Two boys, scared in a small carnival funhouse with sudden pop-outs, mirrors, clown faces, and crazy laughs, reflect the lives of African-Americans living in southern America. No matter where they turn in the frightening, bizarre environment, they must first conquer their fears to press onward. In effect, they are caught in a dangerous maze with only a distant mother’s stern voice to guide them.
This is what a French/Italian collaboration reveals when exposing the American South.
The conundrum of cinema verité, without a narrator, script, or defined story, is audience engagement. To help theme development in this expose, four stories are alternately presented. Unfortunately, perhaps because the Italian and French filmmaking teams are working on foreign turf, they don’t understand that the undubbed English film version is very hard to follow because many of the characters are using Black English or an accent so strong that they are unintelligible to White Americans, the very ones who need to understand.
Four Stories of American Outsiders
Beginning with the two brothers, Ronaldo and Titus in the funhouse, the path for a young African boy is neither safe nor easy. What is real and what is dangerous? Their mother lectures them about being home no later than 7 p.m. in the summertime, telling them the story of an innocent neighbor whose head was grazed by a bullet.
Then there is Judy Hill, a woman who has dumped her no-good husbands, survived rape, beat addiction and opened up a bar with the last she was able to save. Judy speaks truth to those who are struggling with a history of oppression and depression.
The third story features the liberation work of the new Black Panthers, led by Krystal Muhammad. Outraged by the beheading and subsequent burning of an African-American, Muhammad and the Panthers knock on doors to conduct her own investigation. Her culminating demonstration, taking place in the dark, is a stunning example of a creative protest that brings Ronaldo and Titus back into the story.
A fourth story, book-ending the film, is featured both at the beginning at the end. It is a strange costumed diversion of group identity and acceptance.
During this time of world sequestration from COVID-19, Roberto Minervini’s raw film on African-Americans in the American South joins a growing group of films scheduled for streaming this April.
Producer/Writer/Director: Roberto Minervini
Writer: Roberto Minervini
Cast: Judy Hill, Dorothy Hill, Michael Nelson, Ronaldo King, Titus Turner, Krystal Muhammad, Ashlei King, and Kevin Goodman
Producers: Denise Ping Lee
Director of Photography: Diego Romero Suárez-Llanos
Editor: Marie-Hélène Dozo
Sound Mixer: Bernat Fortiana Chico
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