The 14th Annual Urban World Festival has arrived! The celebration of the best of Black film is currently screening in New York City’s 34th Street Theater. CLUTCH was on hand for the opening night film, the post-Black Power era “Night Catches Us.”
Directed by new comer Tanya Hamilton, “Night Catches Us” (previously screened at the New Directors-New Film festival) assembles a seasoned cast with Kerry Washington, Anthony Mackie, The Root’s Black Thought, Jamie Hector from “The Wire,” and “Treme’s” Wendell Pierce. The film introduces Jamara Griffin, a new actress who the “Night Catches Us” brilliantly centers around.
The Philadelphia-based film exhibits a fresh and under-examined socio-historical context: the post-Black Power era. It’s a time when Panthers and raised fists were not only pop-culturally nostalgic, but more bitter than sweetened.
“Night Catches Us” deals with post-movement trauma, fatherlessness, and setting the record straight. In this well-woven dramatic film—often difficult to pull off independently—Hamilton integrates documentary-nuances with Black Panther iconography, and a contemporary Wu-Tang infused score that juxtaposes the Vietnam War-era soul music that accompanied the movement. Not to mention, a head-bobbing placement of The Root’s “How I Got Over.”
It’s 1976 and, years after the movement, the reappearance of an estranged Marcus (played by Anthony Mackie) stirs up a series of emotions for his brother (played by Tariq Trotter) and his best friend’s widow Patricia (Kerry Washington). Marcus attempts to pick up the pieces of his broken life, only to meet resistance from the lingering ex-Panthers who label him a snitch.
Hamilton fuses classic Black filmic nuances like the Black child to jailed Black man gaze, phenomenally used in Spike Lee’s “Crooklyn.” Mackie is nothing short of sexy, raw, and phenomenal. The method actor recaptures the intricacies of the post-movement Panther—no sucka to COINTELPRO with a hardened and habituated relationship with The Pigs. Mackie gives viewers the subtlety of “Nothing But a Man’s” Ivan Dixon, and his own brand of swag—mellow, cynical and the sexy that makes the ladies swoon, even Kerry Washington.
But the nucleus lies with Iris (played by Jamara Griffin), the daughter of the sensible community-based attorney Patricia (Kerry Washington). Iris’ name is seemingly intentional as the narratives unfolds from her very lens. The curious 10-year-old wants answers, and her primary query centers around what happened to her father. Iris searches through Panther comics, her mother’s office, and, ultimately, takes a deep fascination with Marcus. And it is therein that “Night Catches Us” captures you.
The film releases nationwide December 3. Learn more about the film on the “Night Catches Us” official website.