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‘The Banker’: Two Black Men Build an Empire in the Jim Crow Era

In 1954, in America, a black man owning a bank was something unattainable and seemed practically impossible but for Bernard Garrett (Anthony Mackie) anything was possible. Bernard was smart and ambitious and would stop at nothing to make his American dream come true. His dream was for black people to have access to capital for their businesses and have access to home loans to invest in real estate. Bernard knew the importance of ownership and was dedicated to educating his community and helping pave the way. He was an innovator and truly ahead of his time. He had the knowledge, he had the ambition. The only problem was…he was black.

Bernard had to find a way to get over this hurdle and use his talents to provide a better life for his wife Eunice (Nia Long) and their son. Eunice introduced Bernard to club owner, real estate investor and future partner Joe Morris (Samuel L Jackson). Joe had more experience in real estate along with money and connections that Bernard needed. The two didn’t really hit it off when they first met but they eventually got on the same page about their vision. Bernard met a young white man named Matt Steiner (Nicholas Hoult) who knew nothing about real estate or banking but was the perfect face to get his goal accomplished. Together, Bernard and Joe taught Matt everything he needed to know to impress the real estate moguls and investment bankers – math, finance, and even golf. Once Matt was ready, they made their first big purchase – a building that held all major banks in Downtown Los Angeles. Bernard and Joe have done the unimaginable.

THE BANKER / APPLE TV+

The duo got busy purchasing many more properties in white neighborhoods to help black people move into better areas of the city. With all the success they had in Los Angeles, Bernard thought he could try his luck in his small hometown in Texas. Things, however, did not go as planned as in the South they faced even more racism and segregation. Again, with Matt’s help, they were able to purchase two more banks in Texas. As soon as they took ownership, the duo started to quickly lend money to black home- and business owners. The number of loans that Matt approved in such a short time made other bankers suspicious and the bank was audited. In the process of the audit their scheme was uncovered, and Bernard and Joe’s identities were revealed. The banks were shut down by the Feds and both black men were sentenced to three years in jail. They only served nine months for mishandling bank funds and fraud.

Although Bernard and Joe did time in jail, at the end of it all, there is a silver lining to this story – these black men made history and beat the odds by purchasing two banks in the United States in the Jim Crow Era. The Banker is an eye-opening story of courage and hope; it is an important part of history that is relatively unknown. Two black men generations before us had the vision and enough courage to pursue their dream. All of this was done to advance the lives of black people in America. This is a tale of two heroes that was long overdue. This story is an amazing gem in American history and an inspiration to all.

The Banker is now available for streaming on AppleTV+.

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KJ Smith Talks Leading and Producing ‘The Available Wife’, Tapping Into Her Calling, and Working with Tyler Perry

KJ Smith is making waves in the industry. In the last few years, she’s been busier (and happier) than ever. From co-leading one of Tyler Perry’s hit series Sistas to recently starring in Netflix’s top-rated titles #BlackAF and Fatal Affair, the actress (who now also added the producer title to her resume) is not planning to slow down any time soon.

The Available Wife, one of Smith’s latest and dearest projects, is currently going through the festival circuit and has already been nominated for Best Narrative Feature at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF). The film is based on Carla Pennington‘s book of the same title, which was adapted for the screen by Tressa Azarel Smallwood (BET’s All In) and Jamal Hill (Brotherly Love), who also directed the feature. Also starring in the romantic feature are Terayle Hill, Clifton Powell, and Roger Guenveur Smith.

The storyline centers around Nicole Wright (played by Smith), a successful music executive whose life is about to crumble in front of her. While having an affair with Kingston (Hill), the sexy artist on the rise who promises her everything, Nicole learns the hard way that looks can be deceiving and his motives are as dark as the secrets she keeps.

This is Smith’s first time undertaking such a multifaceted role, she shared with us. Although the complexity of Nicole’s character made her exciting to play, the actress could not fully relate to her at first. “It was hard for me because I would simply not make the choices that she made. This is the entertainment industry, you know. One of the things that they warn you is this may be a very dark place. And I’ve faced the same decisions that Nicole had to make and I chose a different path. I’ve literally been in this situation and I did not make that choice.”

Eventually, Smith found other ways to connect to Nicole. “She would do anything for her family, that’s something that was common. The fact that she doesn’t let anything take her down. It’s like me, I never give up, I never have, and I never will,” she shared. The actress hopes that the viewer will have sympathy for Nicole and will see why she made those choices.

‘The Available Wife’ official poster

The Available Wife is special to Smith in many ways: this marks her first leading role in a feature film and her first time producing a project of such magnitude. “I feel like I was really tapping into my calling. I’ve always been a natural-born leader, I’ve always been able to multitask. I’ve always had that capacity and that ability. When you are an actor you kind of do what you’re told, so the opportunity to have a say-so in how this film goes and how my character is portrayed really made me feel empowered and I just fell like I was in my zone, I felt great!”

When it comes to passions outside television and film, Smith enjoys fitness, yoga, and dance classes. Traveling has become her most favorite thing. Now, with COVID still holding most productions on hold, the actress has more time to enjoy new places and discover new cultures.

The pandemic, however, could not hold Smith away from work for too long. Tyler Perry Studios made history by becoming the first in the country to resume production in July. Smith, who stars as Andrea Barnes in Perry’s hit show Sistas, says she had no reservations about going back to the set. “I trust Tyler Perry and I knew we were gonna be okay. I trust him, I trust the team. We are family now, so I don’t worry about it.”

Courstesy of KJ Smith, IG: @KJSmith

Working for Perry has been lifechanging. The world-renowned filmmaker and entrepreneur is not just her boss, Smith considers him a friend and her biggest inspiration. “I don’t know how he finds time to respond to my text messages, but he always responds, quickly. I mean no one’s done what he’s done in this business.”

Smallwood, who owns MegaMind Media and co-wrote the screenplay to The Available Wife, has also made an impact on Smith and her work. “I call her often, she gives me great advice and especially as an up and coming producer. She has made so many films. She is just so great!”

The Available wife is currently available at ABFF Play through August 30, and will later drop on one of the streaming platforms. Smith says an announcement will be made soon, so stay tuned!

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The Batman: First Look at Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman and Jeffrey Wright as Jim Gordon

Saturday (August, 22) – the first official trailer for The Batman premiered during Warner Bros. global fan event DCFanDome.

The trailer gave fans their first look at Robert Pattinson‘s Batman,  Jeffrey Wright‘s Jim Gordon, and Zoe Kravitz‘s Catwoman.

The Batman cast that also includes Colin Farrell as The Penguin, Paul Dano as The Riddler, John Turturro as Carmine Falcone, Peter Sarsgaard as Gil Colson, Jayme Lawson as Bella Real, and Andy Serkis as Alfred Pennyworth.

The highly anticipated Matt Reeves-directed DC film is currently scheduled to hit theaters on October 1, 2021.

Watch the full trailer below.

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Film

‘Death on the Nile’: First Trailer of the Star-studded Murder Mystery Released

20th Century Fox released the very first trailer for Death on the Nile, a follow-up to 2017’s hit Murder on the Orient Express, both based on Agatha Christie’s books of the same titles.

Death on the Nile picks up with Kenneth Branagh (who also directed and produced) reprising his role as fictional Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. This time, he becomes involved in a love triangle gone murderously bad while on a vacation in Egypt.

Along with Branagh, the star-studded ensemble includes Gal Gadot, Letitia Wright, Armie Hammer, Annette Bening, Ali Fazal, Sophie Okonedo, Tom Bateman, Emma Mackey, Dawn French, Rose Leslie, Jennifer Saunders, and Russell Brand.

Watch the trailer below.

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