The following content is generally available worldwide, except where otherwise noted. All TV shows listed are for networks and streaming services based in the United States. All movies listed are those released in U.S. cinemas. This schedule is for content and events premiering this week and does not include content that has already been made available.
January 24 – January 30, 2022
All times listed are Eastern Time/Pacific Time, unless otherwise noted.
ABC’s TV special “Truth and Lies: The Last Gangster” premiereson Thursday, January 27 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
Monday, January 24
“A Homicidal Haze” (Episode 1201) **Season Premiere** Monday, January 24, 10 p.m., TV One
Culture Representation: Taking place in primarily in the United States and Mexico, the documentary film “La Guerra Civil” features a predominantly Latino group of people (with some white people) discussing the rivalry and careers of world champion boxers Julio César Chávez and Oscar De La Hoya.
Culture Clash:Chávez and De La Hoya, who faced off in two championship matches in 1996 and 1998, represented two aspects of Mexican-rooted culture (native Mexicans for Chávez, Mexican Americans for De La Hoya), which affected the type of fan support and images that each boxer had.
Culture Audience: “La Guerra Civil” will appeal mainly to people who are interested in movies about boxing and how ethnicity plays a role in athletes’ identities and public perceptions.
“La Guerra Civil” goes beyond the usual clichés of boxing documentaries, by taking a candid look at how Julio César Chávez’s Mexican identity and Oscar De La Hoya’s Mexican American identity shaped their championship careers. It’s a traditionally made documentary that doesn’t really break any new ground in cinematic techniques, but the content of the story is meaningful because it shines a light on how ethnicity and nationality have a massive effect on how people feel about a public figure. The movie also vividly describes the conflicts (both internal and external) that can arise when someone identifies as a member of two different countries. Chávez and De La Hoya both participated in “La Guerra Civil,” which had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
“La Guerra Civil” (which means “The Civil War” in Spanish) is the feature-film directorial debut of Eva Longoria Bastón, a Mexican American who is an ideal person to tell this story because she’s lived many of the experiences described in the documentary. There is an authenticity to how this story is told that cannot be replicated by a documentary director who can’t relate to the main subjects of the film. “La Guerra Civil” is not told in complete chronological order, but the engaging editing makes the storytelling easy to follow.
Longoria Bastón conducted the main interviews (she can sometimes be heard off-camera asking follow-up questions), and she made the wise decision not to overstuff the movie with too many talking heads. Because much of the archival footage consists of boxing matches that were already televised, there aren’t many surprises in what’s shown in the documentary, except for some childhood photos or videos of Chávez and De La Hoya. The real value in “La Guerra Civil” is how these two former champs open up about how their past rivalry was bigger than a boxing title: It was a reflection of how people of Latino (especially Mexican) heritage felt about themselves.
“La Guerra Civil” dutifully covers a lot of biography basics that fans of Chávez and De La Hoya might already know but people unfamiliar with boxing might not know. Born in 1962, Chávez grew up very poor in his hometown of Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, Mexico. He had four brothers and five sisters; their father was a railroad worker.
In the documentary, Chávez reveals boxing wasn’t even his favorite sport as a child. He says that at the time, “I liked to play soccer, baseball and volleyball. I liked everything except boxing, because I had two brothers who started boxing before me. ” He adds, “I never thought I’d become a world champion.”
Chávez remembers one of his motivations to start boxing was after he got beaten up by a girl when he was an adolescent. At 16 years old, Chávez eventually got interested in boxing as a way to make money for the family, but he initially had to keep his training a secret from his mother, who disapproved of another one of her sons getting into boxing.
Chávez’s mother, whom he describes as kind and nurturing, eventually approved of his boxing activities when she and the rest of the family saw how talented he was and how his boxing earnings could benefit the family. He relocated from Culiacán to Tijuana to train as a professional boxer. (Hall of Fame boxing trainer Ignacio Beristán gives some background on how Tijuana is an important training ground for Mexican boxers.) Chávez’s “rags to riches” story made him a boxing hero to many, especially those coming from disenfranchised and underprivileged backgrounds.
By contrast, De La Hoya came from a family of boxers (his father, grandfather and brother), and he was pushed into boxing from an early age by his father. “I was forced into it,” De La Hoya says in the documentary. De La Hoya began competing in amateur boxing matches when he was 6 years old. This self-described “scrawny kid” would often bring down opponents who were a lot more muscular and more experienced than he was.
Born in Los Angeles in 1973, De La Hoya is the son of Mexican immigrants, whom De La Hoya says made their household more of a Mexican household than an American household. But because he was a first-generation American, De La Hoya was able to experience and represent both Mexican and American cultures, including being fluent in Spanish and English. Although Chávez and De La Hoya both say that they grew up in rough neighborhoods, De La Hoya’s East Los Angeles neighborhood was decidedly more middle-class than Chávez’s destitute La Redonda neighborhood in Culiacán.
De La Hoya says his first memory of boxing was the boxing fights that would take place for fun in the garage of his uncle. When De La Hoya was about 5 years old, he was ordered to fight one of his older cousins. De La Hoya vividly recalls the fear and humiliation he felt when he lost the fight and how it motivated him to beat the cousin in a rematch.
Golden Boy Promotions president Eric Gómez, who’s been a friend of De La Hoya’s since their childhood, remembers that De La Hoya’s childhood revolved around boxing: “He [could] play for a little while, but when his dad would come out of work, it was time for [Oscar] to go to the gym.” Sports journalist Ron Borges compares De La Hoya to Tiger Woods, in how both athletes had hard-driving fathers who gave them no choice but to train in their respective sports at an age when most children are in kindergarten. “Little Oscar was a business commodity for his father,” Borges comments.
De La Hoya describes these early experiences in terms of how they influenced his career and how he approached boxing. He says that his boxing career was often about him feeling underestimated and wanting to prove his skeptics wrong. Although De La Hoya reached the heights of professional boxing, he makes it clear that it was with constant criticism from many people who thought that he “wasn’t Mexican enough.”
His good looks and the media’s “The Golden Boy” nickname of De La Hoya also made him the target of ridicule by people who thought he was too handsome and too Hollywood to be taken seriously. It’s mentioned several times in “La Guerra Civil” that at public appearances, De La Hoya would get just as many cheers and he would get boos from audiences.
Several of the people interviewed in the documentary discuss at length why Chávez got such unwavering public adoration in Mexican communities, while reactions to De La Hoya were decidedly more mixed. Boxing commentator Eduardo Lamazón says, “Chávez was a man of the people, of the slums. He was raised like many Mexicans, eating the same food as they did, listening to the same music. And he boxed like a Mexican too.” Boxing journalist Jose Luis Camarillo adds, “Chávez was a god. He was the star of the show.”
Sports reporter Claudio Trejos describes a common perception: “For the die-hard boxing fan, Oscar’s just a pretty boy from East Los Angeles. He’s not a real Mexican.” It’s also mentioned in the documentary that people would often call De La Hoya a “pocho,” which is a derogatory term for a person of Mexican heritage who is deliberately ignorant of Mexican culture and doesn’t know how to speak Spanish. It’s a word that bilingual De La Hoya was unfairly applied to him because he says he was raised in Mexican culture and can fluently speak Spanish and English.
On the plus side for De La Hoya was his crossover appeal, which was skillfully marketed by people such as boxing promoter Bob Arum, who helped get De La Hoya many lucrative endorsement deals. By contrast, Chávez fluency in English remained very limited. In the documentary, sports agent Leigh Stenberg says about De La Hoya: “He radiated charisma. He had a killer smile. If you had to create a marketable boxer, you couldn’t go wrong with starting with Oscar De La Hoya.”
Sports journalist Dan Rafael comments, Chávez made himself a legend … He was the star of stars until Oscar De La Hoya came along.” Gómez comments on when the real backlash started against De La Hoya: “It wasn’t until the  Chávez that people started questioning, that people started saying, ‘He’s [De La Hoya] is not a real Mexican.”
“La Guerra Civil” talks about the rise and fall of these two boxing champs, with a lot of emphasis on the rise. The expected highlights of their careers are shown in clips of thrilling boxing matches, as well as large, adoring crowds who gathered to see them at other public appearances. There’s enough discussion of boxing techniques to please boxing fans but not too much of an overload that would alienate people who aren’t boxing enthusiasts.
De La Hoya talks a lot about his commitment to rigorous training, which served him well when he went up against his hero Chávez for the first time, in 1996 for the World Boxing Council’s light welterweight championship. It was billed as the Ultimate Flory fight. In the lead-up this famous boxing match, Chávez and De La Hoya (and their respective entourages) did a U.S. press tour. While De La Hoya was keeping a tight schedule of an athlete in intense training, Chávez was spending his free time doing a lot of partying.
Borges, who covered the press tour, remembers the contrasting lifestyles of Chávez and De La Hoya on this tour: “He [De La Hoya] was working out every day. Chávez was, I assure you, not working out during this trip. He was out [partying], but he was not working out.”
De La Hoya shares his perspective of his and Chávez’s very different approaches to preparing for this big fight: “He’s not taking me serious. But guess what? I’m going to take you serious.” Chávez essentially admits that all of this was true.
When Chávez and De La Hoya had their rematch in 1998, De La Hoya said he didn’t slack off on his intense training. De La Hoya convinced legendary boxing Jesús Rivero (who’s interviewed in the documentary) to come out of retirement to help with De La Hoya’s training. De La Hoya describes Rivero as “a man of few words” and “grumpy” but “by fair the best trainer I ever had.”
Based on how De La Hoya and Chávez discuss how fame affected them, Chávez might have been more beloved overall by people of Mexican heritage, but Chávez had more self-esteem problems in coping with his success. Chávez says that although he got everything he ever dreamed of in his career and he was surrounded by people who adored him, at the height of his fame, “I felt very alone.”
Feeling lonely and empty inside is why Chávez says he turned to cocaine for comfort. He mentions that the first time tried cocaine was after winning a light welterweight title fight against Héctor “Macho” Camacho in 1992. “And that was my ruin,” Chávez says of cocaine. “I took refuge in drugs and alcohol.”
Chávez is open about his addictions to drugs and alcohol, but De La Hoya doesn’t discuss in the documentary that he also had addictions to drugs and alcohol. De La Hoya’s personal demons and rehab stints are briefly mentioned by someone else toward the end of the documentary, almost as if it’s an afterthought. You get the feeling that De La Hoya wanted this topic to be off-limits in order for him to participate in the movie.
The documentary also leaves out any talk about other aspects of Chávez’s and De La Hoya’s personal lives. For example, their marriages and children are not discussed. The movie makes passing references to De La Hoya being a sex-symbol boxer to many women when he was in his prime, but he doesn’t go into details about how he handled all that amorous attention.
Even though De La Hoya doesn’t talk about his addictions in this documentary, he does show a vulnerable side when remembering about his late mother Cecilia and his complicated relationship with her. Oscar De La Hoya’s brother Joel De La Hoya Jr. describes their mother Cecilia as Oscar’s biggest fan. Oscar says, “My mother went through a lot of emotional abuse,” but “she beat the hell out of us … My aggression, my pain, my anger—that comes from her.”
Oscar also shares his heartbreak of his mother dying of breast cancer in 1990, just three weeks after he won the gold medal at the Goodwill Games. “It was the biggest blow I ever felt in my life,” he says of his mother’s death. Oscar says he became so depressed that he was going to quit boxing, but he changed his mind, largely because he had promised his mother that he’d win a gold medal in boxing at the 1992 Olympics. And he did. When De La Hoya famously waved the flags for Mexico and the U.S. after his Olympics victory, this symbolic act of identifying with both nations cemented his dual heritage in many people’s minds.
The 1996 boxing match between Chávez and Oscar De La Hoya marked the first time that a Mexican and a Mexican American would be battling each other in this type of high-profile boxing championship. Critical sports scholar Rudy Mondragón explains why this particular match had such cultural resonance, particularly with people of Mexican heritage: “Boxing is a sport that’s never been shy to utilize race and ethnicity to create a theatrical spectacle … It was like the world was telling us: ‘There’s one way to be Mexican: Oscar’s way or Julio’s way.”
In the documentary, actor/comedian George Lopez and actor/TV host Mario Lopez, who are both Mexican American and not related to each other, share their thoughts on the Chávez/De La Hoya rivalry. Mario Lopez says he’s been a die-hard fan of Chávez since childhood, while George Lopez seems to be more sympathetic to De La Hoya. George Lopez and Mario Lopez are the only two people interviewed in “La Guerra Civil” who aren’t in the boxing/sports industry, but their “fan perspective” still seems very privileged since they’re both celebrities.
Some people might find “La Guerra Civil” lacking in some areas. For example, Trejos is the only woman who’s interviewed. This token female perspective is very noticeable, especially since the documentary mentions several times that women were a large percentage of Oscar De La Hoya’s fan base.
The movie also leaves out the perspectives of any professional boxers who had high-profile matches against Oscar De La Hoya or Chávez. Commentaries from “non-celebrity” boxing fans are only in very brief clips from archival news footage, not in new interviews conducted for the documentary. The only family member of Chávez who’s interviewed is his brother Rodolfo, who makes a brief appearance in the movie.
Although “La Guerra Civil” has an insular selection of people who are interviewed, what they have to say adds up to a worthwhile story about how people’s varying definitions of Mexican heritage manifested in the rivalry between Chávez and De La Hoya. “La Guerra Civil” isn’t a completely comprehensive documentary, but it does show that people from a similar culture can find common ground among their differences. And that’s why the movie is more than a boxing documentary. It’s also a thoughtful commentary about what we can learn from accepting other people’s identities without diminishing our own.
Culture Representation: Taking place from 1981 to 1997, the documentary “The Princess” features a predominantly white group of people (with a few black people and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class, wealthy and royalty discussing the life of Diana, the Princess of Wales, who died in a car accident in 1997, at the age of 36.
Culture Clash: Diana was plagued by a troubled marriage to Prince Charles; issues with depression and bulimia; and ongoing battles with the media over her privacy.
Culture Audience: “The Princess” will appeal primarily to people who can’t get enough of watching Princess Diana documentaries, but this all-archival documentary reveals nothing new and has nothing interesting to say.
In the never-ending cottage industry of Princess Diana biographies and Princess Diana exploitation, the sloppily made documentary “The Princess” is completely unnecessary and leaves out a lot of information. The Wikipedia page for Princess Diana has more information than this cynical cash grab of a movie. The ending of “The Princess” is extremely off-putting by concluding abruptly with an image of Diana’s burial casket being driven off during the funeral. The movie irresponsibly doesn’t even mention that in Princess Diana’s fatal car accident, the driver of the car was drunk.
Directed by Ed Perkins, “The Princess” had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. The documentary consists entirely of archival footage from 1981 to 1997—the years that the woman born as Diana Spencer lived in the public eye. Most of the footage is from British television. There is absolutely nothing new in this documentary that hasn’t already been seen elsewhere, except for some random home videos of people reacting to Diana’s untimely death. (She died in Paris on August 31, 1997.)
Watching this movie is exactly like watching a video version of a Wikipedia page, but less so because the movie gives no information about the investigation into Diana’s death. The filmmakers also seem to have an agenda by leaving out the drunk-driver information and instead showing repetitive footage of people blaming the paparazzi for Diana’s death. The documentary ignores the reality that the investigation into the car accident, the news coverage about it and the facts uncovered were extremely important to Diana’s tragic story.
“The Princess” is just a chronological telling of basic facts of her life that people already know, with some tabloid headlines thrown in the mix. People already know about the courtship and doomed marriage of Princess Diana and Prince Charles. (The former spouses separated in 1992, and officially divorced in 1996.) People already know about the conflicts in the British Royal Family. People already know about the tabloid scandals, Diana’s charity work, and how much she adored her sons William and Harry.
There are amateur YouTube videos about Princess Diana that are more interesting than this lazy documentary. The film has voiceover soundbites, but the people talking in these voiceovers are never identified, and neither are the media sources for these soundbites, or the year that these comments were made. The only people who might think “The Princess” is interesting are people who don’t know much about Princess Diana, or obsessive fans who can’t get enough of anything to do with her, no matter tacky it is.
HBO will premiere “The Princess” on a date to be announced.
Culture Representation: Taking place in 1684 in Versailles, France, the fantasy drama film “The King’s Daughter” features a nearly all-white cast of characters (with a few black people and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and royalty.
Culture Clash: King Louis XIV wants to get immortality by taking the life force from a magical mermaid, but the king’s rebellious daughter Marie-Josèphe does everything she can to prevent this mermaid’s death.
Culture Audience: “The King’s Daughter” will appeal primarily to people who like watching tacky and poorly made fairy-tale movies.
“The King’s Daughter” is a laughably bad movie that seems like a parody, but with no self-awareness about how truly awful it is. It’s a fantasy drama filled with hokey dialogue, cheesy visual effects, and high-society women in 1680s France who dress like 1980s prom queens. Some of the scenery and production design are nice to look at (parts of the movie were filmed at the Palace of Versailles), but everything else is so bottom-of-the-barrel predictable and corny, it’s an embarrassment to everyone involved in making this horrendous flop.
Directed by Sean McNamara, “The King’s Daughter” is adapted from Vonda N. McIntyre’s 1997 novel “The Moon and the Sun,” which was a combination of science fiction and historical romance. Barry Berman and James Schamus adapted the novel for “The King’s Daughter” screenplay, by hacking up “The Moon and the Sun” and turning it into a screenplay equivalent of a cheap and vapid romance novel. “The King’s Daughter” takes place in 1684 in Versailles, France, but the movie looks like the filmmakers just wanted to stick the movie in a palace setting, hire some well-known actors, and then hope the audience doesn’t notice how phony everything looks.
The makeup and costume design in “The King’s Daughter” can best be described as careless, with too many modern details that make the movie look confused about the century in which this story is supposed to take place. Things aren’t much better with how “The King’s Daughter” has wildly uneven acting that ranges from campy to bored. Maybe it’s because the dialogue that the cast members have to work with is so cringeworthy. Somehow, the filmmakers convinced Oscar-winning actress Julie Andrews to do some voiceover narration for “The King’s Daughter.” Someone should’ve told Andrews that this atrocious movie makes “The Princess Diaries” look like an Oscar-worthy masterpiece in comparison.
“The King’s Daughter” has a muddled story about King Louis XIV (played by Pierce Brosnan, hamming it up in a long-haired wig) wanting to live forever, because he’s so egotistical that he thinks France will go downhill if he dies. “My immortality secures the future of France!” King Louis XIV pompously declares. King Louis XIV, who is also called the Sun King, feels more urgency to find the secret to immortality after he survives a botched assassination attempt upon his victorious return from a war. This assassination scene is sloppily acted: The king gets shot on the side of his abdomen, but then he’s able to get up, as if he just has a slight bruise.
The king’s personal physician Dr. Labarth (played by Pablo Schreiber) tells him that in the underwater Lost City of Atlantis, there’s a fabled female sea creature that could hold the secret to immortality. In order for the immortality magic to work, the creature’s life force can only be taken when the sun meets the moon—in other words, a solar eclipse. The king’s other close advisor is a priest named Père La Chaise (played by a William Hurt), who thinks it’s a bad idea to try to mess with nature and matters of life and death. The priest’s warning doesn’t stop the king from ordering a ship of naval subordinates to find this sea creature in Atlantis.
Captain Yves De La Croix (played by Benjamin Walker) is the ship’s leader. It doesn’t take long for Yves and his men to find two mysterious sea creatures and capture them. The creatures are a mermaid (played by Fan Bingbing, also known as Binging Fan) and a merman, who are a couple with an infant child. The merman is let go, but the mermaid (who’s never given a name) is brought back to an underground grotto area at the king’s palace. Later, it’s shown that the mermaid quickly gave the infant to another mermaid for safekeeping when she saw her male partner being captured and she knew she would be next.
Meanwhile, the beginning of “The King’s Daughter” shows a feisty young woman named Marie-Josèphe (played by Kaya Scodelario), who has grown up in a convent by the sea, being scolded by some nuns for Marie-Josèphe’s penchant of wanting to swim in sea. Rachel Griffiths has a cameo as the convent’s head abbess. Marie-Josèphe’s unnamed mother (played by Tiffany Hofstetter, in a flashback) died when she was a baby. Marie-Josèphe’s father is King Louis XIV, knows about Marie-Josèphe, but never claimed her because she’s an illegitimate child.
Marie-Josèphe has grown up not knowing who her father is, but she’s about to find out. Faster than you can say “stupid fairy-tale movie,” Marie-Josèphe is summoned to the palace by the king, who has no other children and is thinking about his legacy in case he can’t live forever. Eventually, Marie-Josèphe finds out that the king is her father, but he orders her not to tell anyone that he’s her father. The movie tries in overly contrived ways to make Marie-Josephe look like a “relatable princess.” For example, Marie-Josephe clumsily falls in a fountain outside of the palace the first time that she meets the king.
The big conflict in the story comes when Marie-Josèphe finds out about the captured mermaid and wants to free the mermaid from captivity, against the king’s wishes. “The King’s Daughter” awkwardly wastes a lot of time getting to this big conflict. After Marie-Josèphe discovers the captured mermaid in the grotto and starts to befriend her, Marie-Josèphe suddenly gets the urge to play the cello. The music that Marie-Josephe plays is the music she can hear the mermaid communicate. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.
When she’s not playing in a string orchestra on the palace lawn, as if she’s some kind of wedding performer, Marie-Josèphe is secretly visiting the mermaid. The strange moaning and shrieks that come out of the mermaid’s mouth can only be described as sounding like a mutation of a whale and a dolphin. The mediocre visual effects for the mermaid are often obscured by the water. The mermaid also glows in the dark.
Marie-Josèphe also hangs out with her lady-in-waiting Magali (played by Crystal Clarke), who is kind of an airhead. This is what Magali says to Marie-Josèphe when Magali finds out that she and Marie-Josèphe both grew up without their biological parents: “Trauma at the start of life often inspires greatness.” The casting of Magali is racially problematic because she is the only black person with a speaking role in the movie—and she’s a servant character who’s essentially a “mammy” stereotype seen in outdated and racist movies.
The movie’s grossly inaccurate fashions are random and very distracting. The society women and men of the king’s court sneer at Marie-Josèphe when she first arrives at the palace, because she’s dressed like a peasant. But some of the women are styled to look like Goths who got rejected from a Siouxie and the Banshees music video from the 1980s.
The fashion mistakes don’t stop there. Marie-Josèphe starts to dress more like a princess, but her gowns are the types of dresses that high school girls in 1980s teen romantic comedies would wear scenes for proms or homecoming dances. Magali sometimes wears a plastic headband that looks like it was bought at a corner drugstore, not something that belongs to a lady-in-waiting in 1680s France. Yves sometimes wears a modern-styled leather jacket, as if he’s about to go on a motorcycle ride in a century where motorcycles weren’t even invented.
Every princess movie has a love story. In “The King’s Daughter,” Yves and Marie-Josèphe make goo-goo eyes at each other almost as soon as they meet, when he catches her hanging out in the grotto with the mermaid. Their courtship plays out exactly like you expect it would. Scodelario and Walker have some on-screen chemistry together (probably because they became a real-life couple because of this movie and are married in real life), but the romance in the movie is very dull.
Predictably, Yves is under orders from the king to keep the mermaid in captivity. Marie-Josèphe wants to set the mermaid free. As Yves and Marie-Josèphe fall in love, his loyalty is torn between King Louis XIV and Marie-Josèphe. You know how this is is going to end, so there’s no suspense.
Marie-Josèphe gets a serious injury on her right arm after falling off of a horse. Dr. Labarth recommends that her arm be amputated. But lo and behold, Marie-Josèphe goes down to the grotto to visit the mermaid, who heals Marie-Josèphe’s arm completely. It makes the king even more determined to steal the mermaid’s powers during the upcoming solar eclipse.
And because this movie is filled with clichés, there’s a love triangle. A haughty rich guy named Jean-Michel Lintillac (played by Ben Lloyd-Hughes) is making King Louis XIV feel guilty because Jean-Michel’s military father was killed in the war, and Jean-Michel blames the king. To get this complainer off of his back, the king offers Jean-Michel the title of duke. Later, the king arranges for Marie-Josèphe to marry Jean-Michel because the king doesn’t want Jean-Michel to be romantically involved with a commoner like Yves, who has some kind of past feud with Jean-Michel.
As the feisty and plucky Marie-Josèphe, Scodelario seems to give a sincere effort to embody her character, but her scenes with Brosnan are undercut by his campy over-the-top acting. Jean-Michel and Dr. Labarthe are just cardboard-like villains, although “Sons of Anarchy” alum Schreiber as Dr. Labarthe should be given some credit for playing a character outside of his usual “working-class tough guy” persona. Meanwhile, Oscar-winning actor Hurt (as Père La Chaise) looks embarrassed to be in this movie. Viewers who watch this train-wreck film might be embarrassed too at wasting their time with this junk.
Gravitas Ventures released “The King’s Daughter” in U.S. cinemas on January 21, 2022.
Culture Representation: Taking place in various parts of the world, the documentary film “Fire of Love” features an all-white group of people discussing the lives and work of French spouses Katia Krafft and Maurice Krafft, who were pioneering volcanologists in the 1970s and 1980s.
Culture Clash: Katia and Maurice Krafft (who died together in 1991) were so obsessed with volcanoes, including going to as many active volcano sites as possible, these two scientists were often described as “weirdos” by their peers and critics.
Culture Audience: “Fire of Love” will appeal mainly to people who are interested in movies about volcanoes and the fine line between passion and obsession.
The visually stunning but occasionally dull “Fire of Love” is best enjoyed by people who are inclined to like nature documentaries. This story about volcanologist spouses Katia Krafft and Maurice Krafft often takes a back seat to the volcano footage. Directed by Sara Dosa and narrated by Miranda July, “Fire of Love” has enough striking visuals that deserve to be seen in a movie theater, but the rest of the movie comes across as a National Geographic TV special. The movie’s constant voiceover narration might annoy some viewers who prefer a “show, don’t tell” approach to filmmaking. “Fire of Love” has its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
It might be easier to understand why there’s voiceover narration in every scene if you know that this documentary has a lot of footage that originally had no sound, according to what Dosa says in the “Fire of Love” production notes. All of the footage in the movie is archival. Most of it consists of 16mm camera footage and photo stills of the Krafft couple’s trips to active volcanoes around the world. Katia and Maurice shot a lot of the footage themselves, while other footage was helmed by colleagues and friends, such as photographer Henry Glicken. A lot of footage also came from publicly accessible archives. The documentary also includes some clips of TV interviews that the couple did over the years, as well as snippets of comments they made in audio form.
July’s narration is perfectly fine, in terms of her tone of voice, for a nature documentary. It’s just that the way that the narration was written tends to have some over-explaining, like a professor’s lecture, when just showing what’s taking place would suffice. The documentary was written by Dosa, “Fire of Love” producer Shane Boris and editors Erin Casper and Jocelyn Chaput. Fortunately, the musical score by Nicolas Godin balances out the very talkative narration with some deeply moving interludes that give viewers the feeling of being transported to the volcanoes that are on screen.
Katia and Maurice Krafft, who were both natives of France, died during a volcanic eruption on Mount Unzen in Japan, on June 3, 1991. Katia was 49, and Maurice was 45. In the “Fire of Love” production notes, Dosa says that one of the documentary’s scientific consultants was volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer, who co-directed Werner Herzog’s 2016 Netflix volcano documentary “Into the Inferno,” which also featured archival footage of Katia and Maurice.
Dosa explains in the “Fire of Love” production notes that she chose to make “Fire of Love” as an all-archival documentary instead of conducting new interviews, in order to immerse viewers in the places and times that the footage was filmed. Dosa comments, “We also wanted to maintain the present tense as much as we could. If we had people commenting on the past, it wouldn’t flow as well.”
Dosa also says in the “Fire of Love” production notes that she was influenced by the French New Wave style of filmmaking in making this documentary, which she compares to a “collage.” The movie is told in chronological order, beginning with a brief summary of how Katia and Maurice met in 1966 (there are at least three different stories of this first meeting), how they bonded over their mutual passion for volcanoes, and how they fell in love. The couple eventually got married in 1970.
Early on in their relationship, Katia and Maurice decided not to have children because the couple’s lives revolved around their all-consuming work. It’s also why Maurice and Katia abandoned their brief stint as anti-war activists, which was a lifestyle that they gave up in pursuit of being volcanologists. Although they did a lot of their volcano work by themselves, they eventually invited some friends and colleagues along to help on their excursions.
Katia was a geochemist who preferred to document their work with still photography. Maurice was a geologist who preferred to document their work as movies. How obsessed were they with volcanoes? Maurice is heard saying in a voiceover: “If I could eat the rocks, I’d stay on the volcanoes and never come down.” Katie says in a TV interview clip: “Once you see an eruption, you can’t live without it.” Even if some critics ridiculed Maurice and Katia for being too unorthodox and acting too much like daredevils in their work, Maurice and Katia were comfortable with their own eccentricities and actually enjoyed their “oddball” reputation.
The Kraffts started out as obscure volcano explorers and scientists, but they became famous for taking risks and bringing back footage of active volcanoes that no one else had at the time. Before drones existed, Katia and Maurice often literally had to stand at the end of volcanoes to get the images that they wanted. Because of the intense and potentially fatal heat involved in their work, they often wore astronaut-like suits (many which they designed themselves) to protect themselves. They worked in all manners of extreme weather conditions.
However, that didn’t mean their work was free from physical injuries and problems. During a 1968 trip to Iceland, the documentary says that the couple’s car broke down 27 times. In addition, there’s footage of Maurice accidentally scalding one of his legs in a volcano pit. The documentary also includes footage of Katia and Maurice in Zaire in 1973 and 1977; Indonesia in 1979; Washington state (for the Mount St. Helens eruption) in 1980; Colombia (for the Nevado del Ruiz eruption) in 1985; and their fateful trip to Japan in 1991.
In addition to the danger, there’s some whimsy and quirkiness in the footage. There’s a scene that shows Maurice and Katia literally dancing together on the edge of a volcano precipice as fiery ash blows through the air. Another scene shows the couple and some friends throwing cowboy hats in the air and act as if they’re in a volcanologist version of a Western movie. There’s footage of Maurice handling molten lava (with gloves on, of course) and plays with it like a child would play with putty. In another scene, Maurice fries eggs in a frying pan using nothing but the hot volcano rocks for heat. He deadpans in his opinion of how the eggs taste: “It’s not great.”
The documentary mentions that Katia and Maurice had journals documenting much of their work and inner thoughts. However, it seems like “Fire of Love” could’ve used more of these personal commentaries in Katia’s and Maurice’s own words. There are only a few instances where journal entries are read. Instead, what viewers will get is July’s narration of the filmmakers’ often-flowery descriptions of the couple and what Katia and Maurice did during their volcano excursions.
For example, the opening scene of the film shows Katia and Maurice driving together in a Toyota Jeep up an icy and snow incline. The Jeep gets stuck in the snow, and there’s some difficulty in getting in moving again. The voiceover narration than says, “In a cold world, although watches start to freeze, the sun came and went between blizzards and gusts that erased all bearings. In this world lived a fire. And in this fire, two lovers found a home.”
The fiery lava in the documentary is color-enhanced in the way that Maurice and Katia intended, according to what Dosa says in the “Fire of Love” production notes. Volcano fire is often brought up in the documentary as a symbol of the couple’s passion for volcanoes and love for each other. “What is it that makes the earth’s heart beat?” July asks in the narration while images of gushing lava fill the screen. “Blood flow.”
Instead of showing Maurice’s and Katia’s personalities, viewers get these descriptions from the narration: “Katia is a like a bird. Maurice is an elephant seal. Katia is drawn to details … Maurice [is drawn to] the singular and grandiose.” Katia was more of author and archivist than Maurice, while Maurice was more of a filmmaker and scientific lecturer than Katia.
To its credit, the movie doesn’t get bogged down in too much technical science, since this movie was intended for people who might have very little interest in science. Katia famously said, “Volcano classifications should be banned,” in a TV interview clip shown in the documentary. However, documentary explains volcanoes in the simple and basic level, by describing two types of volcanoes. Red volcanoes, which erupt when plates pull apart, are basaltic and known for spouting lava that can be up to 1,200 degrees Celsius or 2,192 degrees Fahrenheit. Grey volcanoes, which erupt when plates collide, can go off like nuclear ash bombs and are deadlier than red volcanoes.
After watching this documentary, some viewers might still have a lot of questions about Katia and Maurice. How did their relationship evolve over time? What were their biggest goals and regrets? What did they like to talk about besides volcanoes and work? There are some interesting nuggets of information, such as they both knew that they would probably die together, but none of this information is surprising.
If you’re looking for any sexy romance in a documentary called “Fire of Love,” you’re not going to find it in this documentary. The biggest takeaway from the documentary is that Katia and Maurice Krafft’s greatest love was for volcanoes, so the volcanoes are the real stars of the movie. If you know that information before seeing “Fire of Love,” you’ll have a better chance of enjoying the movie for its majestic depiction of Earth, rather expecting a deep-dive examination of a volcanologist couple’s marriage.
UPDATE: National Geographic Documentary Films will release “Fire of Love” in select U.S. cinemas on a date to be announced. Disney+ will premiere “Fire of Love” on a date to be announced.
Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed city on the East Coast of the U.S., the comedy film “Emergency” features a cast of African American and white characters (with a few Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: After planning a night of partying on their college campus, two African American best friends and their Latino roommate have their plans go awry when they find an extremely intoxicated and barely conscious young white female in their house, and the pals have conflicts over what do about this problem.
Culture Audience: “Emergency” will appeal mainly to people who are interested in movies about misadventures of college partiers, but with themes of racial tension and how it affects people’s perspectives of dealing with law enforcement.
“Emergency” repeats a familiar comedy formula of male partiers getting into a big mess on one wild night, but there’s a Black Lives Matter spin on all the shenanigans. The movie’s heavy emotional turn toward the end makes it better than the average comedy about partiers caught up in a big problem, but some movie clichés still remain. Directed by Carey Williams and written by KD Davila, “Emergency” is likely to find an enthusiastic audience of supporters because the movie centers on characters who rarely get to be the lead characters in movies: black male college students. “Emergency” had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
“Emergency” opens with the introduction of the two best friends whose partying plans go haywire over fears that they’ll be wrongfully accused of a crime because they are African American. The two pals are undergraduate students in their last year at the fictional Buchanan University, which is in an unnamed city on the East Coast of the U.S. (“Emergency” was actually filmed in New York state.) Kunle, pronounced “kun-lay” (played by Donald Elise Watkins), is a straight-laced, straight-A student majoring in biology and has plans to go to graduate school at Princeton University. Sean (played by RJ Cyler) is a rebellious stoner with a vaping habit and no plans after he graduates. Sean’s college major is not mentioned in the movie.
Kunle and Sean are ready to party one weekend night in the spring, and they want to make it legendary. The university’s Black Student Union headquarters has a “hall of fame” wall displaying commemorative portrait plaques of black students at the school who were the first to achieve something at the university. For example, there are plaques for the first black student to be the school’s newspaper editor, or the first black student to be student government president. “Emergency” pokes fun of this “first black student” tribute wall by also having plaques for trivial things, such as the first black student to use 3-D printing.
Sean and Kunle want to get on the “hall of fame” wall as the first black students to do the Legendary Tour. What is the Legendary Tour? It’s a tour of seven major campus parties happening on the same night, for one night of the year. The parties are invitation-only with distributed passes, and it’s extremely difficult for anyone to score passes for all seven parties.
Not surprisingly, party-loving Sean is the one who’s more caught up than Kunle is in reaching this Legendary Tour goal. Sean is the one who goes to the trouble of getting all the passes that he and Kunle need to complete the Legendary Tour. Kunle goes along with these plans, but he has other things on his mind. He has to complete a very important scientific lab project as part of his thesis required for graduation. The lab project includes meticulous examination and storage of bacteria cultures.
On the day of the Legendary Tour, Sean and Kunle talk about their upcoming party plans and their love lives. Sean has an ex-girlfriend named Asa (played by Summer Madison), another Buchanan University student, who’s done with Sean, but he might not be completely over his feelings for her. Kunle is romantically unattached too, but he has a crush on another student named Bianca (played by Gillian Rabin), who’s in at least one class with Sean and Kunle. Sean, who can be rude and crude, says in typical Sean speak when he and Kunle talk about Bianca: “She wants your dick, bro.”
The movie has only one classroom scene, near the beginning of the film. It appears to be a sociology class, where a British instructor named Professor Clarke (played by Nadine Lewington) says that the topic of the day is hate speech. Sean, Kunle and Bianca are among the students in the class. Not surprisingly, the first word that Professor Clarke wants to discuss is the “n” word, which she says repeatedly, as if she enjoys saying it out loud and knows she’s allowed to say it in this academic context. “What makes this word so powerful?” Professor Clarke asks the students.
Even though the professor reminded the students that this topic of hate speech comes with a trigger warning, and the students signed forms acknowledging that they might hear offensive words during this hate speech topic, Sean whispers to Kunle during the class that he’s still offended. Sean gripes to Kunle: “Why is she teaching a class that she knows nothing about?” Professor Clarke then sees Sean and Kunle talking, and she singles them out to answer questions about the “n” word, which makes Sean even more offended. However, he doesn’t voice his concerns to the professor.
Outside, after the class ends, Sean continues to rant about how Professor Clarke said the “n” word many times in class. Kunle understands both sides of the issue, but he’s also annoyed that Sean is complaining about it to him, not the professor. Kunle reminds Sean that he could’ve said something to the professor about being offended, but Sean didn’t.
Sean’s response is to say: “We got one rule that we ask for white people to respect: ‘Thou shalt not say that one word.’ But they don’t like for us to tell them what to do, so they find loopholes.”
Kunle is more willing to give Professor Clarke the benefit of the doubt by saying she probably didn’t mean any offense. It’s the first sign in the movie that Sean and Kunle have different views of race relations between black people and white people in America. Those differing opinions cause conflicts later on in the movie, which eventually shows if any opinions of the two friends change after their crazy night.
“Emergency” doesn’t go into details over how Sean and Kunle met or how long they’ve been friends, but they’ve been friends since at least their first year at Buchanan University. Conversations in the movie drop some details indicating that Kunle and Sean come from very different family backgrounds. Viewers can see these contrasting backgrounds also shape Sean’s and Kunle’s different perspectives of life as an African American man.
Kunle (who appears to be an only child, since he doesn’t mention any siblings) has parents who are doctors and African immigrants. Kunle is also somewhat of a mama’s boy, since there’s a scene where he talks to his overprotective mother (voiced by Ebbe Bassey) on the phone. There’s a scene later in the movie where Kunle and Sean have a big argument, and Kunle implies that he’s smarter than Sean and has a brighter future because Kunle had a “better” upbringing than Sean.
Sean doesn’t mention his parents, but he comes from a less privileged background where members of his family have had entanglements with police. At one point in the movie, Sean mentions an unarmed cousin who was shot in the rear end by a cop. And there’s another scene in the movie that takes place in the home of Sean’s older brother Terence (played by Robert Hamilton III), who doesn’t want to get involved in Sean’s problems because Terence is on parole for an unnamed reason. It’s hinted in this conversation that Sean has also gotten into trouble with the law in the past, but the movie doesn’t go into any details.
Sean and Kunle live together in an on-campus house with a third student, who’s also in his last year at Buchanan. His name is Carlos (played by Sebastian Chacon), and he’s a nerdy pothead who desperately wants to be accepted by Sean and Kunle to be their close friend. Carlos, who’s an aspiring mechanical aerospace engineer, spends a lot of time by himself smoking marijuana and playing video games. Kunle is more tolerant of Carlos than Sean, who thinks Carlos is very corny, immature and weird. Carlos wears a fanny pack and likes to offer granola bars to people as a way to try to make friends.
This friendship dynamic is a formula that’s been used in other several comedy films about male buddies who go out for a night of partying: Two best friends—one who’s mild-mannered and polite, the other who is cocky and foul-mouthed—end up with a “third wheel” pal/acquaintance who’s an eccentric misfit. Examples include 2007’s “Superbad,” 2009’s “The Hangover” and Hulu’s 2020 silly stoner comedy “The Binge.” You can also go all the way back to “Three Stooges” movies to find this formula. “Emergency” stands out because all three of the men happen to be people of color.
Sean has meticulously mapped out his and Kunle’s plans for the Legendary Tour, including the order in which they’ll go to each party and what they’ll be doing at each party. Even though Carlos wants to party with Sean and Kunle, Sean doesn’t want Carlos tagging along because he thinks Carlos is too much of a dork. Sean and Kunle plan to take Sean’s car for their night of debauchery. Kunle drinks alcohol but doesn’t do drugs, while Sean gives the impression that he’s up for doing any kind of drug that comes his way. Sean is drunk and stoned throughout most of the movie.
Things start to go wrong on the night of the Legendary Tour when Sean and Kunle are all set to go to the first stop on tour, and Kunle remembers that he accidentally forgot to properly refrigerate his lab bacteria cultures. In a panic, he tells Sean that if the cultures are ruined, his thesis will be ruined too, and he won’t be able to graduate. Kunle is also worried that messing up this assignment will hurt his chances of going to Princeton.
Sean doesn’t want to go to the parties without Kunle, so he agrees to go with Kunle to take care of this problem. It’s a detour that will delay their partying for about 15 to 20 minutes, so Sean is slightly annoyed but willing to go along with this change of plans. Before they go to the lab, Sean and Kunle have to stop off at their house to get the lab keys. And that’s when things get crazy.
Soon after arriving in the house, Sean and Kunle notice that the front door is unlocked. And on the living room floor is a teenage girl, dressed in a pink mini-skirt outfit and barely conscious. She’s so intoxicated that she can barely talk, so getting any information from her is useless. The teenager has no purse or ID on her either. And then she starts vomiting, for the first of several times in the movie.
A panicked Sean and Kunle go in Carlos’ room to find out what’s going on and who this mystery girl is, but Carlos has locked himself in his room, getting stoned and playing video games. Carlos doesn’t know who the teenager is and how she got into the house. Carlos is blamed for not knowing how this teenage girl got into the house when he was home, so he’s pressured into helping fix this problem.
Kunle’s first thought is to call 911, but Sean adamantly refuses because he’s certain that because they’re three young men of color in a house with an unconscious white female, they will automatically be blamed for a crime. There’s some back-and-forth arguing over what to do. Kunle hates Sean’s idea to secretly drop the teenager off at a nearby party, but Kunle agrees to the idea that they should anonymously bring her to a hospital.
Of course, there would be no “Emergency” movie if things went according to these friends’ plans. Sean, Kunle and Carlos put the mystery girl in the back of Sean’s car, as they drive to the nearest hospital. What they don’t know yet but the audience finds out early on is that her name is Emma (played by Maddie Nichols), and she’s the younger sister of a Buchanan student named Maddy (played by Sabrina Carpenter), who now knows that Emma is missing and is frantically looking for her.
Maddy invited Emma to hang out with her for some campus partying but lost track of Emma. Maddy doesn’t want to call the police to report Emma missing because Maddy is drunk and doesn’t want to get in trouble for underage drinking. And so, Maddy enlists the help of her level-headed friend Alice (played by Madison Thompson) and Alice’s love interest Rafael (played by Diego Abraham) to find Emma. Luckily, Emma has a Find My app on her phone, so that Maddy, Alice and Rafael can track the general area of where she is.
This phone tracking is crucial to a lot of the twists and turns in “Emergency,” but there are still a few plot holes where viewers have to suspend some disbelief. The biggest plot hole is that Maddy didn’t call Emma’s phone while looking for Emma. Maddy sends texts instead. If Maddy had called the phone, then Sean, Kunle and Carlos would’ve heard the phone ringing and found out right away that Emma had a phone, and none of this mess would’ve happened. And where exactly was Emma’s phone? Why were Sean, Kunle and Carlos not able to see it? Those questions are answered in the last third of the movie.
“Emergency” has a few contrivances to ramp up the comedy, such as Maddy, Alice and Raphael only having a bicycle and a skateboard to get around for transportation. A running joke in the film is that Maddy (who’s too drunk to operate anything that moves) has to be stuck on the back of the bike, while whoever is operating the bike has to work extra hard to pedal the bike because of the extra weight. The movie makes a point of depicting Maddy as a very quick-tempered, bossy and entitled person.
If Maddy is afraid of getting busted by police for underage drinking, Sean is afraid of getting killed by police, just for being a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sean repeatedly warns Kunle that it could happen to them. And so, there’s a scene where they try to find white or Asian friends who can call 911 for them. Even though this scene is supposed to be hilarious, there’s some biting truth in how the scene comments on racial disparities between how law enforcement treats black people compared to other races.
“Emergency” also pokes fun at the hypocrisy of white people who claim to support the Black Lives Matter movement but are quick to assume that black people are criminals. This happens in a scene in a quiet suburban neighborhood where Emma has to be taken into some shrubbery so that she can urinate. A suspicious white couple (played by Melanie Jeffcoat and James Healy Jr.) in a nearby house see Sean sitting in his car alone on the street outside the house while this is going on. You can easily guess what happens from there, because the movie makes the point that if Sean had been white, this suspicious couple might have had a very different reaction. Ironically, there’s a Black Lives Matter sign on this couple’s lawn.
“Emergency” has a lot to say about race relations, racism and how they are affected by people’s perceptions and interactions with law enforcement. Even though it’s a fictional movie, it brings up many uncomfortable truths about how people are treated and see the world differently because of racial inequalities. Some viewers might laugh at how “paranoid” Sean acts throughout the entire movie. But sadly, his outlook is the reality of many people.
As a comedy, the movie has some slapstick ridiculousness and it tends to over-rely on gross-out vomit gags, but all of it doesn’t undermine the movie’s message. Cyler and Watkins are a dynamic duo in how they portray this realistic friendship. Their emotional moments that come later in the movie are well-acted and have a resonance that goes deeper than a typical comedy film. Chacon is quite good in his role as a sweet-natured misfit, while Carpenter plays her “entitled princess” role to the hilt.
Is “Emergency” a perfect movie? No. For a movie that’s supposed to be about life from an African American perspective, “Emergency” gives very little screen time or importance to African American women. Sean’s ex-girlfriend Asa is the movie’s only black female character who has more than one scene, but she’s in the movie for less than 10 minutes. In one of her brief appearances, Asa says to Sean about Kunle: “Don’t go dragging him into your bullshit. That boy is Black Excellence.”
“Emergency” is so focused on the pain and pressure that black men get from racism, it fails to mention or show that black women share this burden too. In fact, the Black Lives Matter movement was started by African American women. Filmmakers need to be more mindful of how black women are depicted in movies like “Emergency,” because these filmmakers can be guilty of the same sidelining of black women that happens in so-called “racially insensitive” and “racist” movies.
Despite these flaws in the movie, “Emergency” skillfully blends comedy with some of the serious issues presented in the film. The cast members also elevate the material, which could have been mishandled if the cast members weren’t talented. Sean is the flashiest character in “Emergency,” but the movie wants audiences to pay the most attention to Kunle’s perspective and how Kunle is affected by what he goes through in this story.
Amazon Studios will release “Emergency” in select U.S. cinemas and on Prime Video on dates to be announced.
Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional city of Ruby Hill, New Jersey, and briefly in Los Angeles, the comedy/drama film “India Sweets and Spices” features a cast of characters of Indian heritage representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: While on a summer break after her first year in college, a young upper-middle-class woman has some clashes with her parents, including her parents not approving of her working-class boyfriend, and how she’s affected when she finds out her parents’ biggest secrets.
Culture Audience: “India Sweets and Spices” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching appealing but not particularly outstanding movies about Indian American culture.
As a blend of a romantic comedy and a family drama, “India Sweets and Spices” can be somewhat erratic in its tone and pacing. The second half of the movie is much better than the first half. It’s ultimately a charming story about a young woman finding her identity and coming to terms with how family baggage and family traditions affect her life. Written and directed by Geeta Malik, “India Sweets and Spices” benefits from having an engaging cast that can hold viewers’ interest, even when certain parts of the movie start to drag into a predictable formula.
Fortunately, there are some surprises in “India Sweets and Spices,” but they don’t come until the last half of the movie. The first half of the film gives the impression that’s it’s going to be a typical romantic comedy about a young woman who defies her parents’ wishes, by dating someone from a family that’s looked down on by her parents. In the second half of the movie, her parents’ secrets lead to the more dramatic parts of the story, which at times resembles a soap opera. “India Sweets and Spices” had its world premiere at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.
In the beginning of “India Sweets and Spices,” Alia Kapur (played by Sophia Ali) has just completed her freshman year at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and is about to go on a summer break. Her last party on campus before her vacation is a “social justice social,” which is the type of party she’s been going to on a regular basis. Alia gets drunk at the party and impulsively cuts her long hair into a mid-length bob.
Alia has already declared biology has her major. It seems that she’s planning to be a scientist or medical doctor, which would be a profession that her parents would approve of, since her father Ranjit Kapur (played by Adil Hussain) is a heart surgeon. Alia’s mother Sheila Kapur (played by Manisha Koirala) is a traditional homemaker. Alia has two siblings: sister Jiya Kapur (played by Rhea Patil) is about 13 or 14 years old, while brother Sahil Kapur (Ansh Nayak) is about 10 or 11 years old. Alia and her siblings were born in the United States, while their parents were born in India and immigrated to the U.S. not long after they got married.
The Kapur family lives in an upper-middle-class home in the fictional city of Ruby Hill, New Jersey. (“India Sweets and Spices” was actually filmed in Atlanta.) Alia is spending her vacation at her parents’ home. She’s looking forward to a summer of being free from school and hanging out with her childhood best friend Neha Bhatia (played by Anita Kalathara), who is a loyal and cheerful pal. However, since Alia and Neha follow their family traditions, they know they have to spend a lot of time at their parents’ social gatherings. These parties often take place at the Kapur family home.
Only other upper-middle-class or wealthy Indians in the area are invited to these parties. It soon becomes clear in the movie that these soirees are excuses for many of the party attendees to show off, brag about their lives, and gossip. Alia’s parents are extremely status-conscious and love to give the impression that they’re highly intellectual and cultured. As an example of their pretentiousness, there’s a scene later in the movie where Alia and her love interest are in the library of the Kapur family home, and she shows him that some of the “intellectual” books on the bookshelves are really just empty façades.
Alia’s love interest is Varun Dutta (played by Rish Shah), who works in his parents’ local convenience store that carries a lot of Southeast Asian food. The name of the store is India Sweets and Spices. Alia happens to go in the store one day to buy some biscuits for her family’s upcoming house party. The movie has a rom-com contrivance of Alia seeing Varun and being so instantly attracted him, she gets flustered and buys more biscuits than she needs.
Alia and Varun have their “meet cute” moment when they lock eyes and they strike up a flirty conversation. (In a self-deprecating nod to predictable “meet cute” moments in romantic comedies, the movie even has a wind-flowing-through-hair effect and angel sounds when Alia first sees Varun.) Alia tells Varun that she’s on a summer break from UCLA. And what a coincidence: Varun mentions that he’s completed community college and will be transferring to UCLA later that year when school starts again in the fall.
During this conversation, Alia also meets Varun’s parents—father Kamlesh Dutta (played by Kamran Shaikh) and mother Bhairavi “Peru” Dutta (played by Deepti Gupta)—and Varun’s sister Puja Dutta (played by Jia Patel), who’s about 12 or 13, and who helps out in the family store. Alia finds out that the Dutta family recently moved to the area. The entire family is friendly, so Alia impulsively invites Varun and his parents to her family’s house party. They happily accept the invitation.
Not everyone is happy about this invitation. Alia’s mother Sheila, who is a very uptight snob, is annoyed that this working-class family was invited to the party without Sheila being consulted first. And sure enough, when the Dutta family arrives, Sheila and her husband Ranjit treat the Duttas somewhat dismissively. And so do many other people at party, when they find out that the Duttas make their living by owning a convenience store.
The Duttas graciously brought food to the party as a gift, but Sheila turns her nose up that too, because the food is in a plastic Tupperware container instead of a more upscale container. Sheila is also somewhat annoyed by the gift because she sees herself as a socialite who doesn’t host parties where guests don’t need to bring their own food and drinks. As Alia tells Varun later, Sheila is the type of person who looks down on anyone who isn’t wearing designer clothes. When Alia and Varun go upstairs to an empty room to make out with each other, they see something that turns Alia’s world upside down. It’s her father’s big secret.
Alia’s parents make it clear to Alia that they think it’s more appropriate that she date someone who can afford to pay for the privileged lifestyle in which Alia has been raised. The parents think an ideal match would be Rahul Singh (played by Ved Sapru), the son of their longtime friends Gurvinder Singh (played by Raj Kala) and Uma Singh (played by Priya Deva), who apparently have more money than the Kapur family. Alia and Rahul have known each other since childhood, but there aren’t any real romantic sparks between them. Rahul, who’s a student at Duke University, can be conceited and arrogant, but he’s not a complete jerk.
Even though Alia’s parents think that the Dutta family isn’t good enough to be in their social circle, Alia has a mind of her own and starts dating Varun anyway. As Varun and Alia get to know each other, and their feelings for each other grow stronger, they find out that their parents had very different courtships. Alia’s parents had an arranged marriage, while Varun’s parents married for love and of their own free will.
The differences between these two sets of parents cause tensions between the two families, mainly because Alia’s parents treat Varun and his family as if they’re second-class citizens. It’s not quite a “Romeo and Juliet” story, because there are other complications besides family disapproval of a romance. It turns out that when Varun’s mother Bhairavi saw Alia’s mother Sheila at the party, Bhairavi immediately recognized Sheila as a former friend she knew when they were students at Delhi University. Bhairavi hugged Sheila, who responded in a standoffish way and pretended not to know Bhairavi.
Eventually, Sheila admits that she and Bhairavi knew each other, but Sheila says she’s a different person now. How different? When she was in college, Sheila was a progressive feminist who formed a women’s rights activist group with some other female students. Bhairavi was one of those students. (This isn’t spoiler information because it’s already revealed in the movie’s trailer.)
Alia, who considers herself to be a liberal feminist, is shocked to find out that her mother used to be a liberal feminist too when Sheila was Alia’s age. Sheila has completely opposite beliefs now. What happened to make Sheila change so drastically? That’s the secret that Sheila doesn’t want a lot of people to know.
“India Sweets and Spices” is by no means a boring movie, but it seems like writer/director Malik tried to cram in too many ideas that sometimes don’t flow too well together. The first half of the movie is almost like a breezy, lightweight comedy about Alia and Kapur’s budding romance, but the second half takes a very different and much more serious tone as Sheila has to deal with the secrets that she finds out about both of her parents. Both of these secrets will have negative effects on their parents’ reputations if these secrets are revealed to the people in their stuck-up and judgmental social circle.
The movie takes an interesting look at how upwardly mobile immigrant families in the United States can act to assimilate into American culture and achieve the American Dream. Alia’s family represents the toxicity of what can happen when any family puts too much emphasis on appearances and wealth and not on being genuine and compassionate human beings. Alia thinks she’s not like her image-conscious and materialistic parents, but there’s some friction in her relationship with Varun when he points out to Alia the ways in which she behaves like an elitist snob.
All of the cast members are convincing in their roles, but Ali as Alia and Koirala as Sheila are the ones who get to show the most acting range. That’s because Alia and Sheila are the ones who have the most depth to their personalities in this movie. Even though “India Sweets and Spices” does have a boyfriend-girlfriend romance as a big part of the story, the mother-daughter relationship is ultimately the one that has the most impact and will be remembered by viewers the most.
Bleecker Street released “India Sweets and Spices” in select U.S. cinemas on November 19, 2021, and on digital and VOD on December 7, 2021.
Culture Representation: Taking place in Shiraz, Iran, the dramatic film “A Hero” features an all-Middle-Eastern cast of characters representing the middle-class and working-class.
Culture Clash: While on a brief leave of absence from his prison sentence, a man with a history of being a chronic liar returns a lost purse filled with valuable coins, and he’s praised as a hero, but then he finds himself involved in a web of lies and mistrust.
Culture Audience: “A Hero” will appeal mainly to people who are fans of writer/director Asghar Farhadi and movies that have incisive commentaries on how media and public opinions can play influential roles in people’s images and reputations.
Can someone with a reputation of being unreliable and dishonest be redeemed by doing a single act of kindness? That’s a question posed throughout the suspenseful drama “A Hero,” which has very realistic depictions of themes exploring how media and public opinions can shape how someone in the public eye can be perceived. Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, the movie takes place in Shiraz, Iran, in a culture that places an extremely high value on honor that individuals can bring to themselves and their families. That’s why the stakes are so high for the troubled protagonist who finds his attempt to clean up his reputation go awry after he does what he thinks is a good dead that will redeem him.
“A Hero” had its world premiere at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prix Prize. The movie was selected as Iran’s entry for the Best International Feature Film category for the 2022 Academy Awards. “A Hero,” which clocks in at 127 minutes, starts off a little slowly, but then it picks up its pace and becomes more intriguing about 45 minutes into the movie. It goes from being a drama about a prisoner in a family feud into a mystery thriller involving several members of the community.
The movie’s protagonist is Rahim Soltani (played by Amir Jadidi), a divorced father who’s been sentenced to prison for an unpaid debt of 150,000 tomans, which would be about $17,000 in U.S. dollars in the early 2020s, when this story takes place. Rahim owes the money to a businessman named Bahram (played by Mohsen Tanabandeh), who happens to be the brother-in-law of Rahim’s ex-wife. The ex-wife is never seen in the movie, and her name is never mentioned, although she is occasionally talked about by the people in the story.
Rahim, who has lived in Shiraz his entire life, has a prison sentence that allows him to leave the facility for a few days at a time, as long as he reports back to the prison to complete his sentence. The movie opens with Rahim going on an authorized two-day leave from the prison. What happens during those two days causes a chain of events that creates even more chaos in his life.
At first, Rahim seems to be in good spirits when he leaves the prison. He carries himself with the air of a good-looking charmer, who’s quick to dazzle people with his friendly ways and charismatic smile. But as time goes on, there are signs that Rahim has a dark side that’s he’s been trying to leave behind—or at least make people think he’s turned his life around into being a responsible and honest person.
The first person whom Rahim visits during this prison leave is Hossein (played by Alireza Jahandideh), Rahim’s friendly brother-in-law, who is married to Rahim’s sister Malileh (played by Maryam Shahdaei), a nurturing homemaker who has some health problems, such as neck pain and arthritis. Hossein works at a construction site that is renovating the Tomb of Xerxes. Rahim has enlisted Hossein’s help in trying to work out a payment plan with Bahram to erase the debt.
Rahim’s occupation before he went to prison and why he owes 150,000 tomans aren’t revealed until nearly halfway through the movie. He used to be a sign painter and a calligrapher, but business in those areas declined with the rise of do-it-yourself online graphic design. Rahim borrowed the money from Bahram to start his own business.
Rahim confidently tells Hossein how he can start paying off the debt, “I can have 75,000 tomans. Someone will give it to me. It’s not a loan.” Rahim will only say that he’s getting the money from “a friend,” but he won’t say who that friend is.
That’s where Rahim’s very loyal girlfriend Farkhondeh (played by Sahar Goldoust) comes into the picture. After leaving the construction site, Rahim goes to pick up Farkhondeh in his truck. Farkhondeh, who is elated to see Rahim, has a black purse containing some gold coins, which she and Rahim try to sell at a pawn shop. However, the shop dealer makes a calculation offer that Rahim and Farkhondeh know is too low for the types of coins that they have, so they leave the shop without making a sale.
Before Rahim and Hossein discuss this possible payment plan with Bahram, they stop off at the home of Hossein and Malileh, where Rahim will be staying before he goes back to prison. Malileh and Hossein live in the home with their two children—daughter Negar (who’s about 10 or 11 years old) and son Nima (who’s about 7 or 8 years old)—and Rahim’s son Siavesh (played by Saleh Karimaei), who’s about 12 or 13 years old. The movie doesn’t clearly explain the custody arrangement that Rahim has with his ex-wife for Siavesh, who is Rahim’s only child. However, the the movie implies that the ex-wife still has contact with Siavesh, because he told Negar that his mother recently accepted a marriage proposal.
In the beginning of the movie, Rahim’s relationship with Siavesh is strained and distant. Siavesh is the only one in the household who doesn’t seems happy to see Rahim during this brief visit. Siavesh has a speech impediment that causes him to stutter and makes it difficult for him to articulate words. It’s also mentioned that Siavesh has recently gotten into a fight at school. It’s easy to speculate that Siavesh, who is quiet and emotionally withdrawn, could be bullied at school because of his speech impediment.
The lack of good communication between Rahim and Siavesh isn’t really about Siavesh’s speech impediment. It has more to do with Siavesh’s lack of trust in Rahim. Through various conversations, it’s revealed that Rahim has constantly let down the people who are closest to him. Later in the movie, when Rahim is asked about why he got divorced, he’s purposely vague and says that he and his ex-wife just didn’t get along with each other. However, Rahim’s unpaid debt to Bahram certainly didn’t help matters, since it’s caused bad blood between Rahim and his ex-wife’s side of the family.
Rahim says he’s trying to make things right by paying off the debt, which is why he wants to work out a payment plan with Bahram, who was the one who pressed charges to have Rahim arrested for non-payment of the debt. Bahram owns a copy/print shop in the area that is managed by his bachelorette daughter Nazanin (played by Sarina Farhadi), who doesn’t look pleased to see Rahim and Hossein when they show up unannounced to try to talk to Bahram. At one point in the movie, Bahram bitterly says that he had to use Nazanin’s dowry to cover the money he lost in the loan to Rahim.
Bahram isn’t at the shop, so Hossein (who acts as a mediator) insists that Nazanin get Bahram on the phone. During this phone conversation, Hossein tells Bahram that Rahim is willing to immediately pay 70,000 tomans as down payment for the debt. Bahram is extremely skeptical that Rahim has the money. “The jerk is lying,” Bahram angrily says. “Why should you expect me to trust him? He let down his family. He deserves no favor.”
After some arguing back and forth, Bahram reluctantly agrees to a tentative payment plan where Hossein will give Bahram bond checks, and Rahim will then play 7,500 tomans a month until the debt is paid off. Rahim insists he really can get about 70,000 tomans in cash. Where is he going to get the money?
It’s eventually revealed that Farkhondeh doesn’t actually own the purse with the gold coins. Farkhondeh found the purse and coins on the street, she told Rahim about this discovery, and Rahim concocted a plan to sell the coins to get some easy cash to start paying off his debt. Farkhondeh and Rahim are very much in love, and he plans to marry her someday. But for now, Rahim will be unemployed and without his own place to live when he gets out of prison. He seems to want to turn his life around and prove that he can be a responsible provider before he commits to another marriage.
With a failed attempt to sell the coins and time running out before he has to report back to prison, Rahim then comes up with the idea to come forward and report that the purse was found, with the hope that the owner will offer a reward. He goes to the bank that is near where Farkhondeh found the purse, to ask if anyone was looking for the purse at the bank. However, the bank officials say that no one inquired about the purse, but they suggest they he make flyers advertising the found purse.
The bank officials let Rahim use their copy supplies to make the flyers, which he posts in various locations around the area. Rahim doesn’t have his own cell phone. Instead of putting his sister’s phone number on the flyers, he puts the phone number of the prison. It’s a choice that he will later regret.
When his leave time ends, Rahim reports back to prison, where he and some other prisoners are given the task of wallpapering a room. His supervisor on the job is Mrs. Marvasti (played by Parisa Khajehdehi), who gets a call from a woman claiming to be the owner of the purse, and the woman asks to speak to Rahim. Rahim explains to Mrs. Marvasti what happened and that he put the prison phone number on the flyers. Mrs. Marvasti is very annoyed and tells him never to give out the prison phone number to anyone again.
Rahim is allowed to take the call from the mystery woman, who correctly answers his questions about the contents of the purse. Rahim explains that he’s in prison but that he left the purse and its contents with his sister and brother-in-law. He gives the woman the address and his sister’s phone number.
The woman (played by Fatemeh Tavakoli) who shows up to claim the purse and coins is tearful and expresses gratitude that her purse was found and that all its contents returned to her. Her visit is during the day, when Malileh and Siavesh are the only ones at home. (It’s implied that Siavesh isn’t in school because of his recent fight.)
The woman explains that she found out she lost the purse in between bus stops, and that she doesn’t want her husband to know that she lost the coins. The woman insists on giving a small cash reward for the return of the purse and coins. Malileh repeatedly declines the offer and finally accepts it when the woman says she’s giving the reward money to Siavesh.
The prison officials find out from Mrs. Marvasti about Rahim’s act of kindness in having the purse and gold coins returned to the woman who came forward and claimed these items. They ask Rahim for more information, and it’s enough for them to want to take the story to the media. Two prison officials in particular—prison warden Mr. Salehpoor (played by Mohammad Aghebati) and prison chief of cultural activities Salehi Taheri (played by Farrokh Nourbakht)—immediately arrange for a newspaper and a national TV network to interview Rahim.
Salehi has a closer relationship to Rahim than Mr. Salehpoor does, so Rahim confides in Salehi that he didn’t actually find the purse and coins but his girlfriend did. Rahim also says that, for personal reasons, he would rather not reveal his girlfriend’s identity because some people in his family don’t know yet that he’s dating her. Salehi says it doesn’t matter who found the purse and coins because Rahim was the one who distributed the flyers and arranged for purse and coins to be returned to the rightful owner. Salehi tells Rahim that it will be okay for Rahim to take all the credit without mentioning his girlfriend.
It isn’t long before Rahim becomes a local celebrity because of the media coverage. He’s praised for being a hero and treated like a hero by many people, ranging from his immediate family to complete strangers. In his interviews, he admits that he originally planned to sell the coins, but he changed his mind when he prayed about it. He says that the botched sale attempt was a sign from God that selling the coins wasn’t the right thing to do.
A local woman named Mrs. Radmehr (played by Fereshteh Sadre Orafaiy) heads the Mehrpooyan Charity Association, a religious group that helps prisoners in need. She arranges a ceremony where Rahim is honored and where she announces that a local council has offered Rahim a job in its administration when his prison sentence ends. In addition, the charity launches a fundraising initiative to help Rahim pay off his debt. The fundraising immediately gets about 30,000 tomans in donations, with more money pouring in from the public.
Not everyone is impressed with Rahim’s new “hero” status. A hostile prisoner (played by Amir Amiri) outright accuses Rahim of colluding with prison officials to fabricate the story, so that the prison could get some good publicity after the recent scandal of a prisoner committing suicide. Rahim denies that the story is a lie, and he refuses the other prisoner’s challenge to get in a physical fight over it. However, the prison is so pleased with all the good PR that the story has generated, Rahim is allowed another prison leave so that he can arrange to pay off his debt with the money that was raised for him, as well as interview for the job that was offered to him.
Bahram is very skeptical that Rahim’s story is true, and he openly expresses his doubt in a meeting with Rahim, Hossein, Mrs. Radmehr and other charity officials, who try to get Bahram to accept the fundraising money to pay off Rahim’s debt. Bahram tells everyone who will listen that Rahim is a habitual liar. Bahram thinks that Rahim doesn’t deserve the charity money that was raised for Rahim because Bahram says that Rahim shouldn’t be rewarded with money for doing what any decent human being would do.
But the biggest stumbling block for Rahim in his road to redemption is when he goes to interview for the job at the local council. The human resources director Mr. Nadeali (played by Ehsan Goodarzi) says the job won’t be offered until Rahim’s story checks out as true. He asks Rahim to have the woman who claimed the purse and coins to come to the office to verify that she’s the rightful owner. The problem is that Rahim doesn’t know her name, and neither does Malileh or Siavish, who didn’t ask for the woman’s name or contact information when she went to the home.
Meanwhile, rumors are being spread on social media that Rahim made up the entire story. The rest of the movie is a rollercoaster ride as Rahim tries to find the mystery woman and prove that he’s not involved in a con game. Rahim ends up having to be his own private investigator in a race against time before has to spend his last few days in prison. He gets some help from Farkhondeh, his family members and other members of the community, but will that be enough? Not all of the questions posed in the movie are answered.
Although “A Hero” has plenty of tension and very good acting performances, the movie does suffer a bit from some plot holes. First, with all the media coverage of Rahim’s story, it’s highly unlikely that journalists wouldn’t first try to find the woman who claimed to be the owner of the purse and coins, before making Rahim into a hero. Most journalists covering the story would at least need her name, in order for the story to check out and be reported accurately. In other words, the movie kind of gets it wrong about the fact checking needed before a story like this could be reported as real by legitimate media.
Second, during his investigation, Rahim is able to obtain a surveillance camera photo of the mystery woman, but he doesn’t use any media coverage (on social media or traditional media) to try and find her. He just shows the picture to some people in the area, who say they don’t recognize her. It’s a pretty big plot hole, considering that media coverage is a major part of the movie, in terms of how Rahim’s reputation is being handled.
Third, everyone puts the burden and blame on Rahim for not getting this woman’s name, when he wasn’t the one who gave the items back to her, and he wasn’t the one who sought media attention for this good deed. The media failed to do due diligence in checking out the story, and so did the prison officials who eagerly took the story to the media. The pile-on of shame that Rahim gets in the movie seems overly contrived for the sake of drama, when any viewer can see he didn’t plan the media coverage that he ended up getting.
Still, there are some aspects about the story that make the movie very compelling to watch. Because of the clues that Rahim uncovers, he starts to believe that this mystery woman was involved in some kind of set-ap against Rahim, and she doesn’t want to be found. For example, there was no ID in the purse, and she purposely used strangers’ cell phones to make her calls about the purse.
The movie drops some big hints over who could have been behind this set-up. But does this conspiracy theory turn out to be true, and does anyone get caught for it? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out. “A Hero” doesn’t portray Rahim as a totally innocent victim, because he makes decisions that are foolish, dishonest and self-destructive. Even though he has a charming side, Rahim also has a nasty temper that can turn violent.
One of the things that’s very noticeable about “A Hero” is that this “hero” actually needs rescuing more than a few times by his girlfriend. Without going into too many details, it’s enough to say that Farkhondeh does whatever it takes to help Rahim, whom she describes as the love of her life and the only person who makes her happy. And exactly who is Farkhondeh?
The movie gives some context over why Farkhondeh, who is 37, is willing to risk everything in her life for Rahim. In a patriarchal nation where a never-married, 37-year-old woman with no kids is considered a hopeless “old maid,” Farkhondeh is living with this societal stigma. She doesn’t have a home of her own. If she has a job, it’s never mentioned in the movie. The only times that Farkhondeh is shown in the movie is in the context of her relationship with Rahim.
Farkhondeh lives with her very domineering brother Morteza (played by Mohammad Jamalledini) and his wife. Farkhondeh has to ask for his permission for Rahim to meet Morteza, who doesn’t approve of Rahim being a divorced, unemployed father with a prison record. Morteza changes his mind about Rahim being a loser when he sees the media coverage of Rahim’s “good deed.”
Still, Morteza warns Farkhondeh not to come crying to him when Rahim breaks her heart. And when Rahim’s credibility about the “good deed” begins to be publicly doubted, Morteza begins to think that his first thoughts about Rahim being a con artist just might be true. Despite getting a lot of criticism from Morteza about her choice in Rahim as a partner, Farkhondeh has a feisty streak that doesn’t put up with any insults that Morteza throws her way.
Another interesting aspect of “A Hero” is how the relationship evolves between Rahim and his son Siavesh. In the beginning of the movie, Rahim almost treats Saivesh like an embarrassment to the family, while Siavesh treats Rahim like a deadbeat dad. When Rahim becomes a public “hero,” Siavesh begins to respect Rahim, and they become closer.
But the true test of their relationship is when Rahim gets some public backlash after his story is doubted. That’s when Rahim begins to understand what Siavesh must feel like to be treated like a misunderstood outsider. In the last third of the movie, there’s a very powerful scene where Rahim’s protective side as a father comes out when he sees how Siavesh is being mistreated by someone.
The relationships that Rahim has with Siavesh and with Farkhondeh are the emotional centers of the movie. And that’s why, as riveting as Jadidi’s performance is as Rahim, it’s made all the more poignant because of the convincing performances of Karimaei as Siavesh and Goldoust as Farkhondeh. Without them, Rahim’s motives would appear to be entirely selfish in fighting for his integrity and reputation.
“A Hero” also has some nuanced storytelling about society’s tendency to make people sudden stars and then want to tear them down just as quickly. There’s a level of unrealistic “perfection” that many people in the public eye are expected to have. Any signs of flaws or mistakes made as a “celebrity” can result in public shaming and attempts to “cancel” the person and relegate that person back to obscurity.
The movie leaves open-ended questions for audiences to ponder, such as: “Who is worthy of this type of accelerated vaulting into ‘hero’ status? How should they be vetted? And what types of mistakes or misdeeds of these public heroes should be forgiven and when?” Despite some flaws in the plot of “A Hero,” writer/director Farhadi skillfully weaves these questions into the story in a way that will have audiences thinking about these questions long after the movie is over.
Amazon Studios released “A Hero” in select U.S. cinemas on January 7, 2022. Prime Video will premiere the movie on January 21, 2022.
[Editor’s note: Netflix’s Western action film “The Harder They Fall” is the leading contender, with 12 nominations.]
The following is a press release from the NAACP:
Today, the full list of nominees for the “53rd NAACP Image Awards” were announced in a special virtual event on NAACP’s Instagram channel hosted by actress and musician Kyla Pratt, “Black-ish” actor Marcus Scribner and singer-songwriter Tinashe. The winners will be revealed during the two-hour LIVE TV special, which will be hosted by seven-time NAACP Image Awards Winner Anthony Anderson, airing Saturday, February 26, 2022 at 8:00 PM ET/PT on BET.
BET and the NAACP place the health and safety of attendees, staff, vendors, and partners first. Due to the ever-changing developments with COVID-19 and variants, the powerful night in Black excellence will continue to move forward without an in-person audience in a not-to-be-missed event.
Netflix leads nominations across motion picture and television + streaming categories. Insecure received the most nominations in the television + streaming categories. H.E.R. received the most nominations in the music recording categories. RCA Records received the most nominations across record labels. Amistad leads nominations across literary categories.
“We are thrilled to recognize this year’s nominees, who have all brought dynamic, entertaining, and thought provoking content to our attention through their incredible work in film, television, music and more,” said Chairman, Image Awards Committee, Karen Boykin-Towns.
“The BET team is immensely proud to continue our partnership with the NAACP and the annual Image Awards, underpinning our longstanding legacy of celebrating Black Excellence,” said Scott Mills, BET President, and CEO. “It is an extraordinary privilege to provide our unparalleled platforms to recognize the vast contributions of Black creators, in a way that only BET, and NAACP can.”
Recognized as the nation’s preeminent multicultural awards show from an African-American perspective, the “53rd NAACP Image Awards” celebrates the outstanding achievements and performances of people of color across more than 80 competitive categories spanning film, television + streaming, music, literature, and podcasts. The “53rd NAACP Image Awards” will also include four new podcast categories: Outstanding News and Information Podcast; Outstanding Lifestyle / Self-Help Podcast; Outstanding Society and Culture Podcast; and Outstanding Arts and Entertainment Podcast. The “53rd NAACP Image Awards” are presented by Wells Fargo and sponsored by AT&T, Google, T-Mobile, Bank of America, General Mills, FedEx, and Airbnb.
One of the most iconic annual celebrations of Black excellence, the NAACP Image Awards draws the biggest and brightest stars in Hollywood. Previous years’ attendees and winners include Michelle Obama, Rihanna, Lizzo, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Michael B. Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Jamie Foxx, Chloe x Halle, Regé-Jean Page, Michaela Coel, Cliff “Method Man” Smith, Blair Underwood, Will Smith, Samuel L. Jackson, Taraji P. Henson, Marsai Martin, Viola Davis, Gabrielle Union, Kerry Washington, Anthony Anderson, Sterling K. Brown, Loni Love, Sheryl Underwood, Mandy Moore, Halle Berry, Common, Dwayne Johnson, Audra Day, John Legend, Lena Waithe, Tracee Ellis Ross, David Oyelowo, Laverne Cox, Octavia Spencer, Issa Rae, Trevor Noah, Regina King, Yara Shahidi, Danai Gurira, Jacob Latimore, Jill Scott, H.E.R., Jay Pharoah, Jemele Hill, Josh Gad, Loretta Devine, Tracy Morgan, Sylvester Stallone, Meta Golding, Michael Smith, Tyler James Williams, Ava DuVernay, the late Chadwick Boseman, Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz, Lin-Mnuel Miranda, Stephen Curry, Stacey Abrams, Mary J. Blige, Andra Day, Arsenio Hall, Leslie Jones, Susan Kelechi Watson, Madalen Mills and many more.
Voting is now open to the public to determine the winners of the “53rd NAACP Image Awards” by visiting www.naacpimageawards.net – Voting closes on February 5, 2022. Winners will be revealed during the “53rd NAACP Image Awards” telecast on February 26, 2022, on BET. NAACP will also recognize winners in non-televised Image Awards categories February 21-25, which will stream on www.naacpimageawards.net. For all information and the latest news, please follow NAACP Image Awards on Instagram @NAACPImageAwards.
Internationally, the show will air on BET Africa at 20:00 CAT on February 27, followed by BET France on March 2 at 8:45 pm CEST. The show will also be available to watch on My5 and Sky On-Demand in the UK beginning March 1.
Entertainer of the Year Jennifer Hudson Lil Nas X Megan Thee Stallion Regina King Tiffany Haddish
Outstanding Motion Picture “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros. Pictures) “King Richard” (Warner Bros. Pictures) “Respect” (Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures/United Artists Releasing) “The Harder They Fall” (Netflix) “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” (Hulu)
Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture Denzel Washington – “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (Apple TV+ / A24) Jonathan Majors – “The Harder They Fall” (Netflix) LaKeith Stanfield – “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros. Pictures) Mahershala Ali – “Swan Song” (Apple TV+) Will Smith – “King Richard” (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Andra Day – “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” (Hulu) Halle Berry – “Bruised” (Netflix) Jennifer Hudson – “Respect” (Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures/United Artists Releasing) Tessa Thompson – “Passing” (Netflix) Zendaya – “Malcolm & Marie” (Netflix)
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Algee Smith – “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros. Pictures) Daniel Kaluuya – “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros. Pictures) Delroy Lindo – “The Harder They Fall” (Netflix) Idris Elba – “The Harder They Fall” (Netflix) LaKeith Stanfield – “The Harder They Fall” (Netflix)
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Aunjanue Ellis – “King Richard” (Warner Bros. Pictures) Audra McDonald – “Respect” (Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures/United Artists Releasing) Danielle Deadwyler – “The Harder They Fall” (Netflix) Dominique Fishback – “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros. Pictures) Regina King – “The Harder They Fall” (Netflix)
Outstanding International Motion Picture “7 Prisoners” (Netflix) “African America” (Netflix) “Eyimofe (This is My Desire)” (Janus Films) “Flee” (Neon / Participant) “The Gravedigger’s Wife” (Orange Studio)
Outstanding Breakthrough Performance in a Motion Picture Ariana DeBose – “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios) Danny Boyd, Jr. – “Bruised” (Netflix) Jalon Christian – “A Journal for Jordan” (Columbia Pictures) Lonnie Chavis – “The Water Man” (RLJE Films) Sheila Atim – “Bruised” (Netflix)
Outstanding Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture “Coming 2 America” (Paramount Releasing/Amazon Studios) “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros. Pictures) “King Richard” (Warner Bros. Pictures) “Respect” (Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures/United Artists Releasing) “The Harder They Fall” (Netflix)
Outstanding Animated Motion Picture “Encanto” (Walt Disney Studios) “Luca” (Walt Disney Studios) “Raya and the Last Dragon” (Walt Disney Studios) “Sing 2” (Universal Pictures) “Vivo” (Netflix)
Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance – Motion Picture Andre Braugher – “Spirit Untamed” (Universal Pictures) Awkwafina – “Raya and the Last Dragon” (Walt Disney Studios) Brian Tyree Henry – “Vivo” (Netflix) Eric André – “Sing 2” (Universal Pictures) Letitia Wright – “Sing 2” (Universal Pictures)
Outstanding Short-Form (Live Action) “Aurinko in Adagio” (Universal Pictures) “Blackout” (Netflix) “The Ice Cream Stop” (Walt Disney Studios) “These Final Hours” (Universal Pictures) “When The Sun Sets (Lakutshon’ Ilanga)” (Universal Pictures)
Outstanding Breakthrough Creative (Motion Picture) Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson – “Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” (Searchlight Pictures / Hulu) Jamila Wignot – “Ailey” (Neon) Jeymes Samuel – “The Harder They Fall” (Netflix) Liesl Tommy – “Respect” (Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures/United Artists Releasing) Rebecca Hall – “Passing” (Netflix)
Outstanding Comedy Series “black-ish” (ABC) “Harlem” (Amazon Studios) “Insecure” (HBO) “Run the World” (Starz) “The Upshaws” (Netflix)
Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series Anthony Anderson – “black-ish” (ABC) Cedric the Entertainer – “The Neighborhood” (CBS) Don Cheadle – “Black Monday” (Showtime) Elisha ‘EJ’ Williams – “The Wonder Years” (ABC) Jay Ellis – “Insecure” (HBO)
Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series Issa Rae – “Insecure” (HBO) Loretta Devine – “Family Reunion” (Netflix) Regina Hall – “Black Monday” (Showtime) Tracee Ellis Ross – “black-ish” (ABC) Yvonne Orji – “Insecure” (HBO)
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Andre Braugher – “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (NBC) Deon Cole – “black-ish” (ABC) Kenan Thompson – “Saturday Night Live” (NBC) Kendrick Sampson – “Insecure” (HBO) Laurence Fishburne – “black-ish” (ABC)
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Amanda Seales – “Insecure” (HBO) Jenifer Lewis – “black-ish” (ABC) Marsai Martin – “black-ish” (ABC) Natasha Rothwell – “Insecure” (HBO) Wanda Sykes – “The Upshaws” (Netflix)
Outstanding Drama Series “9-1-1” (FOX) “All American” (The CW) “Godfather of Harlem” (EPIX) “Pose” (FX Network) “Queen Sugar” (OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network)
Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series Billy Porter – “Pose” (FX Network) Damson Idris – “Snowfall” (FX Network) Forest Whitaker – “Godfather of Harlem” (EPIX) Kofi Siriboe – “Queen Sugar” (OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network) Sterling K. Brown – “This is Us” (NBC)
Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series Angela Bassett – “9-1-1” (FOX) Dawn-Lyen Gardner – “Queen Sugar” (OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network) Octavia Spencer – “Truth Be Told” (Apple TV+) Queen Latifah – “The Equalizer” (CBS) Rutina Wesley – “Queen Sugar” (OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network)
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Alex R. Hibbert – “The Chi” (Showtime) Cliff “Method Man” Smith – “Power Book II: Ghost” (Starz) Daniel Ezra – “All American” (The CW) Giancarlo Esposito – “Godfather of Harlem” (EPIX) Joe Morton – “Our Kind of People” (FOX)
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Alfre Woodard – “SEE” (Apple TV+) Bianca Lawson – “Queen Sugar” (OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network) Chandra Wilson – “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC) Mary J. Blige – “Power Book II: Ghost” (Starz) Susan Kelechi Watson – “This is Us” (NBC)
Outstanding Television Movie, Limited-Series or Dramatic Special “Colin in Black & White” – (Netflix) “Genius: Aretha” – (National Geographic) “Love Life” – (HBO Max) “Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia” – (Lifetime) “The Underground Railroad” – (Amazon Studios)
Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Limited-Series or Dramatic Special Anthony Mackie – “Solos” (Amazon Studios) Jaden Michael – “Colin in Black & White” (Netflix) Kevin Hart – “True Story” (Netflix) Wesley Snipes – “True Story” (Netflix) William Jackson Harper – “Love Life” (HBO Max)
Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Limited-Series or Dramatic Special Betty Gabriel – “Clickbait” (Netflix) Cynthia Erivo – “Genius: Aretha” (National Geographic) Danielle Brooks – “Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia” (Lifetime) Jodie Turner-Smith – “Anne Boleyn” (AMC+) Taraji P. Henson – “Annie Live!” (NBC)
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Television Movie, Limited-Series or Dramatic Special Courtney B. Vance – “Genius: Aretha” (National Geographic) Keith David – “Black as Night” (Amazon Studios) Tituss Burgess – “Annie Live!” (NBC) Will Catlett – “True Story” (Netflix) William Jackson Harper – “The Underground Railroad” (Amazon Studios)
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Television Movie, Limited-Series or Dramatic Special Anika Noni Rose – “Maid” (Netflix) Natasha Rothwell – “The White Lotus” (HBO) Pauletta Washington – “Genius: Aretha” (National Geographic) Regina Hall – “Nine Perfect Strangers” (Hulu) Sheila Atim – “The Underground Railroad” (Amazon Studios)
Outstanding News/Information (Series or Special) “Blood on Black Wall Street: The Legacy of the Tulsa Massacre” (NBC) “NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt” (NBC) “Soul of a Nation” (ABC) “The Reidout” (MSNBC) “Unsung” (TV One)
Outstanding Talk Series “Desus & Mero” (Showtime) “Hart to Heart” (Peacock) “Red Table Talk” (Facebook Watch) “Tamron Hall” (Syndicated) “The Real” (Syndicated)
Outstanding Reality Program, Reality Competition or Game Show (Series) “Celebrity Family Feud” (ABC) “Iyanla: Fix My Life” (OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network) “Sweet Life: Los Angeles” (HBO Max) “The Voice” (NBC) “Wild ‘n Out” (VH1)
Outstanding Variety Show (Series or Special) “A Black Lady Sketch Show” (HBO) “BET Awards 2021” (BET) “Dave Chappelle: The Closer” (Netflix) “Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 3” (Amazon Studios) “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” (Comedy Central)
Outstanding Performance by a Youth (Series, Special, Television Movie or Limited-Series) Alayah “Lay Lay” High – “That Girl Lay Lay” (Nickelodeon) Celina Smith – “Annie Live!” (NBC) Elisha ‘EJ’ Williams – “The Wonder Years” (ABC) Eris Baker – “This Is Us” (NBC) Miles Brown – “black-ish” (ABC)
Outstanding Host in a Talk or News/Information (Series or Special) – Individual or Ensemble Joy Reid – “The Reidout” (MSNBC) Daniel “Desus Nice” Baker, Joel “The Kid Mero” Martinez – “Desus & Mero” (Showtime) Garcelle Beauvais, Adrienne Houghton, Loni Love, Jeannie Mai Jenkins – “The Real” (Syndicated) Jada Pinkett Smith, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, Willow Smith – “Red Table Talk” (Facebook Watch) LeBron James – “The Shop: Uninterrupted” (HBO)
Outstanding Host in a Reality/Reality Competition, Game Show or Variety (Series or Special) – Individual or Ensemble Alfonso Ribeiro – “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (ABC) Amber Ruffin – “The Amber Ruffin Show” (Peacock) Cedric the Entertainer – “73rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards” (CBS) Iyanla Vanzant – “Iyanla: Fix My Life” (OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network) Trevor Noah – “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” (Comedy Central)
Outstanding Guest Performance Alani “La La” Anthony – “The Chi” (Showtime) Christina Elmore – “Insecure” (HBO) Daniel Kaluuya – “Saturday Night Live” (NBC) Erika Alexander – “Run the World” (Starz) Maya Rudolph – “Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
Outstanding Animated Series “Big Mouth” (Netflix) “Peanut Headz: Black History Toonz” (Kweli TV) “Super Sema” (YouTube Originals) “We The People” (Netflix) “Yasuke” (Netflix)
Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance (Television) Angela Bassett – “Malika: The Lion Queen” (FOX) Billy Porter – “Fairfax” (Amazon Studios) Chris “Ludacris” Bridges – “Karma’s World” (Netflix) Cree Summer – “Rugrats” (Nickelodeon) Keke Palmer – “Big Mouth” (Netflix)
Outstanding Short Form Series – Comedy or Drama “Between the Scenes – The Daily Show” (Comedy Central) “Dark Humor” (Comedy Central / YouTube) “Della Mae (AspireTV) “The Disney Launchpad: Shorts Incubator” (Disney+) “Two Sides: Unfaithful” (Snapchat)
Outstanding Short Form Series or Special – Reality/Nonfiction “Life By The Horns” (Snapchat) “Memory Builds The Monument” (Fifth Ward CRC) “Widen the Screen: 8:46 Films” (BET) “Through Our Eyes: Shelter” (HBO Max) “Lynching Postcards: Token of a Great Day” (Paramount+)
Outstanding Breakthrough Creative (Television) Angel Kristi Williams – “Colin in Black & White” (Netflix) Cierra Glaude – “Queen Sugar” (OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network) Deborah Riley Draper – “The Legacy of Black Wall Street” (OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network) Halcyon Person – “Karma’s World” (Netflix) Quyen Tran – “Maid” (Netflix)
Outstanding New Artist Cynthia Erivo – “Ch. 1 Vs. 1” (Verve Records / UMG Recordings) Jimmie Allen – “Bettie James Gold Edition” (BBR Music Group) Saweetie – “Best Friend featuring Doja Cat” (ICY / Warner Records) Tems – “If Orange Was A Place” (RCA Records / Since ’93) Zoe Wees – “Girls Like Us” (Capitol Records)
Outstanding Male Artist Anthony Hamilton – “Love Is The New Black” (My Music Box LLC / BMG) Drake – “Way 2 Sexy” (Republic Records) Givēon – “Heartbreak Anniversary” (Epic Records) J. Cole – “The Off-Season” (Dreamville / Roc Nation) Lil Nas X – “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” (Columbia Records)
Outstanding Female Artist H.E.R. – “Back of My Mind” (RCA Records / MBK Entertainment) Ari Lennox – “Pressure” (Dreamville / Interscope Records) Beyoncé – “Be Alive” (Columbia Records / Parkwood) Chlöe – “Have Mercy” (Columbia Records / Parkwood) Jazmine Sullivan – “Heaux Tales” (RCA Records)
Outstanding Gospel/Christian Album “Anthems & Glory” – Todd Dulaney (MNRK Music Group) “Believe For It” – CeCe Winans (Pure Springs Gospel / Fair Trade Services / Red Alliance Media) “Jonny x Mali: Live in L.A.” – Jonathan McReynolds and Mali Music (Life Room Label LLC / K Approved Enterprises. Inc.) “Overcomer” – Tamela Mann (Tillymann Music Group) “Power” – Jason McGee & The Choir (My Block, Inc.)
Outstanding International Song “Essence” – Wizkid featuring Tems and Justin Bieber (RCA Records / Starboy / Sony Music International) “Peru” – Fireboy DML (YBNL Nation / Empire) “Somebody’s Son” – Tiwa Savage featuring Brandy (Motown) “Touch It” – KiDi (Lynx Entertainment / MadeInENY / Empire) “Understand” – Omah Lay (The KeyQaad / Sire Records)
Outstanding Music Video/Visual Album “Best Friend” – Saweetie featuring Doja Cat (ICY / Warner Records) “Essence” – Wizkid featuring Tems (RCA Records / Starboy / Sony Music International) “Fye Fye” – Tobe Nwigwe featuring Fat Nwigwe (Tobe Nwigwe, LLC) “Have Mercy” – Chlöe (Columbia Records / Parkwood) “Leave The Door Open” – Silk Sonic (Atlantic / Aftermath)
Outstanding Album “An Evening With Silk Sonic” – Silk Sonic (Atlantic / Aftermath) “Back of My Mind” – H.E.R. (RCA Records / MBK Entertainment) “Certified Lover Boy” – Drake (Republic Records) “Heaux Tales” – Jazmine Sullivan (RCA Records) “When It’s All Said and Done… Take Time” – Givēon (Epic Records)
Outstanding Soundtrack/Compilation Album “Coming 2 America (Amazon Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)” – Eddie Murphy, Craig Brewer, Kevin Misher, Randy Spendlove, Jeff Harleston, Brittney Ramsdell (Def Jam Recordings) “Judas and the Black Messiah (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)” – Mark Isham and Craig Harris (WaterTower Music) “Respect (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)” – Jason Michael Webb and Stephen Bray (Epic Records) “The Harder They Fall (The Motion Picture Soundtrack)” – JAY-Z and Jeymes Samuel (Geneva Club / Roc Nation Records, LLC) “The United States vs. Billie Holiday (Music from the Motion Picture)” – Salaam Remi, Andra Day, Raphael Saadiq, Warren “E” Felder, Downtown Trevor Brown (Warner Records)
Outstanding Gospel/Christian Song “Believe For It” – CeCe Winans (Pure Springs Gospel / Fair Trade Services / Red Alliance Media) “Help Me” – Tamela Mann featuring The Fellas (Tillymann Music Group) “Hold Us Together (Hope Mix)” – H.E.R. and Tauren Wells (RCA Records / Sony Music) “Overcome 2021” – Kirk Franklin (Fo Yo Soul / RCA Records ) “Time for Reparations” – Sounds of Blackness (Sounds of Blackness / Atomic K Records)
Outstanding Jazz Album – Instrumental “Forever…Jaz” – Jazmin Ghent (Independent Artist) “Love Languages” – Nathan Mitchell (ENM Music Group) “Somewhere Different” – Brandee Younger (Impulse! Records) “Sounds from the Ancestors” – Kenny Garrett (Mack Avenue Music Group) “The Magic of Now” – Orrin Evans (Smoke Sessions Records)
Outstanding Jazz Album – Vocal “Dear Love” – Jazzmeia Horn and Her Noble Force (Empress Legacy Records) “Generations” – The Baylor Project (Be A Light) “Ledisi Sings Nina” – Ledisi (Listen Back Entertainment / BMG) “Let There Be Love” – Freda Payne (Alain Franke Records) “SALSWING!” – Rubén Blades y Roberto Delgado & Orquesta (Rubén Blades Productions)
Outstanding Soul/R&B Song “Damage” – H.E.R. (RCA Records / MBK Entertainment) “Be Alive” – Beyoncé (Columbia Records / Parkwood) “Have Mercy” – Chlöe (Columbia Records / Parkwood) “Leave The Door Open” – Silk Sonic (Atlantic / Aftermath) “Pick Up Your Feelings” – Jazmine Sullivan (RCA Records)
Outstanding Hip Hop/Rap Song “Best Friend” – Saweetie featuring Doja Cat (ICY / Warner Records) “Fye Fye” – Tobe Nwigwe featuring Fat Nwigwe (Tobe Nwigwe, LLC) “Industry Baby” – Lil Nas X featuring Jack Harlow (Columbia Records) “My Life (with 21 Savage and Morray)” – J. Cole (Dreamville / Roc Nation) “Way 2 Sexy” – Drake (Republic Records)
Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration (Traditional) Anthony Hamilton featuring Jennifer Hudson – “Superstar” (My Music Box LLC / BMG) Chlöe x Halle – “Georgia on My Mind” (Columbia Records / Parkwood) Jazmine Sullivan featuring H.E.R. – “Girl Like Me” (RCA Records) Leela James featuring Anthony Hamilton – “Complicated (Remix)” (SheSangz Music, Inc. / BMG) Silk Sonic – “Leave the Door Open” (Atlantic / Aftermath)
Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration (Contemporary) Chris Brown featuring Young Thug, Future, Lil Durk and Latto – “Go Crazy (Remix)” (RCA Records) Doja Cat featuring SZA – “Kiss Me More” (RCA Records / Kemosabe Records) Drake featuring Future & Young Thug – “Way 2 Sexy” (Republic Records) H.E.R. featuring Chris Brown – “Come Through” (RCA Records / MBK Entertainment) Tobe Nwigwe featuring Fat Nwigwe – “Fye Fye” (Tobe Nwigwe, LLC)
Outstanding Documentary (Film) “Attica” (Showtime) “Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth to Power” (Greenwich Entertainment) “My Name Is Pauli Murray” (Amazon Studios) “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” (Searchlight Pictures / Hulu) “Tina” (HBO Documentary Films)
Outstanding Documentary (Television) “1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything” (Apple TV+) “American Masters: How It Feels to Be Free” (PBS) “Blood Brothers: Malcolm X & Muhammad Ali” (Netflix) “High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America” (Netflix) “Insecure” Documentary (HBO)
Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series Ashley Nicole Black – “Ted Lasso” – “Do the Right-est Thing” (Apple TV+) Issa Rae – “Insecure” -“Everything’s Gonna Be, Okay?!” (HBO) Leann Bowen – “Ted Lasso” – “Lavender” (Apple TV+) Maya Erskine – “Pen15” – “Blue in Green” (Hulu) Temi Wilkey – “Sex Education” – “Episode #3.6” (Netflix)
Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series Aurin Squire – “Evil” – “C Is For Cop” (Paramount+) Davita Scarlett – “The Good Fight” – “And the Firm Had Two Partners…” (Paramount+) Malcolm Spellman – “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” – “New World Order” (Disney+) Nkechi Okoro Carroll – “All American” – “Homecoming” (The CW) Steven Canals, Janet Mock, Our Lady J, Brad Falchuk, Ryan Murphy – “Pose” – “Series Finale” (FX Network)
Outstanding Writing in a Television Movie or Special Abdul Williams – “Salt-N-Pepa” (Lifetime Movie Network) Mario Miscione, Marcella Ochoa – “Madres” (Amazon Studios) Monique N. Matthew – “A Holiday in Harlem” (Hallmark Channel) Sameer Gardezi – “Hot Mess Holiday” (Comedy Central) Sherman Payne – “Black as Night” (Amazon Studios)
Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture Janicza Bravo, Jeremy O. Harris – “Zola” (A24) Jeymes Samuel, Boaz Yakin – “The Harder They Fall” (Netflix) Shaka King, Will Berson, Kenny Lucas, Keith Lucas – “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros. Pictures) Virgil Williams – “A Journal for Jordan” (Columbia Pictures) Win Rosenfeld, Nia DaCosta, Jordan Peele – “Candyman” (Universal Pictures)
Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series Bashir Salahuddin, Diallo Riddle – “South Side” – “Tornado” (HBO Max) Melina Matsoukas – “Insecure” – “Reunited, Okay?!” (HBO) Neema Barnette – “Harlem – “Once Upon a Time in Harlem” (Amazon Studios) Prentice Penny – “Insecure” – “Everything’s Gonna Be, Okay?!” (HBO) Tiffany Johnson – “Black Monday” – “Eight!” (Showtime)
Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series Anthony Hemingway – “Genius: Aretha” – “Respect” (National Geographic) Barry Jenkins – “The Underground Railroad” – “Indiana Winter” (Amazon Studios) Carl Seaton – “Snowfall” – “Fight or Flight” (FX Network) Carl Seaton – “Godfather of Harlem” – “The Bonanno Split” (EPIX) Hanelle Culpepper – “True Story” – “Like Cain Did Abel” (Netflix)
Outstanding Directing in a Television Movie or Special Jaffar Mahmood – “Hot Mess Holiday” (Comedy Central) Kenny Leon – “Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia” (Lifetime) Mario Van Peebles – “Salt-N-Pepa” (Lifetime) Maritte Lee Go – “Black as Night” (Amazon Studios) Veronica Rodriguez – “Let’s Get Merried” (VH1)
Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture Denzel Washington – “A Journal for Jordan” (Columbia Pictures) Jeymes Samuel – “The Harder They Fall” (Netflix) Lin-Manuel Miranda – “tick tick…BOOM!” (Netflix) Reinaldo Marcus Green – “King Richard” (Warner Bros. Pictures) Shaka King – “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Outstanding Directing in a Documentary (Television or Motion Picture) Andre Gaines – “The One and Only Dick Gregory” (Showtime) Dawn Porter – “Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer” (National Geographic) Sam Pollard – “MLK/FBI” (IFC Films) Samantha Knowles, Yoruba Richen, Geeta Gandbhir, Nadia Hallgren – “Black and Missing” (HBO) Spike Lee – “NYC Epicenters 9/11➔2021½” (HBO Max)
Outstanding Literary Work – Fiction “Harlem Shuffle” – Colson Whitehead (Penguin Random House) “Libertie” – Kaitlyn Greenidge (Algonquin Books) “Long Division” – Kiese Laymon (Simon & Schuster) “The Man Who Lived Underground” – Richard Wright (Library of America) “The Perishing” – Natashia Deón (Counterpoint Press)
Outstanding Literary Work – Nonfiction “Dance Theatre of Harlem” – Judy Tyrus, Paul Novosel (Kensington) “Just As I Am” – Cicely Tyson (Amistad) “My Remarkable Journey” – Katherine Johnson (Amistad) “Renegades: Born in the USA” – Barack Obama, Bruce Springsteen (Penguin Random House) “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story” – Nikole Hannah-Jones (Penguin Random House)
Outstanding Literary Work – Debut Author “Just As I Am” – Cicely Tyson (Amistad) “My Remarkable Journey” – Katherine Johnson (Amistad) “Other Black Girl: A Novel” – Zakiya Dalila Harris (Simon & Schuster) “The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois” – Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (HarperCollins Publishers) “Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts” – Rebecca Hall (Simon & Schuster)
Outstanding Literary Work – Biography/Autobiography “Just As I Am” – Cicely Tyson (Amistad) “Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement” – Tarana Burke (Macmillan / Flatiron Books) “Unprotected: A Memoir” – Billy Porter (Abrams Press) “Until I Am Free” – Keisha Blain (Beacon Press) “Will” – Will Smith (Penguin Random House)
Outstanding Literary Work – Instructional “Diversity Is Not Enough: A Roadmap to Recruit, Develop and Promote Black Leaders in America” – Keith Wyche (Kandelle Publishing) “Feeding the Soul (Because It’s My Business)” – Tabitha Brown (HarperCollins Publishers) “Permission to Dream” – Chris Gardner (Amistad) “Teaching Black History to White People” – Leonard N. Moore (University of Texas Press) “The Conversation: How Seeking and Speaking the Truth About Racism Can Radically Transform Individuals and Organizations” – Robert Livingston (Penguin Random House)
Outstanding Literary Work – Poetry “Perfect Black” – Crystal Wilkinson (University Press of Kentucky) “Playlist for the Apocalypse” – Rita Dove (W. W. Norton & Company) “Such Color: New and Selected Poems” – Tracy K. Smith (Graywolf Press) “The Wild Fox of Yemen” – Threa Almontaser (Graywolf Press) “What Water Knows: Poems” – Jacqueline Jones LaMon (Northwestern University Press)
Outstanding Literary Work – Children “Black Ballerinas: My Journey to Our Legacy” – Misty Copeland (Aladdin) “Change Sings” – Amanda Gorman, Loren Long (Penguin Young Readers) “Stacey’s Extraordinary Words” – Stacey Abrams, Kitt Thomas (HarperCollins) “Time for Bed, Old House” – Janet Costa Bates, A.G. Ford (Candlewick Press) “When Langston Dances” – Kaija Langley, Keith Mallett (S&S Books for Young Readers)
Outstanding Literary Work – Youth/Teens “Ace of Spades” – Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (Feiwel & Friends / Macmillan) “Happily Ever Afters” – Elise Bryant (HarperCollins) “The Cost of Knowing” – Brittney Morris (Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers) “When You Look Like Us” – Pamela N. Harris (HarperCollins) “Wings of Ebony” – J. Elle (S&S Books for Young Readers)
Outstanding News and Information Podcast “#SundayCivics” “After the Uprising: The Death of Danyé Dion Jones” “Blindspot: Tulsa Burning” “Into America” “Un(re)solved”
Outstanding Lifestyle/Self-Help Podcast “Checking In With Michelle Williams” “The Homecoming Podcast With Dr. Thema” “The SonRise Project Podcast” “Two Funny Mamas: Sherri Shepherd & Kym Whitley” “Under Construction w/ Tamar Braxton”
Outstanding Society and Culture Podcast “Beyond the Scenes – The Daily Show” “Jemele Hill Is Unbothered” “Professional Troublemaker” “Questlove Supreme” “Super Soul Podcast”
Outstanding Arts and Entertainment Podcast “Club Shay Shay Podcast With Shannon Sharpe” “Jemele Hill Is Unbothered” “Questlove Supreme” “Reasonably Shady” “The History of Sketch Comedy With Keegan-Michael Key”
Social Media Personality of the Year Nominees @Euniquejg – Eunique Jones GIbson @KevOnStage – Kevin Fredericks @Laronhinesofficial – Laron Hines @_Lyneezy – Lanae Vanee @Terrellgrice – Terrell Grice