The image above says it all… well, most of it anyway. The image below tells you the rest of the story – specifically the different price levels, and what you’re getting for each.
I saw the film twice at the Pan African Film Festival last month, and penned a mini-review soon afterward; I still owe the film a longer, fuller review, and I actually wanted to see it a third time before doing so.
But in short, recapping what I said before, Russ Parr’s The Under Shepherd, which stars Isaiah Washington, in an ensemble cast, was definitely one of the most interesting films I saw at the festival, but not necessarily meaning good or bad. I usually don’t judge films so rigidly. I’m more interested in being moved in some way, or maybe as former S&A contributor Qadree puts it, if there’s a solid “pattern or system of communication” employed by the film and filmmaker that allows me, the audience, to understand and appreciate the film.
The Under Shepherd is an ambitious film in terms of story and scope. It’s also bold, given the setting (“The Black Church“) that Russ chose to explore the film’s themes; bold because any hints of criticism of that specific communal *space* will likely be met with swift and strong disapproval.
Not that The Under Shepherd is a critique of what we call “The Black Church;” although, based on the audience reactions both times I saw the film at PAFF, it’ll likely be perceived as such. I’d recommend taking a closer look as you watch it, whenever you eventually do, dig deeper, peel back the layers on the film’s surface, and realize the central element that’s really driving the narrative. I’ll tell you that it’s not “The Black Church.”
We may as well call it an Isaiah Washington showcase because he chews up lots of scenery here, and I’d even say his performance is absolutely crucial to the film’s success. He’s in almost every other scene, and I think Russ realized that he’d need an Actor (emphasis mine) for the part. Isaiah Wasghinton is an Actor, and the dynamic role he plays (thanks to writer/director Russ Parr’s scripting) offers him a range of opportunities to flex his abilities; and flex he does. Isaiah looks like he’s having a lot of fun with this character; it’s evident in his performance.
The film has its missteps – especially in its mid-section, where filmmakers often have difficulty sustaining narratives; there’s a lot going on here, as Parr attempts to address a number of issues within the film, making it almost impossible to keep all of it under control and cohesive. But I grew to appreciate Parr’s ambitions here; risks are taken, and he’s clearly pushing for something grander, which should be the rule. As I already noted I saw the film twice because it’s just that kind of work – plenty packed into its running time – and your reactions to it could very well vary from one viewing to the next.
But at the very least, it’ll surely inspire conversation afterward, as it did after its PAFF screenings.
I’ll say no more for now.
If you’re in the Silver Spring, MD area on March 27th (as the above invite states), exactly 1 week from today, I recommend you coungh up the dough and check the film out for yourselves.
Click the image below to be taken to the event page where you can buy tickets: