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Now That It’s Officially Opened, Let’s Talk ‘Middle Of Nowhere’…

Now That It's Officially Opened, Let's Talk 'Middle Of Nowhere'...

I should first note that the film will continue to expand to other cities over the next several weekends, so while you folks in NYC, LA, ATL, Philly and DC may have seen it this past weekend, others do not yet have access to the film. And to those folks (and really anyone who hasn't seen it), I'd suggest that you AVOID this post altogether, if you don't want your experience potentially spoiled.

Not that we'll be revealing all of the film's plot-points, but I'm taking into consideration the fact that some of you may prefer to go into a film, free of as much influence as possible.

Consider this our attempt to keep the conversation about the film going, as it heads into its second weekend in theaters.

So those who have seen it, what did you think of the film? 

I saw it at the Sundance Film Festival in January this year, and, as I said in my review back then, what really snuck up on me, and that I dug about the film, was how adult the material felt to me. It's a straightforward drama about black people in very adult situations, and none of it is played for laughs.

I feel like we're constantly fed representations of black people in relationships that are too simplistically drawn, and lean more towards the comedic, than the dramatic. It's as if the belief is that we can't handle serious, complex adult situations/representations on film, with black people at the center – especially those set in the present-day. Our serious adult dramas often tend to be set in the past. 

This is especially true at the studio level (I believe it was Ice Cube who said that, for a black filmmaker/producer/actor working within the studio system, comedy was the path of least resistance; and that was his given reason for why his films primarily emphasize their comedic elements first).

You'd have to look to black indies for a reverse of that trend – like Middle Of Nowhere.

There are other aspects of the film that I loved, the most obvious being the strength of its acting, Bradford Young's warm and subtle cinematography, its steady, confident pace, and more. But I'll hand the mic over to you guys to share your own reactions to the film.

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Comments

Dankwa Brooks

Let me say first that everything is not for everybody. Just because it has black creatives doesn't mean you're gonna like it. Some filmmakers I just don't get, I don't give a damn how many accolades are thrust upon them. "To each his own".

Anyway, I think I'm just a fan of Ava "voice" because after liking 'My Mic Sounds Nice', 'I Will Follow' and loving 'Middle of Nowhere' I can definitely say that she's a new voice in cinema.

kA'

with MIDDLE OR NOWHERE, ava has succeeded in balancing the good business of getting the work done and out to the masses, with the elusive art of cinematically capturing the zeitgeist of black love. INDEPENDENTLY. she did that. love it or hate it, she did that. there is honor in this film. there is sensuality in this film. there is heightened intelligence in this film. and it's pure uncut from source. no film in recent memory has so poignantly and seemingly effortlessly done so. the meticulous and discerning eye of a filmmaker is at work here. S&A readers would be well served to indulge.

NinaG

Just saw it in Chicago. Absolutely loved it and will probably see it again. I saw 'I Will Follow' in theaters and thought it was okay (enjoyed it a bit more when it came on TV). Writing + cinematography in MoN far better than IWF. Music was excellent (as expected). Pacing + acting were great.

Swank Tony

Congrats to Ava DuVernay, it is an excellent film. What made the picture great for me was the consistency in great acting by both leads and supporters. Lorraine Toussaint with her mad thespian skills never disappoints as usual. I was a little reticent about the plot despite the adulation and buzz I heard about the movie. I quite surprised by the visceral emotion and the music seemed totally apropo to the film's tone. Emayatzy Corinealdi's visual appeal and persona had me so entranced that I saw nothing of what Alm described in post. Sign me up as a groupie if you wish… :)

VCSMama

In addition to so many of the points others have made here, I thought the pace of the film, the acting and the cinematography throughout sort of "forced" me to deal with and respect this Black woman's internal experience even by just requiring acknowledgement that she has one. And, all of that happened in While I thought this out-did I Will Follow by a long shot, I had a similar experience with that film, i.e. deep, deep appreciation for the focus on the complexity of the interior lives of the women in the film. There is a weight in the silent spaces of these films that allowed me as a Black woman, mother, sister, daughter, lover, professional to connect to unspoken, difficult to articulate but real pain, resolve, confusion, clarity, longing and more that just aren't there in portrayals of us in most films. I'm thankful that this film did not allow distractions to turn our heads and oversimplify, stereotype, etc. Ruby's life or that of her mother and sister.

ALM

Loved it! Ruby went totally against the grain of what I thought that she would do regarding her decision in the end. **SPOILERS AHEAD** I took notes during the film. Can someone tell me:
1. What was the true significance of the "Colored waiting room" sign that hung in Ruby's apartment? I first noticed the sign when Ruby was making the phone calls on the behalf of her husband, and then I noticed it again later on. 2. What was the significance of the Mississippi Dam*ed poster in the hall when Ruby and Brian went to the indie film? Was this a nod to Nina Simone? 3. The significance of the art with the mother carrying the child on her back on the wall in Ruby's apartment. 4. Was there significance surrounding the selection of the name Ruby for the main character?

There were several significant decisions in the movie in addition to Ruby's final choice of partner. One was the fact that she initially refused to be intimate with Brian inside of her apartment. She felt it was more respectful to be away from the house. I also noted the double standards with regard to gender. It was okay for Derek to have a baby's mother asking for child support and an affair in prison, but it was a problem for Ruby to even be SEEN in public with Brian. I also love the way that Ms. Duvernay brought up the fact that in relationships we may often turn our heads and ignore what is really going on. Ruby ignored a lot, from her man's true occupation, to his infidelity, to her own education.

Lisa

I was privileged to see this film at TIFF. I say privileged because I don't live in the US and the films I get in the Caribbean are a steady stream of the same old, same old. Privileged because both Ava and Emayatzy were in attendance and spoke movingly and intelligently about the film. Privileged because in my opinion, this film is going to enter the canon. People will be studying it in film school and talking about it for decades. It is nuanced, insightful, sensitively played and just gives us something we used to get in black cinema but seldom see anymore, at least not what makes it to the cineplex. This is up there with Daughters of the Dust, Killer of Sheep, Sankofa. It is beautifully written and expertly directed. The acting is so authentic, I found myself breathing in time with them. Lorraine Toussaint dominates the screen just by taking a step. And yes, there is something to be said for being surrounded by images of wall to wall black skin. It was genuinely unnerving in a great way to see such a familiar landscape even when the situation presented and the environment bear no relation to my own. I felt embraced. Bradford Young's images are beautiful. It deserves every accolade.

LeonRaymond

What makes this film so superb is: The tone, the pacing the pacing, the methodicalness of the film is what made European films so powerful, here you get to see characters breathe, of course it's not going to appeal to a mass audience of Black folk cause this takes being somewhat educated in Cinema from a different perspective, your being taught how to watch a different film differently, in which 9 things are not thrown at you in the first 10 minutes to keep your attention span. Your taking a stroll with the characters on the screen and that stroll is at real life speed. if you have watched a few films made in Europe with actress Juliette Binoche the tone and film pace is the same as this one. Lots of character development in front of your eyes. But again that's for a different palette, different taste, if you love cinema you will love this film, if your into movies that entertain of course this will not be for you. Go back and watch the film Elles, or watch the film Certified Copy and you will see the same kind of pacing. So in doing this Ava is trying to raise the level of IQ of film lovers of color and at the same time with multi pronged attack cause AAFFRM is cause a ruckus in the methods of Distribution. She did a superb and wonderful job.!!!

GlobalFusionist

I saw this movie at a Sunday matinee and loved it. The music score set the tone perfectly evoking true deep emotion without a single word at times. Filmmakers must remember the importance of the soundtrack for films and I am glad this filmmaker did. I have never visited a prison, had a relationship or even ever known anyone to have a relationship with someone in prison, but I was moved to tears throughout the film and related to it just on the basis of the dialogue & the dynamics of relationships of life, love and family. I didn't know any of the actors except Lorraine Toussaint, but they all did a great job capturing what you said was not only a real adult story but a real human story because even the little boy in the film with his small part was memorable and carried great weight in the story. Nothing in this film was forced and although it was slow the pace was right & the cinematography was superb. This is a film that makes you think and reflect on life choices, and relationships no matter who you are because I had a young White lady sitting next to me and she was moved to tears in our shared quite sniffles and cheered at all the same parts I as I did. This is a great simply shot film with a complex story and characters that we can all relate to on one level or the other, whether directly or indirectly. All of you being critical without seeing it- Please see it and if at worst you come back having your critique being proven right and being unmoved then at the very least you would have supported a great movement in its infancy toward progress -#AFFRM.

Lvflg

Convince Me – I enjoyed the film for the same reasons that Gai, Kirk, Terri, Elledab, Nettrice and Malaika did…I agree with their comments. I wish Ava well and she definitely has a vision! Kudos to her. However I acknowledge that we don't all like the same films, nor do we have to. BUT this particular film, I loved! What we like we can support – what we don't, we simply pass on.

mantan

rt: convince me.

i thought about seeing it because it's been talked about so much on here but after watching the trailer i wasn't moved to go watch it. i like what ava is doing and wish her much success but the movie just seems boring to me and i'm one of those people that like slice of life/relationship type movies.

Convince Me

Before rotten tomatoes are hurled in my direction, I think I should begin by laying out my concerns. Ava's previous film "I Will Follow" was met by similar adulation, yet, in all honesty it was a mediocre film. So here we are again, blacks championing a film, giving superficial and somewhat cookie cutter compliments (i.e., beautiful images of black and brown skin on the big screen, Ava hit a grand slam, a grown-up movie about grown folks, not a Tyler Perry-type of film, etc) which really say nothing about the dynamics of the film. I'd like to hear specifics. How well was the musical scores used to introduce a scenes and/or to set a tone (what scene)? Did we see how the lead actress developed her core beliefs? In essence, do we "know" her, and thus are able to empathize with her challenge/journey? Did the story move in a suspenseful way? Is this a "black" film, why or why not? What range of emotions did the actors exude (what scenes)? Was there a parallel drawn between the two leading men? Did we see their well developed back-stories? In short, what sets this film apart from other "relationship" productions, other than the fact that it was produced by a black female and had a black cast? Granted, the story-line of a lover locked behind bars is somewhat "new", however, none of the comments – so far – are convincing me that this film is receiving ambiguous praise solely because it's the new black "it" film of the day. I need substance.

April

I saw the film Friday in LA. And this film was simply amazing. The next day I was still thinking about those characters! It was beautifully shot. The actors were great. Bravo to Ava and her team! Oh.. And the music….. Oh my goodness I need that soundtrack ASAP!

nia

I can't get over how beautiful and brown everyone is. I'm obbsessed with beautiful images of black and brown skin on the big screen, so that was my favorite part. I love how she moved on, it was not mean or vindictive, her letter and final kiss was effective and honest and just breathtaking. Loved this film!

Gai

I really enjoyed this film. I don't personally know this story but I liked the fact that the main character Ruby was not a "ghetto" chick sticking with her troubled man. She was just a regular educated professional woman married to a regular guy who got into trouble. I had to ask myself could I stay and be as committed to the person I married and the person I love like she did? What does it take to stay in something like that…denial? devotion? etc…Probably some of both. I loved how in the end she came to the realization that she was in denial and when she finally got real with herself she found that she couldn't stay she had to go on with her life even though she still loves her husband.

arnolddrummond

I'm gonna see it again soon so I can fully flesh out my thoughts. In the meantime, a quick snapshot after seeing it this weekend: Lorraine Toussaint was everything. Everything! Other: I was most stricken by how I didn't know (or care to know) why Derek was in jail for most of the movie. Even made some assumptions that didn't pan out. My eye was on Ruby; her actions, inactions, thoughts, fantasies, etc. Even her dayum cheeks had me glued!

Fast forward to the source of my conflict (read: annoyed the hell out of me): I wish Ruby would have come to Jesus on her own, vs. in response to Derek's infidelity. It wouldn't have made it any less impactful, deserved or real had she just grown to a place of fatigue with the situation or more, if she'd reconnected with herself and her latent aspirations. As if being in jail (and away from Ruby) wasn't already sentence enough, did the brother really need an "extra conviction?" I should be thankful it wasn't a male guard, I guess. Regardless, I thought it was a copout. Ruby deserved to fully own her journey…seemed a bit compromised to me, after such a great buildup. #firstthoughts

kirk

Damn, where do I begin? This movie was just beautiful. If you haven't seen it, then your in for a grand movie. I'm not going to go into too much of the movie, but Ava hit a grand slam. One scene that sticks out for me is when Ruby's mother tells her to hold her head up. You all that saw the movie, know what I'm talking about. That scene got to me, I mean really got to me. I could see all of the frustration of Ruby trying to save money for Derek. I could see her frustration with her mom Ruth. It was all right there and it was so honest, so REAL! Omari had to act through his eyes and was brilliant. And even british brother David who wanted to be what is happening next.

I looked up Emayatzy on imdb (of course cause she is fine!) and I see she's going to be in a movie directed by another black female Nefertite Nguvu in 'In the Morning.' I can't wait to see her in that. And it doesn't matter what happens in February, Miss Emayatzy Corinealdi is the true oscar winner. If Ava was here now I'd give her a big hug!

Terri

yes a grown-up movie about grown folks business.

favorite image — the lovers' faces side by side in the dark. i thought of man ray's famous photo with the mask that contrasts the black "African" mask with the "white" face of Kiki de Montparnasse. Young/Duvernay's lighting make the darkness beautiful … turned around that whole cinema as a spectacle of light where light bounces of blue eyes and blonde hair.

hand-held camerawork makes me uncomfortable. but the extreme close-ups of skin were beautiful here.

and in the film, as a film, the prison and the way ruby is in lock-up is a great metaphor … her choices to be in lock-up or see reality. would like to know what movie was on the screen when they go to the movies. and that theater looked beautiful.

elledub

really great movie. enjoyed the acting and the story – definitely a story that needs to be told.

great point about the lack of movies that show black ppl in adult relationships without a comedic angle. I hadn't thought about that but it was certainly depicted very well in Middle of Nowhere.

Nettrice

I'm in ATL and felt compelled to see it because of my close proximity to other up and coming filmmakers and Sundance. They buzzed and buzzed about Middle of Nowhere. Plus, with the exception of Daddy's Little Girls, I don't see the Tyler Perry-type of films and The Help just made me wearier. I wanted to see those kinds of archetypes anymore. Ava DuVernay is on the same list as Julie Dash and Kasi Lemons (remember them?). They make films I can relate to as a black woman. Middle of Nowhere deals with a topic I personally can't relate to (prison) but it's something I can understand. I can picture myself as Ruby, so it more real.

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