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Film & Television

Katori Hall’s ‘P-Valley’ Brings Hollywood to the Dirty South

written by Kimberly Jones

Memphis native Katori Hall is no stranger to success in the entertainment industry. Hall is an award-winning playwright best known for her hit Broadway play The Mountaintop about Martin Luther King Jr’s last night before his assassination. The Mountaintop had a successful run on Broadway and starred Hollywood heavyweights Samuel L Jackson and Angela Bassett. But Hall has switched gears and has a new title – showrunner. P-Valley, written and produced by Hall, is a drama about the highs and lows strippers face in the Mississippi Delta. The setting for the drama alone is unique, P-Valley is in a fictional town of Chucalissa Mississippi, a small dying town with abandoned buildings, houses, and storefronts. It seems like an odd place for a strip club to be located but there is so much culture in the characters. The story blends well and is an accurate representation of southern culture. From the dialogue to the music, P-Valley sheds light on parts of the South that are often overlooked. The debut episode features the song Nobody by Playa Fly, which is a Memphis anthem, and pays homage to Memphis rappers who have had a large influence the on hip-hop sound that we have today.

At the beginning of the series, Autumn (played by UK actress Elarica Johnson) is washed ashore in Houston and seems to be trying to escape her past life all while concealing her identity. She arrives in the small town looking for work, and gets a job at the Pynk strip club after an amateur night. Autumn is a rookie in need of money, so she dives in but always keeps her distance from the other girls. In flashbacks she somewhat reflects on her past life with a child and her partner. Her real story, however, is yet to be revealed. Autumn has tried to remain lowkey but cannot avoid butting heads with Mercedes, the veteran of the group, played by another Memphis native Brandee Evans (The Bobby Brown Story).

Mercedes’ bad girl attitude, amazing skills on the pole and confidence sets her apart from the other ladies at Pynk. Evans, who is a professional dancer/choreographer, does an amazing job of making Mercedes both memorable and relatable. Although Mercedes is planning to hang up her stripper boots and leave Pynk soon the rivalry with Autumn is fueled by jealousy, insecurities, and colorism. In both episodes, Autumn’s skin tone is referenced because she has fairer skin than the other ladies. Some of the clients that come into the club prefer Autumn over Mercedes and, although Autumn is inexperienced, she is making more money than her counterparts. Hall does a good job of subtly addressing colorism and how it has an effect on black women every day.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of P-Valley is Pynk’s owner Uncle Clifford (Nicco Annan Claws) a non-binary queer who identifies as she, provides comic relief and steals every single scene. Uncle Clifford’s slick mouth, loud clothes and boss attitude is just what TV has been missing and with her quick punch lines there is never a dull moment. As much as Uncle Clifford is trying to keep it a secret, she is in jeopardy of losing Pynk and is having some serious financial struggles. Her hustling skills include everything from car washes to selling hot wings seasoned with weed. There is no doubt she will figure something out.

P-Valley is in a lane of its own. The story and struggles of these women are both eccentric and intriguing. The freshman drama is a breath of fresh air for television. In a time when a lot of dramas have familiar story lines, this change is good for viewers. Hall’s vision and talented cast is a perfect combination for this newest STARZ hit.

P-Valley airs Sundays nights on STARZ.

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Film & Television

Will Smith and Antoine Fuqua Are Pulling ‘Emancipation’ Production From Georgia Due To Voting Restrictions

The production of Apple’s new drama is being pulled out of Georgia due to its new controversial voting rights law.

Director/producer Antoine Fuqua and actor/producer Will Smith, who the film to Apple Studios for $120 million, have announced – they will no longer be filming in the Peach State. Scheduled to begin production in June, the drama I based on a true story of Smith’s character “Whipped Peter,” an enslaved person who emancipated himself from a southern plantation and joined the Union Army. Fuqua will direct with the script by William N. Collage.

Smith and Fuqua released an official statement early Monday, which reads:

“At this moment in time, the Nation is coming to terms with its history and is attempting to eliminate vestiges of institutional racism to achieve true racial justice. We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access. The new Georgia voting laws are reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting. Regrettably, we feel compelled to move our film production work from Georgia to another state.”

With this decision, Emancipation becomes the first major production to exit Georgia after Governor Brian Kemp signed the controversial bill on March 26, which was deemed racist and undemocratic. The law includes new ID requirements for voters, prohibits the distribution of water at voting sights, and restricts ballot drop boxes, among other provisions. 

At this time, it is unclear where Fuqua and Smith will move their film production work.

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Film & Television

Black Reel Awards: ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’, ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’, ‘One Night In Miami’ – The Complete Winners List

Here are the shows, actors and production teams who won at the 21st Annual Black Reel Awards

written by Betti Halsell

Judas and the Black Messiah has made a phenomenal stamp at the 21st Annual Black Reel Awards on April 11. The film was awarded for Outstanding film and featured stars Daniel Kaluuya and Dominique Fishback, receiving the title of Outstanding Supporting Actor and Outstanding Supporting Actress. The production team was celebrated as well – Charles King, Ryan Coogler, and Shaka King have become the first all-African American team to win Outstanding Picture, according to the report from Deadline

Other projects included Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom for the iconic performance from Chadwick Boseman. He is the first posthumous winner in Black Reel Award history. The late actor received the Outstanding Actor award. Additionally, for the same film, Viola Davis took home the Outstanding Actress award for her performance. 

One Night in Miami attracted a lot of attention on Sunday as they picked up five awards: for Outstanding Director, Outstanding Emerging Director, Outstanding Ensemble, Outstanding Breakthrough Actor, and Outstanding Song.  

Included in the wins was the animated film Soul – the first animated film to win an Outstanding Score. Black Reel Awards founder was quoted by Deadline, “What an unprecedented year it was for Black filmmakers and creatives, and I’m delighted that this year’s winners reflected the historic nature of Black Cinema. We are honored to have this year’s class of winners join the rich history of those acknowledged in the past as they stand on the shoulders of Black Cinematic giants who paved the way.”

The Black Reel Awards (BRAs) was hosted by the Foundation for the Augmentation of African-Americans in Film (FAAAF), recognizing the talent in the Black community and highlighting the cinematic achievements of the African diaspora on an international level. 

Awards are given by the total vote of the Foundation’s membership. Category winners earn a copy of a statuette, the Black Reel Award. This tradition started in 2000, in Washington D.C, with the FAAAF organization. 

See the full list of the 2020 winners shown below: 

Outstanding Film Judas and the Black Messiah | Charles D. King, Ryan Cooler, and Shaka King

Outstanding Actor Chadwick Boseman | Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Outstanding Actress Viola Davis | Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Outstanding Supporting Actor Daniel Kaluuya | Judas and the Black Messiah

Outstanding Supporting Actress Dominique Fishback | Judas and the Black Messiah

Outstanding Director Regina King | One Night in Miami

Outstanding Screenplay Radha Blank | The 40-Year-Old Version

Outstanding Documentary Time | Garrett Bradley

Outstanding Ensemble One Night in Miami | Kimberly Hardin

Outstanding Foreign-Language Film Night of the Kings | Philippe Lacote (Senegal)

Outstanding Score Soul | Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross & Jon Batiste

Outstanding Original Song Speak Now (One Night in Miami) | Leslie Odom, Jr.

Outstanding Breakthrough Performance, Male Kingsley Ben-Adir | One Night in Miami

Outstanding Breakthrough Performance, Female Andra Day | The U.S. vs. Billie Holiday

Outstanding Voice Performance Jamie Foxx | Soul

Outstanding Independent Film The 40-Year-Old Version | Radha Blank

Outstanding Independent Documentary Mr. Soul! | Melissa Haizlip

Outstanding Independent Short Canvas | Frank E. Abney III

Outstanding Emerging Director One Night in Miami | Regina King

Outstanding First Screenplay The 40-Year-Old Version | Radha Blank

Outstanding Cinematography Malcolm & Marie | Marcell Rev

Outstanding Costume Design Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey | Michael Wilkinson

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Film & Television

DMX’s Most Memorable Movie Roles

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The multi-platinum rapper DMX has made his name known around the world mainly through his music. He, however, also had a decent acting resume. From Belly to Pimp, here are some of X’s most memorable film appearances.

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