Category Archives: Four Reasons…

A Ballerina’s Tale: Four Reasons You NEED to See It

A Ballerina’s Tale is director Nelson George’s feature documentary that follows the career ascension of dancer  Misty Copeland.
A Ballerina's Tale

The film delves into the behind-the-scenes story of the ballerina who danced her way into the heart of America. Here are four reasons you NEED to see this film:

1.  Misty Copeland is an inspiration

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In the world of ballet,  dancers usually start training for their chosen profession while still in elementary school.  Misty Copeland began at age 13. In a matter of  five years, Misty was dancing professionally in New York City. On paper, Misty should not be where she is today. But her story is a testment to hard work, talent and belief in the power of dreams.

2.  Misty Copeland is a REAL girl

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Despite her super human ability to stand on her toes for minutes on end, Misty is pretty much just like you.  A Ballerina’s Tale successfully captures Misty’s “every girl” essence. While recounting her early days in NYC, we learn that Misty loves hanging with her best friend at Red Lobster. Who doesn’t LOVE cheddar biscuits?

3. Misty Copeland is history in motion

A Ballerina's Tale

In A Ballerina’s Tale, the first words we hear from Misty are “I think people think that sometimes I focus too much on the fact that I am a Black dancer. But that’s so much of who I am and I think it’s so much a part of my story.” While Misty is the first black ballerina to reach the professional heights that she has, the black ballerina is not a new phenomenon.  Misty stands on the shoulders of ballerinas such as Janet Collins and Raven Wilkinson (and others whose names appear during the credits at the end of the film). In one particularly memorable moment, Misty and the legendary Ms. Wilkinson spend an afternoon together during which Ms. WIlkinson examines Misty’s leg post surgery.  The two  also share a reenactment from Swan Lake. The moment is sweet and signifigant. It symbolizes the passsing of the baton from one swan to another.

4. A Ballerina’s Tale is a Portrait of an Artist

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A Ballerina’s Tale gives a clear and concise portrait of Misty Copeland, the ballerina. George follows Misty during the formative years of her career: Her feature as “Firebird,” her injury, surgery, and rehabilitation, and her triumphant return to the stage. He follows her right up to her historic appointment as principal ballerina at the American Ballet Theatre.  We see her hard work, we witness her dance through the pain and triumph through recovery. We don’t see Misty’s tumultuous teen years and battle for emancipation. We don’t need to. Nelson’s decision to focus on Misty’s artistic journey is deliberate and purposeful.

A Ballerina’s Tale is a testament to the fact that dreams really do come true. The film is currently screening in select theaters and is also available on demand and Amazon.com.

Check out the trailer here:

Four Reasons You Need to See Mother of George

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Mother of George is director Andrew Dosunmu’s second feature film.  As with his first, he continues to explore the African immigrant experience in New York City.  In this film, a Nigerian couple must deal with issues of infertility 18 months after the matriarch of their family declares at their wedding that they will be blessed with a son named George.

1. Danai Gurira

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Going in to Mother of George, I expected Danai’s character, Adenike to be an off-shoot of her Walking Dead character Michonne.  But I was pleasantly surprised by her performance. She immersed herself in the character.  Danai’s portrayal as a women torn between traditional Nigerian customs and American culture, being a devoted wife and an independent woman  is nuanced and effective. I felt every emotion she went through.

2. The Amazing Supporting Cast

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Additionally, the supporting cast is excellent. Isaach De Bankole is effective as the husband who loved his wife but is heavily influenced by his very traditional mother who is played to perfection by Bukky Ajayi.  Tony Okungbowa, known to many as Ellen’s DJ, gives a solid performance as the younger brother who is torn by loyalty and family.  Lastly, Yaya Alafia proves to be a rising star making all of the right choices.  In the film she plays Sade, Adenike’s worldly best friend.

3. The Aesthetics

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Mother of George is one of those films where we want to be fully present while viewing it.  So much of what goes on in the film is shown, and not necessarily spoken.  And the visual is amazing. Director of Photography Bradford Young’s inherent genius coupled with Andrew Dosunmu’s background as a photographer make for one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen this year.  Bradford Young won the Sundance 2013’s Cinematography Award: U.S. Dramatic for his work on Mother of George.

4. The Subtle Core

Last year, Karen Gilmore, Editor-in-Chief of Reel Artsy outlined what she calls the subtle core movement in black film.  According to Karen:

In the Subtle Core tone is key. These films ask hard questions. They’re character driven and invoke a sense of emotion, revealing unexplored spheres of black life. Sometimes they’re funny. But at their core, they reach for the dramatic moments. I like to think of them as descendants of French New Wave, in an offbeat modernized hybrid way.

In my opinion, Mother of George is an extension of the subtle core movement.  It celebrates the vibrant Nigerian culture but also the quiet, simple moments in the life of black women struggling with a personal dilemna.

Check out the trailer of Mother of George.  The film opens in select cities on September 13th.

Four Reasons You NEED To See Middle of Nowhere

Yesterday,  I went to go see Middle of Nowhere for the second time in four days.  The first time I saw it, I enjoyed it.  But I wanted to watch it again, to pin point why I found it so appealing.  I have literally been waiting to see this film since writer and director Ava DuVernay announced that the project was happening.  I absolutely loved her first feature film, I Will Follow and became an instant fan.  So, I wanted to see Middle of Nowhere again to make sure that I wasn’t caught up in my own excitement. And I have to say that I enjoyed it more the second time than the first. Here are my top four reasons that you need to see Middle of Nowhere.

1. A Star is Born

Emayatzy Corinealdi completely shines as Ruby, a woman who puts her dreams on hold to support her husband who is incarcerated. Her performance is moving, understated, but extremely powerful.  Emayatzy has the most expressive and soulful eyes. In one scene in particular, her character is forced to ask her mother for help.  In that moment, the independent and determined Ruby morphs into a 12 year old child, and it’s all in the eyes.  It’s heartbreaking to watch. I guarantee that Emayatzy Corinealdi is a name that you will be hearing or years to come.

2. The Family Drama

The supporting cast in Middle of Nowhere is amazing. The always awesome Lorraine Toussaint plays the role of Ruth.  Her character is a single mother who does not want her now grown daughters repeating her mistakes.  I am a long-time fan of Lorraine, but Middle of Nowhere marks my first time seeing her on the big screen. Along with Edwina Findley, who plays sister Rosie,  the two women round out Ruby’s immediate family. What I love most about these three characters is the immediate connection I felt to them as a family. First of all, they look like they could be related in real life, which adds to their credibility.  But more importantly, the chemistry between these three women is palpable.  The scenes between Emayatzy and Edwina are filled with playful and supportive energy, like real sisters. And in every scene that features Lorraine, there is an immediate tension and a subtext of disappointment that simmers just below the surface, threatening to implode.  And at the the appointed time, a significant scene in the final act of the movie, when these feeling come to the surface, the result is nothing short of cinematic perfection. The scene is superbly well-acted, and lingers with you even after the credits roll.

3. The Subtle Core

Earlier this year, Karen Gilmore, Editor-in-Chief of Reel Artsy outlined what she calls the subtle core movement in black film.  According to Karen:

In the Subtle Core tone is key. These films ask hard questions. They’re character driven and invoke a sense of emotion, revealing unexplored spheres of black life. Sometimes they’re funny. But at their core, they reach for the dramatic moments. I like to think of them as descendents of French New Wave, in an offbeat modernized hybrid way.

In my opinion, Middle of Nowhere is an extension of the subtle core movement, and Ava DuVernay is leading the charge. I love how Ava celebrates the quiet, simple moments in the lives of black women.   Ava’s attention to detail is impeccable.  Acts as simple as applying lotion after a shower or wrapping one’s hair before bed add another layer of reality to a story that already resonates with the black female audience. The writing and direction in Middle of Nowhere is beyond deserving of all the accolades it has received.

4. Because Oprah Said So:

Okay not really because Oprah said so,  BUT it is pretty cool that she tweeted her support for Ava and for the film.  And she is not the only one.  Other well-known folks such as writers Tananarive Due (one of my faves) and Terry McMillan have also shown their support for the film as well.

If you have not seen Middle of Nowhere yet, check out the trailer below:

Middle of Nowhere opened October 12 in limited release with new cities being added weekly.  For more information on expansion cities, ticket information, and lots of other great content, check out AFFRM.com.