Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Blackout DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Straight-to-DVD Drama Revisits the Great Blackout of 2003

On August 14th, 2003, a power plant in Eastlake, Ohio failed, thereby suddenly triggering the worst blackout in North American history. The massive outage left over 50 million people in the U.S. and Canada without electricity for the next two days, forcing folks to fend for themselves.
Blackout, written and directed by Brooklyn native Jerry LaMothe, is based on actual events which unfolded in a predominantly African-American section of a tight-knit, East Flatbush community. This engaging, ensemble drama paints a poignant picture of struggles against poverty further compounded by the looting and violence which erupted when night falls.
The film, which features a talented cast that includes Jeffrey Wright, Zoe Saldana and Melvin Van Peebles, sensibly, takes the time to familiarize us with the intersecting lives of its assorted characters before the impending calamity strikes. Thus, we meet Nelson (Wright), the affable owner of the local barbershop; Ali (Nehal Joshi), the Muslim manager of a busy bodega; and slumlord Sol (Saul Rubinek) who’s planning to fire his superintendent, George (Van Peebles).
Other principal players include Sol’s tenant, Mrs. Thompson (LaTanya Richardson) who is relieved that her teenage son, C.J. (Michael B. Jordan), has just earned his ticket out of the ghetto, a scholarship to Penn State. Unfortunately, C.J. is presently being pressured by an ex-con (Jamie Hector) plying the drug trade on the corner.
Then there’s promising publishing executive Claudine (Saldana), who’s just about fed up with her boyfriend (Sean Blakemore) who’s been unemployed since 9-11, and what’s about to transpire isn’t going to make things any better. Finally, we have Fatima (Susan Kelechi Watson), a poetry slam performer who has an interest in Ali ever since discovering that her man has been cheating on her.
A well-crafted, slice-of-life saga which amply illustrates how easily matters might go from bad to worse in the already-overburdened inner-city when disaster strikes in the ‘hood.

Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 95 minutes
Studio: BET/Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Interview with director Jerry LaMothe, deleted scenes, interviews with survivors of the 2003 Blackout, Meet the Cast, and a “Behind-the-Scenes featurette.

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