Reiterating a suggestion I previously made… if you’re a filmmaker/producer/distributor reading this, and your film is streaming on Netflix, please let me know. Netflix unfortunately doesn’t have what I feel should be a more efficient search/sort method, and it can be quite a chore trying to find something worth watching. So, help me out if you can.
The same goes for non-filmmakers. If you stumble across any titles that you think should be featured in this series, let me know!
Without further ado, here is this week’s list of 5:
I call it a divisive film because, having seen it myself and talked to Russ about it, it’s been simultaneously embraced and rejected by audiences at almost every festival it’s screened, while also challenged by black pastors who felt that the material Russ tackles in The Undershepherd, hit a little too close to home for them.
Its synopsis reads:
When the head preacher of his church plans his retirement, mild-mannered LC (Isaiah Washington) is seduced by his access to the power and money earned through his ministry, and slowly transforms into a ruthless business man.
Lead by Isaiah Washington, the film is more of a character study of the man he plays, and is completely unlike the expected comedy that Russ may be more known for.
Joining Isaiah Washington in the ensemble cast are Lamman Rucker, Louis Gossett Jr., Bill Cobbs, Keith David, Malinda Williams, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Robinne Lee, Clifton Powell, Elise Neal, and others.
The film is produced by Melee Entertainment, Swirl Films, and UpToParr Productions LLC.
2 – Lifetime’s remake of the 1989 tear-jerker drama set in Louisiana, Steel Magnolias, with an all-African American cast that included: Queen Latifah (she also executive produced) as M’Lynn, Alfre Woodard as Ouiser, Phylicia Rashad as Clairee, Jill Scott as Truvy, Adepero Oduye as Annelle and Rashad’s daughter, Condola Rashad as Shelby.
The original Steel Magnolias starred Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Darryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis, and Julia Roberts.
This all-black reincarnation for Lifetime was directed by Kenny Leon (ABC‘s A Raisin in The Sun, Broadway’s Fences and The Mountaintop), from a script adapted from the 1989 film screenplay by Sally Robinson.
Supporting each other through their triumphs and tragedies, they congregate at Truvy’s beauty shop to ponder the mysteries of life and death, husbands and children – and hair and nails – all the important topics that bring women together.
Lance Gross, Tory Kittles and Michael Beasley co-star.
Here’s a trailer:
3 – Winnie Mandela (previously titled simply Winnie), an adaptation of Anné Mariè du Preez Bezdrob’s biography Winnie Mandela: A Life, starring Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard, explores the personal and political life of the wife of renowned activist and revered former South African President, Nelson Mandela, telling the story of her struggle for the freedom during the Apartheid era.
The film attracted controversy before a single frame was shot, primarily over the casting of Hudson, and the lack of communication with, and input from the real Winnie Mandela. The entire fiasco was well-documented on this blog. Jai interviewed the film’s director, Darrell Roodt, about the film last year, and you can find that piece HERE.
It saw a very limited Stateside theatrical release late last year. If it didn’t play at a theater near you, it’s now streaming on Netflix (assuming you have an account of course).
4 – The Sundance Film Festival and Berlin International Film Festival prize-winning British/Egyptian drama My Brother The Devil, written and directed by Egyptian-Welsh screenwriter and director Sally El Hosaini (her feature film debut), stars James Floyd, Fady Elsayed and Saïd Taghmaoui.
It tells the story of two sons of Egyptian immigrants coming of age on the streets of gangland, East London.
A strong debut from one of England’s boldest new talents, stars Floyd as Rashid, a young man from a traditional Arab family who runs with a gang that rules the streets of Hackney, one of London’s most ethnically-mixed and historically volatile neighborhoods. Rashid’s younger brother, Mo, (Fadi Elsayed) idolizes his handsome, charismatic older brother and dreams of following in his footsteps, but Rashid envisions a different life for Mo and insists that he stay away from gang life and stick to his studies. When Rashid forms a bond with Sayyid (Said Taghmaoui), an older man of similar background who is now a successful photographer, he is introduced to a world he never knew existed. But, just as he decides he wants out of his dead-end life on the streets, Mo decides he wants in, and starts doing drug runs behind Rashid’s back. On a collision course of conflicting desires, each young man is forced to face himself and confront the brother he thought he knew.
Rounding out the cast are familiar names of black British talents you might recognize, like Ashley Bashy Thomas, and Letitia Wright..
It was released in the US last May, and other territories globally, to much acclaim, but in a very limited release.
It’s now streaming on Netflix, so check it out!
Watch the full trailer below for a glimpse at what to expect:
5 – Robert Townsend’s In The Hive, which he produced and directed, and which was one of the late Michael Clarke Duncan’s last film appearances.
Co-starring are Loretta Devine, Vivica A Fox and newcomer Jonathan “Lil J” McDaniel, who plays the film’s central character, which is based on the true story of a woman who started an alternative school for troubled youth in North Carolina.
Here’s a longer synopsis:
Sixteen-year-old Xtra Keys lives by a few simple rules, all rooted in a world of brazen, retaliatory violence. His very survival depends on his ability to be brick-hard, emotionless and impenetrable with everyone. Only his infant son is excluded from the hard-shell persona. Xtra hopes to raise his son better than his boozy, razor-edged mother raised him and his younger siblings. Xtra just might get his wish when he’s thrust into the world of the HIVE, an unorthodox alternative school full of other discarded boys – boys who, because of their disciplinary issues and substandard grade levels, have been kicked out or abandoned by every school in this Southern rural county. For these black boys, the HIVE may very well be their last chance before jail but first they have to persevere under the HIVES director, the indomitably audacious Ms. Inez and her friendly giant of an assistant, Mr. Hollis, both of whom rule the HIVE with love, discipline, soul food and the expectation of excellence, none of which Xtra is in any way prepared for.
Roger Guenveur Smith also co-stars.