Tuesday, July 12, 2005

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I stumbled across a new blog today and I think I will have to be a regular. Check him out!


Brother To Brother
I’ve been fascinated with the Harlem Renaissance for quite sometime, maybe that’s why I immediately became obsessed with seeing Brother To Brother.The film, a six-year labor of love written and directed by Rodney Evans, revolves around a young SGL man, Perry, struggling to find his place in the world.

He befriends an old homeless man, who turns out to be the legendary Renaissance author of Smoke, Lilies & Jade . . . Bruce Nugent (in an award-winning portrayal by Roger Robinson).

Through flashbacks and seamlessly-cut stock footage from the period, the film takes you back to a glorious time in our history.On the surface, admittedly, the period wasn’t so hot. Sixty some-odd years since slavery was abolished and still racism was unashamedly fashionable, with black men dangling from southern trees with such regularity that Billie Holiday immortalized the curiously-Christian practice in song. There was a book for sale at the time called, Nigger Heaven—surprisingly supported by a lot of blacks—which painted Harlem as the dark, unseemly place of white folk’s nightmares. It was a best seller.But up in the real Harlem (which could surely be unseemly, no doubt), an amazing storm was brewing—a black sexually liberated literati—in a brownstone which Zora Neale Hurston would cleverly dub, Niggerati Manor.

Wallace Thurman, Langston Hughes, Bruce Nugent, Aaron Douglas and others were pooling their talent to start a magazine which focused on a part of black society that not even black society wanted to talk about—homosexuals and prostitutes.The magazine was called FIRE!! Yeah, with not one, but two exclamation points . . . as if starting one was clearly the intent.Brother To Brother covers the birth of that magazine through flashbacks, in a way that made me feel as if I was right there with them, enthralled by each individually . . . legends I thought I knew. Although the film doesn’t delve deeply into their lives, I came away feeling like I knew them better and understood their struggles more.The painfully handsome Daniel Sunjata (Rescue Me) captures Langston Hughes’ almost ethereal good looks with the ease of donning the period wardrobe and a smile. Duane Boutte, with a sort of quirky beauty that left me longing, becomes the young Bruce Nugent in the same way that Angela Bassett became Tina Turner, and Faye Dunaway became Joan Crawford . . . and will remain forever inseparable in my mind.Weaved delicately with sepia-toned Renaissance Harlem, our modern protagonist, Perry, played with startling sensitivity by Anthony Mackie (Million Dollar Baby), evolves through his association with the self-described, “legendary,” Bruce Nugent.I also came away from this film and its performances feeling cozy and warm, like you do after spending an almost overly intimate evening with a good friend. Amidst the many emotional relationships which this film examines, for me, the most powerful was the almost undetectable bitter-sweet undercurrent of a tragic love story.In my favorite scene ... Bruce (Robinson), lamenting to his old bartender friend about Perry, looks at his arthritic hand and says, “Where’d this come from?” He goes on to say with gritty Shakespearean skill, “What’s a hot piece of ass like me doin’ trapped in this old man’s body?” raising his glass he added, “Here’s to lost beauty, may it always be nearby with the potential to keep you warm.”I’ll drink to that.Not just to the line itself, but to Rodney Evans for writing it, and to Roger Robinson for bringing it to spine-tingling life.

I pray the Academy takes notice.Go out and buy this just released DVD. Buy several, if you can, and give them as gifts to those you love. Let’s do what we can to make it wildly successful. Because Brother To Brother is powerful on so many levels. The most important of which, of course, is the appearance Same Gender Loving lives, and not just any lives, but legendary ones, on screen . . . finally . . . without being glossed over, sanitized or ‘heterosexualized’ for the masses.The message is clear. We were here then ... and were amazing. We are here now ... and still reek with talent. And as long as homo-sapiens populate this little blue planet, we will be right here ... shining ... in all our butt-fuckin’ glory.It’s time the masses realized that.


By the way:Indiana Black Pride Kick-off Event
Screening of Brother to BrotherFriday August 5th, 2005 8:00pm
The Madame CJ Walker Cultural Center
617 Indiana Ave.Indianapolis, Ind. 46202


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