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Brother To Brother [Edizione: Francia]
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Brother To Brother, 1 DVD, 90 minutes
Brother to Brother : jeune peintre noir de talent, homosexuel rebelle, Perry Williams vit à New-York. Rejeté par sa famille et ses amis il rencontre Richard Bruce Nugent, poète et peintre réputé. Légende vivante de la renaissance de Harlem. L'Homme qui fut le compagnon de route de Langston Hughes, Zora Neal Hurston et Wallace Thurman. A ses côtés Perry découvre le sens de la lutte...
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Anthony Mackie was truly mesmerizing... and achingly beautiful to watch. Just the kind of black gay character I'd been yearning to see on screen all my adult life. He played the part with absolute conviction and, thankfully, he did this while managing to completely avoid any of the grotesque and stereotypical caricatures that we see oh so often, in so many other gay parts. I felt he played the part with a quiet and honest dignity, and showed us a talented, young black gay man who just wants to live and love. I have no doubt that many black gay men will identify with him. He is us and we are he.
The director made a point of stating Makie's heterosexuality in one of the bonus pieces but I feel his real sexuality is irrelevant. Straight, gay or in between, he's a young, black, American actor with (no doubt) a long and successful career ahead of him. Taking on this role showed courage on his part and I take my hat off to him. Denzel and Will, take note.
Roger Robinson was a joy as well. I'd not seen either he or Mackie prior to this and will be going in search of other works by these actors almost immediately. "She Hate Me", which I had hitherto avoided, and "Million Dollar Baby" are first on my list.
I was also pleased to see Larry Gilliard, Jr and Lance Reddick in this movie. After two seasons of "The Wire" (still waiting for season three on DVD), I feel like they're family. Great actors both of them.
The end was very poignant and the Langston Hughes poem that accompanied it, very fitting. I cried. And yes, it was unfortunate that all the black gay characters in the movie seemed keen on white men only. In the light of Marcus's "evil white men" rants, this aspect of the movie, not to mention Marcus's later attempts to pimp Perry off to a (white) Soho art gallery owner, seemed rather contradictory but all in all, I thought the points around the issues of interracial relationships had been well made. I look forward to future works by the director and all his leading actors (male and female).
As the story begins, Perry (Anthony Mackie) has already been thrown out of his father's home for being gay and has just had a heated discussion with another classmate during Lit class after volunteering information that a black male literary legend from the past was gay. This classmate of Perry's represents a segment of the black community hostle to the idea that black gay men do exist and are sometimes unwelcomed. Balancing out this hostile classmate is Perry's long-time straight friend, Marcus (Larry Gilliard) who kinda goes against the popular notion that every person of African decent is a homophobe. He is dependable and supportive, but he does not quite understand where Perry is always coming from when he talks about the ill treatment of some "brothers" but he can understand the obstacles Perry is facing as a black artist in the artworld who much like the world of publishing is often both intentionally and unintentionally prejudiced (!). All this and Perry beginning a brief relationship with a white peer who may have a kinda of fetish thing for black guys.
In walks a figure from the past, a "black" undiscovered gay hero of the Harlem Renaissance, Richard Bruce Nugent (the great Roger Robinson) who teaches Perry that every thing he is now dealing with in his life were the same issues face by a group of talented young black writers of 1920's Harlem Renaissance heyday. Nugent tells stories that bring to life the whirl of days of Niggerati Manor and its inhabitants like Langston Hughes (Daniel Sunjata) who was black and proud and celebrated black beauty long before the black protest movements of the 1960's and in whose coded poems sometimes celebrated the love, "Beauty," and admiration of one black man for another black man,Zora Neale Hurston (Aunjanue Ellis) whose talent and charisma is capture well in the film, Wallace Thurman (Ray Ford) who was gay and possessed of an surperior intellect that rivaled anyone past and present and black and white, and of course Nugent himself as a young man (Duane Boutte) who was talented but refused to deny his identity and make the same sacrifices Langston Hughes did to become a well known writer and the Dean of Black American Letters. Through Nugent, Perry learns pretty universal thems as believing in yourself, not compromising your vision and integrity to cater to someone else's idea of how they think things should be done, and self pride despite prejudices.
I am happy Rodney Evans made this movie his way without compromising his beliefs and values to do it. From such a small budget to make the film came a movie rich in texture and meaning, especially with the absence of gay men of color often being ignored in the media, mainstream and mainstream gay, baring the ocassional tokenism of a mouthly gay magazine and film.
In Makie, Robinson, Sunjata, Ellis, Ford, and Boutte and Rodney Evans's care and skill, I saw my face and its inherent beauty that is often denied. That was nice!!!
Anthony Mackie plays Perry, a young, gay, black artist struggling to find his place in this world and his own community. Supported unconditionally by his best friend Marcus and another friend Jim, Perry spends the early part of the film wandering around, seemingly going through the motions, but unsure of the meaning behind it all. Then he meets Bruce Nugent, an aging artist and writer, who attempts to guide Perry through this tricky path of self-discovery. In doing so, Bruce illuminates his life back in the 1920's, in Harlem, during the grand renaissance when blacks, unprecendentally, began to blossom in all areas.
The film is the most effective in these moments of flashback, an oft-overused convention that works very well in this film. As Bruce tells his stories, we see parts of Harlem, and the people who worked to buck conventions in trying to produce art that accurately reflected their authentic experience. The actors playing the main people of Bruce's social set are incredible, from Daniel Sunjata who plays Langston Hughes to Aunjanue Ellis who captures the zeal and life of Zora Neal Hurston. It is baudy, risky, and works to great effect. As we see Perry affected by these stories, we, as an audience, are also equally affected. This definitely has all of the hallmarks of an independent film, adding a rawness of realism to the story.
Rodney Evans first work is a promising, affecting tale, one that reaches beyond race lines, and will land deftly into your heart. Soon after watching "Brother to Brother" I found myself on Amazon, looking at the works of these people and ordering them for myself. You will too, as well as wanting to add this treasure of a movie into your collection.
"Brother to Brother" is perhaps at its best in the flashbacks, which vividly capture the excitement and sense of limitless possibility that briefly existed for Nugent and his compatriots as they founded the radical literary journal "Fire!" They make one want to know more about these people. The present-day narrative has its virtues as well, shedding light on the special problems of gay African-Americans as well as the struggle to maintain one's artistic identity and integrity. The frankness with which male/male sex is treated, without prurience or heavy guilt, is most welcome. Curiously, as another reviewer has mentioned, however, the couplings shown almost exclusively involve black with white men, which undercuts the film's contention that black gay men should celebrate their uniqueness. Moreover, Evans' protagonist has too many issues to contend with--homophobic parents and classmates, trying to make a living as a painter, boyfriend troubles--for everything to fit comfortably within the short allotted time. Finally, it must be said that an actor with greater emotional range than Mackie may have been able to bring out more facets of Perry, who too often seems merely a handsome, glum cipher. Still, despite its flaws, "Brother to Brother" succeeds at illuminating corners of the human experience long neglected in mainstream filmmaking, and for this certainly merits praise.