Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Brother to Brother

Review by Kam Williams
Headline: Trauma of Being Black and Gay Examined in Homo-Erotic Flashback Drama

Native New Yorker Perry (Anthony Mackie) is young, gifted and black. Oh, and gay, too. And when his homophobic father catches him in a compromising position with another guy, the promising artist gets the boot and has to add "struggling" to that string of descriptive adjectives.
But being kicked out of the house might be the best thing that ever happened to Perry, for it serendipitously leads to a unique avenue for coming to grips with his homosexuality. For in order to subsidize his college education, he takes a job at a homeless shelter where he befriends Bruce Nugent (Roger Robinson), the same mysterious stranger who had recently recited a rhyme for him on the street outside of a poetry slam.
It just happens that this down-on-his-luck old codger had enjoyed a measure of success as a writer way back in the Twenties. Now, their unlikely liaison induces Bruce to start reminiscing about his hey-days during the Harlem Renaissance. He nostalgically proceeds to recall, via vivid flashbacks, rubbing more than elbows with the likes of Langston Hughes, Wallace Thurman and other well-known gays of the era. In turn, Perry is ultimately able to transform his embarrassment and shame about being gay into a palpable sense of pride and self-esteem.
Thus, Brother to Brother, a black equivalent of "In and Out," is a refreshingly-honest empowerment flick which defiantly delivers the message, "We're here, we're black and queer, get used to it." Because it is also set against an historical examination of African-American homosexuality, this remarkable picture ought to serve as a long-overdue wake-up call to the black community where macho intolerance and suicidal denial has left it with America's highest HIV-infection rate.
Consciousness-raising aside, the movie was written and directed by Rodney Evans, who garners high grades for deftly resorting to the helpful cinematic device of shooting the present-day sequences in color, the flashbacks in black-and-white. Kudos, above all, for his simply having the courage to persevere in making such an impressive, if controversial, feature film debut on a subject many would prefer be kept in the closet.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 90 minutes
Distributor: Miasma Films

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