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‘American Son’ Sheds Light on Being Black in America

by Kimberly Jones

American Son, originally a Broadway play turned short film, debuted on Netflix this past
weekend. The film stars Emmy Award-nominated actress Kerry Washington as Kendra Ellis-Connor searching for information about her son while dealing with a failed interracial marriage. Washington stars opposite Steven Pasquale who plays her estranged husband Scott Connor, an FBI agent and a member of a military family with the utmost respect for all members of law enforcement.

The entire film takes place in a waiting area of the Miami police precinct when the couple’s
eighteen-year-old son goes missing after an incident with a police officer. Although the identity of Connors’s son Jamal was never revealed, the dialogue through the entire film gave a good back story into who Jamal was. A young man with a good head on his shoulders in search of his identity trying to navigate through young adulthood.

American Son told the story of being black in America from different perspectives while also dissecting many layers of issues people of color experience daily. The fact that the Connors were in an interracial marriage added to the complexity of the issues the couple was facing. Kendra (Washington) could relate to Jamal more because she understands the relationship between black men and cops, and how one wrong move can be fatal and life-changing. Her husband Scott (Pasquale), on the other hand, is arrogant and ignorant when it comes to race relations. Both parents agree that they did what was best for their son and provided him with the tools to survive in the real world. The breakdown is that the couple had two very different versions of survival, Scott worries that his son’s friends are having a negative effect on him and doesn’t want Jamal to represent himself as“too urban”.

courtesy of Netflix

Perhaps the most stand out moment of the film is when Scott reveals that he doesn’t even like his son’s name. He is blinded by his ignorance. ‘Jamal’ is a black name and he never liked it but went along with Kendra’s decision. This further confirms some of the mother’s concerns about her son and how his own father can judge him just from his name alone. During a conversation Kendra has an epiphany about her marriage and asks Scott, why did he approach her when they first met? She questioned his reasoning for wanting to pursue a relationship with a black woman at all, especially since Scott’s new girlfriend is white. He quickly reassures Kendra that he sincerely cared for her and that the new girlfriend did not mean much to him. The situation with Jamal led them to have this difficult yet necessary conversation.

The overall message in the film is that no matter where a child is raised or what fancy schools he or she may attend – when that child is out in the world, the only thing that matters is skin color. There is basically no way to prepare for discrimination and life-threatening situations that may arise at any time for a black person in America. It can also be difficult for white people to understand how severe police brutality is. It is not something that is blown out of proportion, it is a very real problem.

The film left audiences with a somber tone and feeling defeated. Perfectly titled American Son, this is a very familiar tragic story that we see in headlines all the time. This is a reminder that there is no such thing as equal justice in our country.

American Son is now available for streaming. You can watch the trailer below.

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Reviews

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – A Beautiful Tribute and Captivating Sequel (Review)

Written by Tiara Henley

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

The Kingdom of Wakanda is welcoming audiences back following the loss of King T’Challa. Tragically, Chadwick Boseman (the only actor to portray T’Challa in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) passed away in 2020 from a years-long private battle with colon cancer. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever serves as a beautiful cathartic tribute to his legacy and reminds viewers of his prodigious impact on the franchise. Though the future of the Black Panther movie franchise was uncertain following Boseman’s death, the newest installment builds upon the foundation he collaborated to create. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is emotionally charged, poignant, shocking, and brilliantly executed. This is one movie that should not be missed. The storyline is authentic; it renders visibility to new cultures and serves up some much-needed healing. It’s sure to be one of the year’s biggest stand-out films.

A scene from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Marvel)

With the emergence of Namor (The Sub-Mariner, played by Tenoch Huerta Mejia), ruler of a mythical underwater nation, Wakanda and its inhabitants must protect themselves from his threats as well as the usual threats posed by government agencies.

The story focuses on the people who were closest to T’Challa. Not as a means of creating a hierarchy and presenting women to be more superior or efficient to men, but to face the reality of those who would be most affected by the loss of the King. Undoubtedly, the women in the franchise prevail at upholding the eloquently cultivated world that we all fell in love with in the original Black Panther. As if these women weren’t amazingly captivating already, there is an extra element of depth gifted to onlookers as we see Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), Shuri (Letitia Wright), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and the Dora Milaje expose emotionally driven versions of themselves. These ladies are hot-blooded, vulnerable, temperamental, reactive, and every other emotion that lies within the scope of human expression. We also get a genuine depiction of every stage of grief, with each character processing the tragedy uniquely. These processes will resonate with viewers who have lost loved ones and those fans who feel the loss of King T’Challa and Chadwick Boseman personally. The arch of storytelling through Black Panther: Wakanda Forever gives each spectator permission to heal. This was truly the version of the story that made the most sense.

Riri Williams and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) / Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Marvel)

Producer Nate Moore recently explained that the movie is not all about grief, though, “It’s also sometimes joy, sometimes humor. It is all of the emotions anyone feels with any profound loss.”

Like most great Marvel films, the audience can embark upon moments of joy and laughter to break up the tension. The creators manage to present a film that allows us to deal with the bereavement of a character we love so profoundly while also providing comedic relief. We owe a great deal of gratitude to Dominique Perry (Iron Heart), who is sure to be a breakout star following this portrayal. Cameos and bombshell revelations in the plot are sure to keep audiences engaged. The story also doesn’t lack action. With entrancingly choreographed routines, Gurira and Alex Livinalli (Attuma) give us one of the most satisfyingly intense fight scenes to date.

Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) / Black Panther Wakanda Forever (Marvel)

Danai revealed during a press conference, “It was a lot of work. The beauty of it is you’re seeing how we had to find the psychology in it while working together. So, there’s a lotta storytelling that has to go into the story being told. And I’m one of those people that’s like, from day one, I’m like, show me my fight, show me my fight so I can learn it now.”

While many brilliantly executed qualities stand out in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, one of the most notable is attention to detail in the representation of cultures. The depictions of ceremonious practices amongst African cultures are represented in funeral processions and the garments that adorn the people of Wakanda. Further, the introduction of Namor, the Sub-Mariner, into the franchise yields exposure to Mayan mythology and Mexican culture through the wardrobe, symbols, and art pieces of the Talokan characters. Aside from being an extraordinary storyteller, a distinguishing facet that director Ryan Coogler continues to bestow is the provision of self-awareness for minorities through tidbits of history. Intertwining locations such as Chicago (United States), Aztec, Maya, Haiti, and Africa, his artistic choices aim to further unify Pan-African, Latin, and Indigenous people.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Namor/ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Marvel)

“It’s all about culture,” started Mejia, who plays Namor. “Culturally, we are a part of indigenous roots, so embrace those roots and honor these two sources. The main sources in Latin America are of African and indigenous roots and are really important.”

Ultimately, producers Nate Moore and Coogler decided that Wakanda was the most important preservation when tasked with rewriting the script after Boseman’s passing. A precedent of greatness was established with Wakanda’s first depiction in the 2018 release of Black Panther. Maintaining that precedent became a priority for all the creators involved.

Moore discussed key focuses of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and the choice to carry on following Boseman’s untimely departure stating, “I think relatively soon, it was determined that this amazing ensemble of characters and this world that had been created onscreen needed to continue… And keeping the idea of a celebration of Wakanda and the character at the forefront, in addition to the grief that, of course, is gonna come with that.”

This installment of Black Panther exudes the assertive notion that Wakanda is here to stay and truly is Forever!

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will be released exclusively in theaters on November 11th, 2022

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“Concrete Cowboy” Movie Review: Taking the Scenic Route Through Netflix’s Newest Addition

written by Betti Halsell

Ricky Staub’s Concrete Cowboy unearths multiple traumas,  both in the broadening range of African-American culture and the complex circumstances of Black men and their perspective within a household setting. 

The film opens up with Cole (Caleb McLaughlin), a 15-year old boy sitting outside the principal’s office. His face bruised and bleeding from a fight he had with another kid – a moment that keeps repeating itself. His mother arrives, looking more discouraged as if she’s been called to the principal’s office one too many times herself.

Cole is a kid unable to see the consequences of his personal choices. He is full of anger and entitlement. Being a child from a broken home, he leads his life with the “right” to act out. His mother, unable to come up with another excuse for her son’s behavior, sees that Cole stays with his father for the summer in Philadelphia. This might sound like a familiar pivot to a teen-angst-driven film, but here is where things get interesting – the 15-year-old finds himself staring at the truth of his reality, coming straight from the horse’s mouth.

His father (played by Idris Elba) takes him in, and the two of them seem to forge an understanding through hardships and repeated history, a not-so-far-off truth between Black fathers and their sons that are looking to become men, Cole comes from a line of Black horse riders that live in the city.

The cinematography captures breathtaking landscapes and frameworks that seem almost otherworldly. Although the movie captivates the audience with its raw truth of reality, many people may know nothing about. Some questions that needed further explanation were left unanswered, for example, how old was Cole when his parents separated and he moved away from Philidelphia? Or when did Cole develop his summer fling when he returned to the city ranch?

Survival is the common denominator in the movie and its message, which spells out how lack of resources affects the living conditions and the quality of a person’s life and their community. 

In Concrete Cowboy, Stranger Things‘ Mclaughlin introduces the viewers to a wider acting range while playing Cole. British chameleon Elba plays Harp, Cole’s father. He also produced the film. Other cast includes Jharrel Jerome as Cole’s childhood best friend Smush, Lorraine Toussaint as the community’s ‘mother,’ Nessie, and rapper Method Man as town sheriff Leroy.

Staub highlights the Black cowboy community through this project. Reports say the director stumbled upon the culture after seeing a man on a horse in Philadelphia. He then researched the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club, which led him to Greg Neri’s book, Ghetto Cowboy

The truth behind this movie leaves the audience enamored, and the images of beauty found in the concrete prairie of Philadelphia are masterpieces. The sunsets and the grading of color are painted effortlessly as if the setting was no longer the city but rather the natural breeding ground for a cowboy to lay his hat.

Concrete Cowboy is now available for streaming on Netflix. Watch the trailer below.

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Film

Eddie Murphy’s ‘Coming 2 America’- Movie Review

by Betty Halsell

Coming 2 America unearthed bejeweled life lessons, sewn in with the fabrics of true love. It touched on blended families, racism, feminism, and just a touch of true passion and diplomatic change. Paramount Pictures, New Republic Pictures, Eddie Murphy Productions, and  Misher Films carefully groomed this sequel to sit on the throne as the next American classic.

Coming 2 America is the true royal oat to the 1988 narrative. The movie picks up 30 years later, back in Zamunda. The future king Akeem (Eddie Murphy) and his beloved wife, Lisa (Shari Headley), arise to their three daughters wishing them a happy anniversary. It is important for there to be a male heir to carry out the patriotic rule of the country in royal families, this was something Prince Akeem assumed he failed at accomplishing. However, to his surprise, a royal oat was sewn, Lavelle Johnson (Jermaine Fowler) sprouted back in the land of Queens.

Prince Akeem soon becomes king, and with the new crown, comes new weight. Coming 2 America presented real scenarios like a blended family, Queen Lisa and Levelle’s mother (Leslie Jones) were vastly different but found common ground.

The movie touched on the rule of tradition that overshadows the change for the future, as Meeka (Kiki Lane) eldest royal daughter, watched her dreams of being Queen fade away as soon as there was talk of a son. Women in Zamunda spoke of owning their own business, but solemnly knew according to Zamunda Law, it was not possible. The sequel presented each problem smoothly – they were serious issues, without political heaviness.

Getting into the design and feel of Zamunda, one could assume the wealth of this country is on the highest scale. They pulled from both African and African-American cultures. The entrances of General Izzy (Wesley Snipes) paralleled ‘stepping’ from Black fraternities/sororities (think stomp the yard every time General Izzy entered the scene.) The costumes were curated by Oscar award-winning Ruth E. Carter, who was the designer behind Wakanda’s sense of fashion.

Although there wasn’t an official breakdown of what African tribes inspired Carter, she is known to pull from South Africa, using African lace, symbols, and their traditional headdress as statement pieces. Each character presented a unique style, Prince Lavelle interpreted the royal stride and attire to fit his personal taste of swag and cadence. All the intricate nuances that make up Black culture were joined with the vivacious origins of African heritage, which was a beautiful marriage of its own. Also, the athletic brand Puma was spotted making their renditions of African-inspired gear in the movie.

The sequel upheld the presence of being over the top like the 1980s original, with a dash of new flavor, giving it a different soulful bite. There were quick peeks into places that made the classic movie the crowned jewel that it is, such as McDowell’s fast food eatery, adding “healthier options.” The ingenious characters Murphy created were peppered throughout the film effortlessly.

Nostalgic cameo appearances throughout the journey were made the singing royal announcer Oha (Paul Bates), Morris and Clarence from the barbershop(Arsenio Hall and Murphy), the womanizing pastor Reverend Brown (Hall), the arranged betrothed Imani Izzy (Vanessa Bell Calloway), and Randy “Sexual Chocolate” Watson (Murphy) all played into the new story of royalty.

Love expanded as the root of the story, planting different seeds where it was needed. The affection between a son and his mother who raised him, the love of tradition and family honor, and how love can also be the seed for change. Throughout the movie, Prince Akeem once again evolves to another version of himself, bringing along his country to a new level of progression.

The credits had a few sparks as well, with much-wanted bloopers and an unexpected musical artist doing the cover of the endearing serenade, ” She’s Your Queen.” Much like the 1988 original, the sequel was light-hearted but tackled some of the most tangible issues that America is facing today, Coming 2 America brought back a much-needed smile and feel-good reality that the nation is looking to get back to.

Available March 5 exclusively on Amazon Prime.

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