershockAftershock is a fresh movie-going experience that people of all backgrounds can enjoy. Most beautifully, the flick honors those who lost loved ones in the tragic earthquake 34 years ago. This is not just a movie, but an appropriate memorial for such a sad moment in China’s history.

7. 127 HoursDanny Boyle and James Franco made127 Hours another reason to never lose your faith in the magic of movie making.

6. The Social Network The closest to a John Hughes film this generation will get, which is a huge compliment.

5. La MissionWithout a big budget and little promotion, the creators of La Mission brought together one of the more memorable movies of the year.

4. I Love You Phillip MorrisPresented with sincerity, not ‘fruity’ buffoonery; I Love You Phillip Morris is easily the best comedy of 2010.

3. The Kids Are All RightStarring Annette Benning and Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right has been universally praised for its deeply emotional stories mixed with real-life comedy. Regardless of your background, the superbly written film is easily relatable. The viewer walks away with teachable moments and, even though it’s cliche, realizing we are more alike than different.

2. Joan Rivers: A Piece of WorkJoan Rivers is an absolute piece of work and her revealing but hilarious documentary on her life is the best doc of the year. Rivers is a survivor in the entertainment industry and has the warrior marks to prove it.

1. I Will FollowAt every angle, I Will Follow is a hailing achievement for writer and director Ava DuVernay. If you need explosions, guns, gratuitous sex, or epic CGI, then I Will Follow is not for you. But, if you want a movie with a flawless script, passionate actors, tears and laughs that result in inspiration, then this is a must-see. This is a story that will stay with you for many days after. Without question, I Will Follow is a full dose of humanity and makes me proud to be associated with the film industry.

Honorable mentions: Waiting For Superman, Conviction, Inception

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J’Nara Corbin Guest Blogs: Following Films

Published by Clay Cane on Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 4:02 pm.

Who would have thought that Chris Rock would launch my writing career! Last year, I was invited to see an advance screening of Good Hair shown at the 13th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival.  I could not pass up an opportunity to see the controversial but hilarious film.  Mr. Rock was sharing with the world the who, what, when, where, and whys of weave! I quietly sat in the crowded theatre as the audience gasped, swooned and swore to slap any melanin-challenged “outsider” that had the newfound knowledge.  Living to tell the tale, I typed up my first article for BET.com and received a “Wow!” via email from the comedy legend.

Marking my one-year anniversary, I eagerly accepted the invitation to attend the 14th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival. Armed with a little more experience, I was ready to tackle a new challenge: the infamous red carpet interview.  With poise and persistence, I scored an interview with the beautiful Kerry Washington.  I grabbed her attention. Before answering the first of many questions I posed, Kerry commented on my upbeat energy and my professionalism saying to all within earshot, “I love this girl!” Well, I love you too Kerry and definitely loved seeing you sport that short afro in the opening night’s film, Night Catches Us!

Nia Long was also there. The veteran actress appeared in the film that won top honors at Urbanworld, Mooz-Lum, wearing traditional Muslim garb and playing Evan Ross’ mother.

Of the three films I viewed during this film festival, there was one that resonated with me most, striking a personal chord and lingering in my thoughts days after the closing credits rolled: Ava DuVernay’s I Will Follow.   The film led me on an unexpected journey of self-reflection. The narrative tale of selflessness and self-discovery allowed me time to find perspective as well as pieces of myself projected on the screen.

Salli Richardson-Whitfield teams up with her former Posse co-star, Blair Underwood, and my most recent celebrity crush, Omari Hardwick, in a journey of grief and personal growth. I watched the story unfold as if I were standing on tip-toes, peering through a neighbor’s window.  I Will Follow was an unobtrusive, unspoken invitation to people-watch, as long as I promised I would try to learn something from what I was witnessing.

Family drama, jealousy, anger but overall redemption proved the belief that you can love someone and not necessarily like them. Where is it written that just because you happen to share a few strands of DNA with a relative that this genetic imprint automatically makes you friends?

Much like the main character Maye, I have decided to walk down the road less traveled, all while remaining mindful so as not to lose sight of family and friends traveling down another. Perhaps rightfully deemed the Denise Huxtable of my family, I have opted for a life of chasing dreams. Although I have successfully caught and tackled a few (including becoming a published writer — thanks again BET.com!), there are still a few naysayers found nestled on the branches of my family tree.

The reality — family isn’t always on your side. Also, much like Maye, I have had my share of “new loves,” “old loves” and “why-can’t-he-just-get-it-together-and-be-everything-I-need-him-to-be-so-we-can-start-a-family-and-finally-give-my-mother-a-grandchild?” loves.  I Will Follow taught me sometimes there isn’t a happily ever after, especially if you don’t properly love yourself.  Relationships don’t always turn out the way you expect them to, and this film presented that truth.  Finally some truth on the screen!  After Eat, Pray, Love and Sex and the City 2, I thought doses of truth were abandoned in cinema.

While I patiently wait in love limbo, positioned between old and new, I vow if given the opportunity, all of my free time will gladly be shared with Omari Hardwick. I will follow him—anywhere!

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Movie Review: I Will Follow

Published by Clay Cane on Monday, September 20, 2010 at 2:24 pm.

Summary: Maye (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) is grappling with the loss of her aunt, Amanda Fisher, who died of breast cancer. While cleaning out the house she shared with her aunt, she has interactions with several people who help the grieving process. A tour de force of emotions, touched with sadness, but ultimately resulting in inspiration and optimism.

Review: I Will Follow is Ava DuVernay’s first feature-length film that is not a documentary, but she is no stranger to cinema. She was the director behind the eye-opening documentary This is The Life and BET’s recent My Mic Sounds Nice. In a time where filmmakers are suddenly birthed because they have a digital camera and WiFi, DuVernay is refreshing. The UCLA grad has a long resume and has taken the time to understand the art of making films.

I Will Follow is an independent movie, but it could easily stand next to any Hollywood blockbuster drama with its unique storytelling, polished cinematography and ferocious actors. Independent or not, to date, I Will Follow is the best film of 2010. The flick made its world premiere at the 2010 14th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival this past weekend.

In less-is-more fashion, I Will Follow takes place in one location with Richardson-Whitfield giving the best performance of her 20-plus-year career. Her character Maye spent the past year caring for her aunt living with breast cancer, causing deep friction with her aunt’s daughter, Fran, played by the outstanding Michole White.

I Will Follow could’ve easily fallen into the trite chick-flick trappings of cry, laugh, find a man and walking away in the sunset. However, the movie is brilliantly unpredictable, the true personification of dramatic filmmaking. It’s neither happy nor sad, just boldly human.

Richardson-Whitfield, who is known for films like I Am Legend, floated on screen with a riveting performance that one can only hope will be recognized in some capacity this award season. There is also Omari Hardwick, who has a role in For Colored Girls, delivering a strong performance. But, he wasn’t just the sexy man on screen; while the ladies will swoon, he performs a solid monologue that is a must-see for any aspiring actors. Blair Underwood was, as usual, a force that cannot be ignored. Plus, there is Glee’s Dijon Talton, who has more lines than he has ever had on the hit TV show and held his own with veterans of the screen.

But, it was Michole White, an actress who has been consistently working for over 20 years, who rips your cinematic heart out. A scene between Richardson and White was one of the greatest moments I’ve seen between two actors on screen in the past 10 years. Its dramatic intensity stood right next to Halle Berry’s Things We Lost in the Fire or Charlize Theron’s Monster. If all things were fair in Hollywood, and if the movie gets the publicity it deserves, Michole White would have an Oscar nomination under her belt. If all things were fair…

I Will Follow revolves around the lives of African Americans, but it transcends one cultural experience. Storylines that tackle the complexities of race are important, but DuVernay proves not every Black film needs to highlight the woes of racism or poverty.  Her film is sprinkled with diverse characters that range from Black, White, young, older, gay, working class—with mentions of rock & roll and hip-hop. Honestly, in most American experiences, our lives are more diverse than Hollywood depicts.

At every angle, I Will Follow is a hailing achievement for writer and director Ava DuVernay. If you need explosions, guns, gratuitous sex, or epic CGI, then I Will Follow is not for you. But, if you want a movie with a flawless script, passionate actors, tears and laughs that result in inspiration, then this is a must-see. This is a story that will stay with you for many days after. Without question, I Will Follow is a full dose of humanity and makes me proud to be associated with the film industry.

Continue to check back with BET.com for when I Will Follow will be available in your area.

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