Review: ‘Beba,’ starring Rebecca Huntt

June 24, 2022

by Carla Hay

Rebecca Huntt in “Beba” (Photo courtesy of Neon)

“Beba”

Directed by Rebecca Huntt

Culture Representation: The documentary “Beba” features a racially diverse group of people (African American, Latino and white) in director Rebecca Huntt’s autobiographical account of her life experiences as a young person.

Culture Clash: Huntt, who identifies as an Afro-Latina, talks about the prejudices she’s experienced in white-dominated environments, violence in her family, and her own personal flaws that have led to negativity in her life. 

Culture Audience: “Beba” will appeal primarily to people interested in a very personal and introspective documentary that tackles issues of race relations, social classes, domestic violence and self-identity.

Rebecca Huntt in “Beba” (Photo courtesy of Neon)

What does it say about a filmmaker when the first feature film directed by the filmmaker is essentially a documentary where the filmmaker talks about herself and her life? This choice and the end results often depend on who’s telling the story and how it’s told. In the case of “Beba” (the feature-film debut of director Rebecca Huntt), this unconventional autobiographical documentary comes close to being self-indulgent, but Huntt’s ability to point out her troubling personal flaws makes it a candid and fascinating story.

“Beba” had its world premiere at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival, and made the rounds at several other film festivals, including the 2022 Berlin International Film Festival and the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival. “Beba” is a non-traditional documentary because the format is Huntt’s voiceover narration, with the movie’s visuals consisting mostly of photos and archival video footage from her life, with only a few interviews done specifically for the documentary. The only people interviewed are a few of Huntt’s family members and one of her former professors at Bard College.

“Beba” gets its title because it’s one of the nicknames that Huntt has had since her childhood. She says her other nicknames are Beca and Bebe. In the documentary, Huntt says that she was born in New York City on May 9, 1990. New York City is where she grew up with her parents (Juan and Veronica) and her two older siblings (Juan Carlos and Raquel).

According to Huntt, her working-class parents, who met each other in New York City in the 1970s, “sacrificed everything” so that the family could have the prestigious street address of Central Park West, where they lived in a small one-bedroom apartment that was rent-controlled. Rebecca says half-jokingly that she and her siblings were “the poorest kids on Central Park West.” Her parents had the choice to rent a larger apartment, but it was in a less-safe neighborhood where they didn’t want the family to live.

In one of the early scenes in “Beba,” she explains why she took a first-person narrative for this documentary: “You are now entering my universe. I am the lens, the subject, the authority. As the product of the new world, violence is in my DNA. I carry an ancient pain that I struggle to understand. I use it to hurt those closest to me.”

She continues, “Every one of us inherits the curses of our ancestors, but we may put an end to the cycle by constantly going to war with ourselves. I’m watching the curses of my family slowly kill us, so I’m going to war. And there will be casualties. This cannot be our legacy.”

Rebecca also describes herself as “brave, stubborn, narcissistic and chronically cruel. Existing is to hold space for all of this.” This narration takes place within the first five minutes of “Beba.” And this point so early in the movie, viewers will either be turned off or intrigued to find out more about this filmmaker who’s doing an autobiography where she will reveal unflattering and messy things about her life.

Rebecca’s comment about “going to war” isn’t about political issues. It’s about personal issues and the conflicts she has with herself, her family and other people. She explains why her family history is intertwined with who she is.

Her father’s side of the family is black and has roots in the Dominican Republic. When her paternal grandfather told people he wanted move from the Dominican Republic to the United States, he was laughed at for this idea because he was “poor and black.” At this time, it was 1965, the year of the Dominican Civil War. Rebecca’s father Juan told her vivid memories of his experiences during this period of civil unrest. When people (especially men and boys) walked outside, they had to walk with their hands up, to show that they were unarmed.

Rebecca’s paternal grandfather wanted a better life for his family. And so, in 1966 or 1967, he brought his family of nine people to New York City, where they settled in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, which has a large percentage of residents who are African American or immigrants. Rebecca describes her paternal grandfather as “illiterate” who was just as likely to be seen carrying sugar cane as he would be likely to be seen carrying a belt to whip his kids to discipline them.

Later in the movie, she talks about how domestic violence seems be an inherited curse in her family. Rebecca comments on her father, “I know him better than anyone, yet I have no idea where my father’s mannerisms come from. When I’m angry, I remind him of his father.”

Her mother’s side of the family has roots in Venezuela. Rebecca says that her mother Veronica grew up in Venezuela and studied at Pace University in New York City to escape from Veronica’s “glamorous” mother who had schizophrenia. Veronica settled permanently in New York City after meeting and marrying Juan, and their children often spent summers in Venezuela.

Growing up with parents of two different races came with its share of identity issues. Rebecca says that when she was a child, she once got into a fight with a Jamaican boy who said that Rebecca was black, and Rebecca denied it, because her mother taught her to identify only as Latin. In a documentary interview, Rebecca’s mother Veronica admits, “I’m a Latin person, and I raised my kids as a Latin person, because I don’t know anything else. I don’t know about being an American, white or black.”

The documentary also hints that Veronica could have suffered from some mental illness, since it’s revealed that Veronica used to hit herself with a belt instead of disciplining her kids. Rebecca describes her father as the parent who would get violent when disciplining her and her siblings. Rebecca says multiple times in the documentary that this domestic violence is a family curse.

Rebecca also says that she and her siblings would sometimes get violent with each other and other members of the family. Rebecca describes how her older sister Raquel once took a machete from a closet and swung it at her parents. Raquel also “[handed] me my first [marijuana] joint at age 10, to apologize for choking me until I can’t breathe.” Later in the documentary, Rebecca describes an incident where Rebecca (as an adult) choked her own mother during a vicious argument.

And there are more family feuds and dysfunction detailed in the documentary. Rebecca says, “If I am Daddy’s girl, and Juan Carlos is Mama’s boy, my sister falls into a neglected dimension I don’t even try to understand.” Rebecca then goes on to describe that Raquel graduated from boarding school but skipped college to “hop trains with junkies.”

According to Rebecca, Raquel’s life experiences include “agoraphobia, disability checks, solitary confinement, destruction and pathological lies. Now, she has two daughters of her own who will inherit our curses.”

Rebecca’s older brother Juan Carlos is also described as troubled. She shares a story of how the family went to Disney World on her seventh birthday, and she got into an argument with Juan Carlos. It was the last time that their father spoke to Juan Carlos. For the documentary, Rebecca’s father Juan still refuses to talk about Juan Carlos.

Rebecca also says for a period of two years, she and Juan Carlos stopped talking to each other. And there were feuds that Rebecca had with her mother. She says that her mother called her a “snitch.” In response, Rebecca reveals what she did at the time: “I [made] sure to call her at work the next day to tell her that she’s garbage.”

These days, Rebecca says that she and Juan Carlos are on speaking terms. However, their conversations seem to be very superficial. Rebecca says, “Juan Carlos only talks to me when a new Jay-Z album is out.”

Toward the end of the documentary, Rebecca shares what she thinks she inherited from her family’s history. On her mother’s side, Rebecca thinks she inherited “passion, resilience and crippling delusion.” On her father’s side, Rebecca thinks she inherited “courage, ambition, abuse and rage.”

But at what point should people stop blaming their parents or ancestors and take responsibility for their own lives and their own actions? It’s an existential question that seems to be a major struggle for Rebecca. She seems to want to stop the cycle of domestic violence in her family, but in the documentary, she doesn’t really say what she’s doing about it. For example, she doesn’t mention if she’s chosen to seek help through therapy or other resources.

Rebecca describes her childhood summer vacations in Venezuela (where she stayed with her mother’s relatives) as being an oasis from all the chaos she experienced at home with America. These vacations inspired her to see more of the world when she was an adult. As she says in the documentary: “I backpacked the world in search of what Venezuela gave me: freedom, unconditional love and a room of my own.”

In another childhood story, Rebecca mentions a community garden in Manhattan where she and her sister Raquel would spend time as children, but the only other people she used to see there were white. When she was a child, she found crack vials in the garden and brought them to school for an art project. She didn’t know what the crack vials were, and she got in trouble for bringing this drug paraphernalia to school. It confused her at the time because she didn’t think she did anything wrong.

In another story about her childhood school experiences, Rebecca says that when she was in fifth grade, the students had a class assignment to come to school dressed as a hero. Rebecca chose Harriet Tubman and went to school in a Harriet Tubman costume, using makeup to “make fake whip marks and broccoli to recreate a plantation.” She also brought Ken dolls with her to represent slave masters, while she had Barbie dolls and Ken dolls depicted as enslaved people. Whatever “Beba” viewers make of this story, it seems to be Rebecca’s way of saying that she had a bit of an iconoclastic streak in her at an early age.

Throughout the movie, Rebecca discusses how her identity was shaped by growing up in a working-class family of color but spending most of her education and social life in environments with mostly white people from more privileged backgrounds. It goes without saying that people who have to navigate being in very different environments often have to present themselves in different ways in order to fit in whatever environment where they want acceptance. And it’s impossible to escape from racism, no matter where people go in life.

In high school, Rebecca says she began to discover herself and what she wanted to do with her life. She says that it was through Maya Angelou’s writings that she first found out that the Afro-Latin identity exists. Rebecca also remembers that in high school, “Shakespeare lights my brain on fire, and not even the bulletproof windows in my high school can contain it.”

Comments like that make Rebecca sound pretentious, but at least she’s honest about her tendency to be pretentious. This truthful self-awareness will either make viewers want to keep watching “Beba” or want to stop watching it. For all of her admitted flaws, Rebecca seems willing to bare her life in ways where she will undoubtedly get criticism. Too often, directors who narrate documentaries about themselves aren’t willing to show the worst sides of themselves.

“Beba” also shows a perspective that isn’t seen too often in documentaries: What it’s like for an Afro-Latina from a working-class background to attend a mostly white university or college where many of the students come from affluent backgrounds. At Bard College, Rebecca was hanging out with children of millionaires.

The friends she met through Bard College included Rumer Willis (daughter of movie stars Bruce Willis and Demi Moore) and Lola Kirke (daughter of Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke), who had very different childhoods from the childhood that Rebecca experienced. “Beba” includes some footage of Rebecca, Rumer Willis and Lola Kirke hanging out somewhere outdoors and doing an acoustic performance of a song called “Cocaine Blues.”

Later in the movie, there’s a staged recreation of Rebecca and some of her unidentified white friends have a heated discussion about race and white supremacist racism. The two white men in the room seem to be the most uncomfortable when Rebecca talks about white privilege. She also makes this comment: “There is nothing honorable about trying to assimilate into a system that is designed to destroy you.” Rebecca might want to sound like Malcolm X, but there’s nothing in the movie that shows she’s an activist for civil rights. Talking is one thing. Doing is another.

Rebecca doesn’t spend a lot of the documentary’s screen time on her college friends, but she does interview a Bard College professor who made an impact on her because she was one of the few African American professors who was part of the Bard College faculty. In the movie, this professor is only identified by her first name (Annie), and she says she remembers advising Rebecca on how to conduct herself as a Bard student. Annie says that she told Rebecca that college wasn’t a utopia but a reflection of how the real world is, so she suggested to Rebecca to stop wearing belly shirts to class and start showing up on time. Later, Rebecca says that she decided to study for a semester in Ghana, in part to get more in touch with her African ancestry.

Rebecca also reveals some details about her love life. She says she lost her virginity at age 17 to an “asshole” who is not named in the movie. Later, when she was in her 20s, she had a volatile love affair with a bipolar man named Michael, who was around the same age and grew up in New York City’s Bronx borough.

In “Beba,” Rebecca bravely exposes a lot of her personal failings, emotions and struggles. Her narration is admirable for being unapologetic and not trying to be crowd-pleasing or contrived to make as many people like her as possible. What’s missing in the documentary is any clear sense of why she wanted to become a filmmaker.

Who or what inspired her the most in the cinematic arts? What types of movies does she want to make? What types of movies does she like to watch? Does she think she’ll be in it for the long haul, or is filmmaking something she’s dabbling in until something else comes along that interests her? These are questions that are never really answered in this documentary, which gives the impression that Rebecca wanted to do a lot of venting about her family rather than present a completely well-rounded self-portrait.

Perhaps at the time she made this documentary, Rebecca was still figuring out what she wants to do with her life. If she decides to do another autobiographical documentary, it will be interesting to see how much time has passed and how much she might have changed. If “Beba” is any indication, she has many more compelling things to say as a filmmaker and as a person.

Neon released “Beba” in select U.S. cinemas on June 24, 2022.

Review: ‘The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks,’ starring Rosa Parks, LisaGay Hamilton, Carolyn Williamson Green, Lonnie McCauley, Jeanne Theoharis, Georgette Norman and Keisha Nicole Blain

June 20, 2022

by Carla Hay

Rosa Parks at the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March in “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” (Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Peacock)

“The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks”

Directed by Yoruba Richen and Johanna Hamilton

Culture Representation: The documentary film “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” features a nearly all-African American group (with one white person) of historians, activists, family members and associates discussing the life and legacy of civil rights icon Rosa Parks.

Culture Clash: Even though she was world-famous, Parks refused to profit from her fame, as she was sometimes disrespected within the civil rights movement because of her gender and her age. 

Culture Audience: “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” will appeal primarily to people who want to see a comprehensive documentary about an important public figure in the U.S. civil rights movement.

Rosa Parks at the 1968 Poor People’s March on Washington in “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” (Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Peacock)

“The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” follows a conventional documentary format, but it’s still a well-made biography that should be informative for people who know very little about civil rights icon Rosa Parks. Directed by Yoruba Richen and Johanna Hamilton, “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” is based on author Jeanne Theoharis’ 2013 biography of the same title. Thoharis is one of the people interviewed in the movie. In the documentary, portions of Parks’ letters and memoir are read as narration by actress LisaGay Hamilton. “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” had its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.”

Unless someone is a Rosa Parks expert, people who watch “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” will find out something new about Parks that they didn’t already know. Parks is most famous for an act that is widely credited with sparking the racial civil rights movement in the United States: On December 1, 1955, when she was 42 years old, Parks refused to give up her bus seat for a white man on a bus in downtown Montgomery, Alabama, and she was arrested for it.

This arrest happened during a shameful time in U.S. history when white supremacist racial segregation was legal. If white people and non-white people were gathered in the same space, such as on a bus, a white person could legally demand to make the non-white person move. During this Jim Crow racial segregation era, anyone who wasn’t white had to sit in designated seats in the back of the bus and could sometimes sit in the middle section of a bus, as long as white people allowed them to sit there. Parks’ act of standing up for herself and refusing to give in to a racist law inspired the U.S. civil rights movement to grow and move forward.

“The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” tells Parks’ life story in mostly chronological order. However, the movie (which announces a pivotal year in big and bold letters that take up the entire screen) occasionally jumps around the timeline when it goes more in-depth about a certain landmark event in the civil rights movement, to put an emphasis on how this event related to Parks’ life. (Parks died in 2005, at the age of 92.) “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” has the expected mix of archival footage and new interviews that were done exclusively for the documentary.

Parks had a soft-spoken and unassuming way about her that endeared her to a lot of people. However, one of the myths that this documentary aims to dispel is that Parks’ humble image should not be mistaken for Parks being a passive people-pleaser. “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” makes it clear that she was all about disrupting anything to do with white supremacist racism. And far from being a pacifist, she believed that people of color needed to physically defend themselves and fight back if necessary.

The movie also explains how Parks had to come to terms with and overcome her own racism. Because of violent bullying that she experienced by white people in her youth, she spent much of her youth fearing and hating white people. It wasn’t until she got involved in the civil rights movement, when she saw how many white allies were willing to fight for the same causes, that Parks changed her views and came to understand that not all white people were “the enemy.”

Parks was born as Rosa Louise McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama, on February 4, 1913. Her early views on race relations were influenced by racism she experienced and hearing about the horrible treatment that her biracial maternal grandfather received throughout his life, when he wasn’t completely accepted by white people or black people. Her maternal grandfather Sylvester, who could pass for white, was the son of a white plantation owner named John Edwards and an enslaved African American woman who worked in the plantation owner’s house.

Both of Sylvester’s parents died when he was very young, so he was sent to live with African American relatives. Carolyn Williamson Green, a cousin of Parks, comments in the documentary on Sylvester: “He looked white, but he wasn’t afraid of white people” Williamson Green adds that because Sylvester was often harassed for being biracial, he passed on to his family a strong sense of not putting up with bad treatment from anyone. He kept a gun with him at all times and taught his family how to defend themselves.

Sylvester married a woman named Rose, and they both helped raise their grandchildren Rosa (the future Rosa Parks) and Sylvester when the kids’ parents split up. The elder Sylvester was the father of the children’s mother Leona (a teacher), who was married to a carpenter named James McCauley. By all accounts, Rosa was very protective of her younger brother Sylvester, although their relationship at times became strained later when they were adults.

In an era when African American kids weren’t expected to complete an education past sixth grade, Rosa’s mother Leona insisted that Rosa continue her education at a private school called Ms. White’s, which was an all-girls school for African Americans. The documentary mentions that this school had a tremendous impact on Rosa, because it further taught her not think of herself as inferior or set limits for herself because of her race. She graduated from high school during a time when most African Americans could not.

Georgette Norman, former director of the Rosa Parks Museum, says that Rosa knew from an early age that the racist Jim Crow laws (which were especially prevalent in the South) could only be changed when the oppressed fought back: “Rosa got the idea [of] ‘I want to change that what makes me have to need to be protected.’ White supremacy was the threat.”

Rosa met her future husband Raymond in 1931. By all accounts, he was the first political activist she ever met. And she wasn’t very attracted to him at first because he was a light-skinned black man who could pass for white. Rosa thought that the man she would marry would have much darker skin.

However, Raymond won over Rosa with his intelligence, compassion and willingness to treat her like an equal. The couple married in 1932 and had no children. After she became world-famous, people in the documentary say that Raymond didn’t mind being overshadowed by Rosa whenever they would go out in public together. It was through Raymond that Rosa got involved with the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), one of the earliest national groups to spur the U.S. civil rights movement.

Rosa became a secretary for the NAACP’s Montgomery chapter by accident, when the regular secretary didn’t show up for the chapter’s election day, so Rosa was voted into the position instead. The documentary mentions that this secretary position was a catalyst that inspired Rosa to become a more outspoken activist. Along with other members of the NAACP, including NAACP Montgomery chapter chairman E.D. Nixon (one of Rosa’s early civil rights mentors), she helped fight for justice in many cases where African Americans were unjustly treated.

These cases included the Scottsboro Boys case where nine African American teenagers and young men who were falsely accused of raping by two white women 1931); Recy Taylor, a sharecropper’s wife who was gang raped by white men in 1944 in Abbeville, Alabama; and the brutal murder a Emmett Till, a 15-year-old boy who was viciously tortured, lynched and slaughtered after being accused of whistling at a white woman in Drew, Mississippi. One of the NAACP’s victories was helping in the defense of Joan Little, who was found not guilty of murder in the 1974 death of a white prison guard whom Little said she killed in self-defense when he tried to rape her.

In the case of rape survivor Taylor, whom Rosa had to interview for NAACP evidence testimony, Rosa was personally invested, because Rosa was also a victim of a sex crime. In a letter that Rosa wrote and is read in the documentary, she describes how she was nearly raped by a white man, who only stopped after Rosa told him that he would have to kill her if he was going to rape her. In other words, she warned him that she was prepared to fight to her death if he was going to try to violate her.

As historian Robin D.G. Kelley tells it: “One of the biggest myths in the Black Freedom movement is that non-violence is a default position. That’s not true. It’s the other way around. And Rosa Parks grew up in a movement culture where armed self-defense was simply taken for granted.”

Rev. James Watson, a former Detroit city council member, adds this comment: “Mother Parks supported self-defense. She couldn’t have been a supporter of the Republic of New Afrika had she not been. To her, there was no conflict in supporting Imari Obadele [Republic of New Africa president], Robert F. Williams and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom she loved. She saw that as the same line of freedom fighting. She was holistic in her approach to the right of all people to be free.”

Rosa was also heavily involved in the movement getting more black citizens registered to vote and acting on their right to vote. It wasn’t easy, when voter suppression based on race was not only blatant but also legal. Many people believe that legal voter suppression that targets mostly people of color still exists today. Rosa also led several NAACP Youth Council groups. Doris Crenshaw, Elaine Huffman and Rosalyn O. King—three interviewees in the documentary who were part of these youth groups—have nothing but praise for Rosa.

What many people might not know is that Rosa was not the first person the NAACP considered backing after being arrested for not giving up a bus seat for a white person. As has been reported elsewhere and repeated in the documentary, a 15-year-old girl named Claudette Colvin, who was a member of a Rosa Parks-led NAACP youth group, was arrested for not sitting at the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, on March 5, 1955.

At first, the NAACP seemed to be willing to give major public support in Colvin’s defense. Ultimately, the NAACP declined to put its clout behind Colvin’s case. African American historian Keisha Nicole Blaine explains in the documentary: “At the age of 15, they did not think she would make a good witness, that she would not be reliable. Some people described her as being a bit rebellious and feisty. And Claudette Colvin was a dark-skinned black girl. There was colorism.”

Rosa fit the profile of what the NAACP needed as a symbol for the civil rights movement: She was a middle-aged, married woman who was well-respected in her community and looked non-threatening. It made her arrest look even more like racist bullying. She was already well-informed about peaceful ways to protest and to be an activist. And she was also an insider at the NAACP. Williamson Green adds, “Her quietness was her strength.”

Rosa was arrested during other civil rights protests, but her 1955 arrest for not giving up her bus seat was what catapulted her into the international spotlight. The arrest inspired the widespread bus boycotts in Alabama and other parts of the U.S. where racial segregation was still legal and enforced. The NAACP helped with planning and scheduling carpools that African Americans could take instead of public transportation that had racist segregation.

The boycotts spread to other racially segregated businesses and were instrumental in the progress on legislation that resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law that made it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. These successful boycotts are an example of how oppressors often don’t change their ways until they get hurt financially. Rosa and Raymond eventually settled in the Detroit area in the mid-1960s.

The documentary rightfully points out that even with all of Rosa’s accomplishments in the civil rights movement, Rosa and other women experienced prejudice within the movement. At civil rights protests and rallies in the 1950s and 1960s, women were rarely allowed to give speeches. And if they did get to say anything resembling a speech, their speech time was very limited, while the men were allowed to give long speeches.

Over the years, Rosa received many accolades, awards and honorary university degrees for her civil rights activism. For example, the U.S. Congress named her as “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement.” She became a close ally of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, who were both murdered at 39 years old. (King died in 1968, while Malcolm X died in 1965.) However, the documentary mentions multiple times that Rosa (whose day jobs were mostly being a housecleaner or a secretary/administrative assistant) never tried to get rich from her fame. She turned down many lucrative offers and gifts.

In fact, Rosa and her husband Raymond sometimes lived in poverty. Theoharis says in the documentary that in 1959, the couple’s tax return reported a combined income of only $700. In addition, Rosa often lived for years in obscurity after becoming a civil rights activist. For example, after a “where are they now” type of article was published about Rosa and reported that she was living in poverty, donations poured in from around the world to help her and Raymond with their financial problems.

Rosa’s niece Rhea McCauley says that Rosa had the type of personality where Rosa wouldn’t complain about personal problems, and she would to be too proud to ask for financial help: “Auntie Rosa never discussed financial hardships. You would not know she was hungry, for instance. You wouldn’t know that she couldn’t pay this bill.”

Raymond was a barber as his main money-making profession. Vonzie Whitlow, who used to be Raymond’s barber apprentice, is one of the people interviewed in the documentary. It’s an example of how the documentary goes a little bit off-topic, but it takes up such a small amount of time that it’s not a major flaw.

As mentioned in the documentary, Rosa didn’t get her first paying full-time job in politics until 1965, when she became a secretary for John Conyers Jr., a U.S. Representative from Michigan. She held the job until 1988. Conyers died in 2019. The documentary has an archival TV news interview of Conyers that was conducted when Rosa and Conyers worked together. In the interview, Conyers says he was in awe of Rosa and looked up to her, even though he was her boss. And it wasn’t until 1992 that she published a memoir: “Rosa Parks: My Story,” which she wrote with Jim Haskins.

But even the great Rosa Parks was not immune to ageism. Years after Rosa and Raymond settled in the Detroit area, civil rights activist Joe Madison worked with Rosa in the NAACP’s Detroit chapter. He tells a story in the documentary about how he and Rosa wanted to be running mates for the chapter’s open leadership positions, but several members thought that Rosa was too old for the job. Madison and Rosa didn’t win in their campaign, but Madison says it was a huge honor for Rosa to be his running mate.

Other people interviewed in the documentary include Rosa’s great-nephew Lonnie McCauley; activists Bree Newsome, Dan Aldridge, Ericka Huggins, Barbara Smith, Bryan Stevenson, Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, Dorothy Aldridge and Patrisse Cullors; historians Francis Gourrier and Mary Frances Berry; journalists Herb Boyd and Tiffany Cross; and Ed Vaughn, founder of Vaughn’s Bookstore, an African American-oriented bookstore in Detroit where Rosa and Raymond Parks were frequent customers.

Rosa had a life of triumphs and tragedies. The documentary mentions how cancer claimed the lives of her husband Raymond, her brother Sylvester and her mother Leona—all within a two-year period. Raymond died in August 1977, Sylvester passed away in November 1977, and Leona died in December 1979. Rosa also survived a brutal home invasion assault and robbery in 1994. The attacker was convicted of the crime.

An example of how Rosa had periods of obscurity is shown in the documentary’s opening scene, which features Rosa in a 1980 episode of “To Tell the Truth,” a game show where three people claim to be the same person, and celebrity contestants have to guess which one out of the three is telling the truth about their identity. In this episode, the contestants were entertainers Nipsey Russell, Tiiu Leek, Kitty Carlisle and Gordon Jump. Three women, including the real Rosa Parks, claimed to be Rosa Parks.

Leek and Carlisle incorrectly guessed someone else was Rosa, while Jump made the correct guess. Russell abstained from voting because he says he already knew who Rosa was since they were both involved in the civil rights movement. The fact that half of the contestants didn’t know who Rosa was is an example of how many people didn’t really recognize her.

Unfortunately, they’re not unusual, since there are probably millions of people in America who have never heard of Rosa Parks—or if they’ve heard of her, they’re not quite sure what her claim to fame is. Keep in mind that most people in America can’t even name the politicians who represent their state in the U.S. Senate. However ignorant or knowledgeable people are about the civil rights movement in the U.S., the documentary “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” is a worthy history lesson for anyone who wants to learn more about this impassioned activist who made a positive impact on the lives of countless people.

Peacock will premiere “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” in 2022, on a date to be announced.

Review: ‘God’s Time,’ starring Ben Groh, Dion Costelloe and Liz Caribel Sierra

June 20, 2022

by Carla Hay

Ben Groh in “God’s Time” (Photo by Jeff Melanson)

“God’s Time”

Directed by Daniel Antebi

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City, the comedy film “God’s Time” features a racially diverse cast of characters (Asian, white, Latino and African American) representing the working-class and the middle-class.

Culture Clash: Two best friends, who met each other in an addiction recovery support group, try to stop a woman in their support group from murdering her ex-boyfriend. 

Culture Audience: “God’s Time” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching rambling “race against time” movies where the potential and talent of the cast members cannot overcome low-quality filmmaking.

The smug and idiotic comedy “God’s Time” is a waste of time in how it inexcusably bungles a simple but over-used slapstick concept of two friends on a wacky “life or death” mission. Sloppily written and directed by Daniel Antebi, the basic premise of “God’s Time” is about two male best friends who try to stop a woman from murdering her ex-boyfriend. There’s not as much action in “God’s Time” as the concept suggests, because too much of the film has repetitive and dull scenes of people in support group meetings for addiction recovery.

“God’s Time” doesn’t get going with any real action until the last third of the movie. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing if it’s to build up suspense, and if the action in the movie delivers in a way that’s unique and memorable. But the action that comes very late in the movie is poorly staged and written in such an amateurish way, any hope gets squashed that “God’s Time” will go out with a bang. The end of the movie can barely muster a whimper. “God’s Time,” which is Antebi’s feature-film directorial debut, had its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

The two best pals in “God’s Time” (which was filmed on location in New York City) are two men in their 20s named Dev (played by Ben Groh) and Luca (played by Dion Costelloe), who are both aspiring actors. You might as well just call them Dumb and Dumber, because that’s how Dev and Luca act in this movie. Dev is the story’s narrator, and he frequently talks directly to the camera to spew a lot of self-indulgent gibberish.

Dev explains early on in the movie that he and Luca met in a support group meeting for recovering drug addicts. They’ve been best friends ever since. They go on auditions together, they help each other rehearse for auditions, and they go to support group meetings.

Luca and Dev apparently have nothing else going on in their lives but going to support group meetings and going to auditions. That’s how boring these two shallow pals are in this movie. The movie never explains how these two unemployed and unsuccessful wannabe actors make money.

Dev thinks of himself as being more of a rebel than Luca. For example, the two friends have an upcoming audition where Dev is going up for the role of a firefighter named Rico from Staten Island. Luca thinks that Dev should cut Dev’s long-ish hair for the role, so Dev could look more like a firefighter. However, Dev refuses to cut his hair. Dev is also frequently annoyed that his Indian heritage is often mistaken for being Latino. The movie has some unfunny jokes about Dev’s ethnicity being misidentified.

The beginning of “God’s Time” actually starts off with a promising scene. Dev, Luca and some other people in their support group are gathered for a meeting. A very outspoken and opinionated member of the group is Regina (played by Liz Caribel Sierra), who is also in her 20s. Regina makes a point of bitterly mentioning in every meeting how she was betrayed by an ex-boyfriend named Russell about a year ago.

Regina, whose name is pronounced in the Spanish-language way (“re-hee-na”), angrily repeats in every meeting the details of what went wrong in this doomed relationship: Regina let Russell temporarily stay at her place while he was recovering from spleen surgery. Two months into this temporary stay, things went horribly wrong, but what they argued about remains unclear.

As Regina tells it: “The aforementioned dirtbag kicked me out of my own place and took my little dog Parranda.” Regina likes to show photos of the dog, which is a Boxer. Dev looks into the camera and says after Regina tells her sob story in yet another meeting: “Yo, it’s all true. I remember the day he kicked her out.”

The movie has a montage of Regina in different meetings telling similar versions of the same story. Even though Regina says some hateful things about Russell, such as wishing that she could kill him or that we would die some other way, she always ends her rant by saying that she is praying for Russell. “And I have faith he’ll die in God’s time,” she concludes.

Dev has his own confession, which he only tells to the camera: He’s secretly in love with Regina. As time goes on, it’s obvious that Regina knows that she’s very attractive and that Dev has feelings for her. Regina uses her good looks to manipulate the men who are attracted to her. She’s also a habitual liar.

During another support group meeting, Regina goes on her usual diatribe against Russell. And once again, she says she’s going to kill him. But this time, she doesn’t end her rant by saying that Russell will die “in God’s time.” This omission freaks out Dev, who’s convinced that Regina is going to murder Russell soon, especially when Dev find out that Regina plans to leave town the next day.

Unfortunately, the movie wastes a lot of time to get to that point. There are some dumb shenanigans with Dev and Luca canceling and rescheduling callbacks for an important audition because they get caught up in trying to find out what Regina is going to do. During one of the many scenes that show Dev and Luca in support group meetings, Luca announces that if he doesn’t get the job in his next audition, he’s probably going to quit acting. No one in the support group really cares, and neither will viewers of this garbage movie.

At one point, Dev and Luca end up stalking Regina. She has told people that she works as a “life coach,” and she meets with clients in their homes. However, Dev and Luca find out that in her “life coach” session with a client, she’s really doing cocaine with a middle-aged man (played by Harry Bouvy), who doesn’t have a name in the movie. He lives in an Upper West Side building that has a doorman. It’s implied that Regina is a sex worker because she and her client are shown snorting cocaine in their underwear.

It all just leads to a silly scene where Dev and Luca sneak into to the apartment where Regina’s coke-snorting client lives, so that Dev and Luca can find Regina when she’s there. The two bumbling buddies tell the building doorman Robert (played by John Pope) that they are Gentile assistants hired by their Jewish client named Mr. Goldstein, who doesn’t want to do anything on the Sabbath, due to strict Orthodox Jewish beliefs. The doorman uses a key to let them into the apartment, where Regina has already left, unbeknownst to Dev and Luca.

The man’s wife, whose name is Mrs. Levy (played by Emily Fleischer), comes home, sees Dev and Luca with her partially undressed husband, who has cocaine on his nose. She incorrectly assumes that Dev and Luca are gigolos who were hired by her husband. “How long have you been fucking my husband?” she screeches as she maces Dev. Luca and Dev then make a hasty exit. That’s what’s supposed to be one of the movie’s funny slapstick scenes.

What’s so stupid about this scene is that no doorman who wants to keep his job would let strangers into an apartment unit without verifying first that it was authorized by someone who lives there. When the enraged wife finds out how these two bozos got into the apartment, she screams at the doorman: “Do I look fucking Jewish?” This anti-Semitic reaction from a woman named Mrs. Levy reveals that Dev and Luca also used the wrong name to get into the apartment, which makes the doorman and this movie look even more idiotic.

It gets worse. The movie throws in a subplot about Dev thinking that he’s being stalked by someone who was in a road rage incident with Dev. While Dev and Luca are on a subway, Dev happens to see this man nearby (but he doesn’t see them), so an anxious Dev tells Luca about this incident.

A flashback shows that when Dev was riding his bicycle on a residential street, a truck driver cut him off. The two men started cursing at each other. Dev then threw a plastic bottle of his urine into the man’s truck and sped off. Dev is convinced that the man is now trying to find Dev and get revenge.

Regina lives with her single (possibly widowed) mother, who’s identified in the movie as Mrs. Reyes (played by Sol Miranda), who has the misfortune of encountering Dev and Luca, as these two imbeciles become more obnoxious as the movie continues. Regina isn’t home when Dev and Luca show up at her house. And you know what that means. Expect to see at least one very predictable break-in scene by these two moronic clowns, who race around New York City trying to find Regina and Russell.

By the time Russell (played by Jared Abrahamson) shows up in the inevitable confrontation with Regina, some secrets are revealed that are very underwhelming and unimaginative. The entire nonsensical execution of this concept relies heavily on the flimsy assumption that viewers are supposed to believe that Dev never tried to find out what Russell looks like before Dev and Luca go on a mad “race against time” to prevent Russell from being killed. That’s why any surprises that come in the movie look too phony and hard to believe.

In addition to Dev’s tiresome comments when he talks to the camera, “God’s Time” over-uses irritating effects, such as slowing down and distorting people’s voices during the action scenes. Because the movie takes too long to get to the main concept, “God’s Country” looks like it could have been a short film, but with a lot of filler to stretch out the movie to its 83-minute run time. The movie’s outtake scenes that are shown during the end credits just prove that these scenes shouldn’t have been in this already dreadful movie.

The grating performances by Groh and Costelloe could have been more engaging if they had a better screenplay and better character development. Forget about learning more about who Dev and Luca are as people. This movie has no significant backstories for them or any indications of who else in their personal lives get quality time with them outside of the support group.

It’s briefly mentioned Dev’s mother in an Indian immigrant, and he used to live in Kentucky. Luca quickly mentions his own father a few times. That’s it. Dev and Luca are written as utter fools who don’t have much about them to like, and they aren’t even entertaining in their buffoonery.

Sierra’s performance as Regina has flashes of very good comedic timing. However, the Regina character is written in a way that’s almost misogynistic. Dev and Luca go out of their way to be her “rescuers” (Luca’s motivations are later explained in the movie), but Regina is really nothing more than a selfish, arrogant and dishonest brat. Other than Regina’s good looks, the movie never explains why Dev is so “in love” with Regina, since she doesn’t seem to care about anyone but herself and maybe her dog.

Dev and Luca know about Regina’s continued drug use, which is never adequately addressed, other than Regina giving a relapse confession (with insincere-looking tears) during one of the many support group meetings that keep disrupting what should have been a better flow for this unevenly paced movie. The people in these support group meetings are written in generic and forgettable ways, with adequate acting from the people in these roles. “God’s Time” is more concerned about staging self-congratulatory scenes with bad gags instead of crafting memorable characters.

“God’s Time” looks like it’s trying to be a dark comedy, but there’s too much goofy nonsense for this movie to have any edge. If anyone wants to see a well-acted and edgy dark comedy set in New York City, with a “race against time” plot and a similar title, then a much better option is 2017’s “Good Time,” directed by Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie, and starring Robert Pattinson. “God’s Time” is an unfortunate misfire where the filmmakers forgot that in a movie whose concept is a chase comedy, audiences should care about at least one the main characters, the screenplay and direction should be solid, and it shouldn’t take too long to get to the chase scenes.

Review: ’88’ (2022), starring Brandon Victor Dixon, Naturi Naughton, Thomas Sadoski, Michael Harney, Amy Sloan, Orlando Jones and William Fichtner

June 19, 2022

by Carla Hay

Thomas Sadoski and Brandon Victor Dixon in “88” (Photo by Paul De Lumen)

“88” (2022)

Directed by Eromose

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in the Los Angeles area, sometime before the primaries of the 2024 U.S. presidential election, the dramatic film “88” features a racially diverse cast of characters (African American, white, with some Latinos and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A Super PAC (political action committee), which is raising funds for a Democratic candidate for the 2024 U.S. presidential election, finds itself embroiled in political intrigue and potential scandal when the Super PAC’s financial director finds out the source of the majority of the donations received by the Super PAC. 

Culture Audience: “88” will appeal primarily to people interested in a tension-filled political thrillers that have good acting and realistic discussions of race relations.

Brandon Victor Dixon, Naturi Naughton and Jeremiah King in “88” (Photo by Paul De Lumen)

With compelling performances and an absorbing story, the intriguing drama “88” succeeds in its intention to get viewers to think about how U.S. political campaign fundraising is directly tied to race relations in America. The movie has some minor flaws—the pacing drags in a few sections, and some of the dialogue is a little hokey—but these flaws are far outweighed by the above-average acting, realistic conversations and the riveting direction of the movie, which takes viewers on various twists and turns. “88” had its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

Nigerian British filmmaker Eromose wrote, directed and edited “88,” which packs in a lot of issues without being too overstuffed. Eromose (whose real name is Thomas Ikimi) is also one of the producers of “88,” which takes place in the Los Angeles area sometime before the primaries of the 2024 U.S. presidential election. The movie’s protagonist is the smart, talented and ambitious Femi Jackson (played by Brandon Victor Dixon), who has recently become the financial director of a Super PAC (political action committee) called One USA. At the moment, One USA’s main focus is supporting a Democractic Party candidate named Harold Roundtree (played by Orlando Jones), who is the Democractic Party frontrunner for the 2024 U.S. presidential election.

Femi and his wife Maria Jackson (played by Naturi Naughton) are happily married and live a comfortable, middle-class existence. It’s mentioned briefly in the beginning of the movie that Femi and Maria have applied for a mortgage loan. Maria, who works as a bank loan manager, is about eight or nine months pregnant when the movie begins. Femi and Maria are expecting their second child together and have decided to wait until the birth to find out the child’s gender. Maria and Femi have an adorable 9-year-old son named Ola (played by Jeremiah King), who eventually becomes the center of a disagreement that Femi and Maria have about teaching Ola the realities of being a black male in America.

Femi admires Harold so much, he listens to Harold’s speeches when Femi does workout exercises. It’s shown in the movie’s opening scene when Femi is on his exercise bike at home, while a recording of one of Harold’s speeches that he gave at a factory can be heard playing loudly. Femi isn’t an ardent supporter of Harold just because both men happen to be African American. Femi thinks that Harold (who can be described as a moderate Democrat) has political values that are completely in line with Femi’s political values.

Harold says in the speech that Femi is listening to while on the exercise bike: “I was the first person in my family to go to college. My great-grandfather was a slave.” Harold then goes on to mention that Harold’s father and grandfather worked at the same factory where Harold is giving the speech, However, Harold says that his father and grandfather barely made living wages at the factory because they both lived in the Jim Crow era of legal racial segregation that treated anyone who wasn’t white as second-class citizens.

Harold then says in his speech: “I am the architect of my own destiny! I want to give every American the opportunity to be all they can be, to make a stronger home, to make a stronger America.” The assembled crowd can be heard giving enthusiastic cheers and applause after this speech.

Femi’s hero worship of Harold is not shared by everyone in the Jackson household. Maria has political leanings that are more left-wing and more progressive than Femi’s political beliefs. She doesn’t discourage Femi from working to get Harold elected, but she’s skeptical of Harold as a political candidate. It’s not mentioned which candidate (if any) Maria is supporting in this presidential election, but it’s definitely not Harold. Maria is also worried that Femi might be becoming too much of a workaholic in his campaign work for Harold.

The spouses’ different political views can be heard in a conversation early on in the movie. Femi and Ola are big fans of the blockbuster “Black Panther” franchise, based on the Marvel Comics, about an African king superhero named T’Challa (also known as Black Panther) and his colleagues from the fictional African country of Wakanda. When Femi and Ola say the catch phrase “Wakanda Forever!” (which was made popular in the 2018 “Black Panther” movie) and give the Wakanda handshake, it sets off Maria, who is uncomfortable with Ola and Femi being fans of the “Black Panther” franchise.

Maria has issues with “Black Panther” because she feels the stories in the franchise don’t show enough of the Wakandan leaders helping fellow Africans. Maria and Femi have a spirited debate about the merits of the “Black Panther” franchise and how much (or how little) it can be perceived as empowering to black people. When Femi argues that the franchise has made a fortune worth billions, Maria then counters with this statement: “For whom?” It’s her way of saying that even in entertainment that centers on black people, white people make the most money from it.

If this is the type of conversation that makes you uncomfortable, and you don’t want to watch a movie that has this type of discussion, then you might not like “88” very much. The movie has even more uncomfortable and sometimes disturbing conversations about how white supremacy and racism affect many aspects of everyday life. It’s a very thought-provoking film about how insidious and how deep the poison of racism goes in manipulating the outcomes of political elections.

And on a less frequent level, “88” has some discussion about prejudices within the African American community. Femi and his father were born in the United States, and Femi’s mother is a Nigerian immigrant. Femi tells Maria in one of their debates over race and nationality that he’s not going to consider himself less American, just because he has an immigrant mother and Maria’s ancestors were enslaved people in America. Although “88” doesn’t go into the hot-button topic of U.S. reparations for the descendants of enslaved people in the U.S., this conversation between Maria and Femi brings up the complicated issue of who is a “real American,” and how race and nationality of origin affect people’s definitions of being a “real American.”

Aside from some tensions in his otherwise stable marriage, Femi is dealing with an ongoing health issue: He’s a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for an unspecified period of time. At his job, Femi is visited by his unnamed addiction recovery sponsor (played by Kenneth Choi), who is also a recovering addict. The two men have a candid discussion about race, including how Asians and black people are perceived differently by each other and by racist white people. They both agree that racism can come from people of any race, but not everyone is racist.

Femi thinks his job is going smoothly, and he’s very proud of what One USA has been able to accomplish by raising millions in campaign funds for Harold. It’s shown in the movie that One USA has about 20 people working the phones in its non-descript Los Angeles-area headquarters. Harold’s campaign has recently gotten a haul of $40 million in donations from One USA. And that amount has come under scrutiny in the media.

While driving to work, Femi listens to the radio and hears two talk radio hosts wondering suspiciously if the money came from a secret super PAC. The movie also shows several scenes of Harold being interviewed by a TV journalist named Ron Holt (played by William Fitchner), who has a talk show that looks similar to the self-titled PBS show that used to be hosted by disgraced TV journalist Charlie Rose. Ron digs hard at Harold to try to get Harold to slip up and reveal any flaws. However, slick-talking Harold always seems to have an answer that makes Harold look honest and admirable, but always with a hint that maybe Harold is not revealing everything about himself.

The two biggest donors to Harold’s campaign are the non-profit groups Independence.nyc and Future Movement Frontiers. Donations from both of these groups account for about 75% of Harold’s campaign funds that were raised by One USA. As explained in an animated clip shown on Ron’s TV show, big-money donors launder their money through non-profits, which then donate to Super PACs. The non-profit groups don’t have to report these donations to the Federal Elections Committee (FEC) because these particular non-profit groups have 501 (c) (4) tax status.

The big mystery in the movie has to do with Femi discovering how and why 75% of the donations are coming from Independence.nyc and Future Movement Frontiers, which are relatively small non-profit groups. Femi emails some computer files to his friend Ira Goldstein (played by Thomas Sadoski), a former investment management executive who is now a financial investigative blogger. Femi asks Ira for his opinion on what he thinks is going on with these financial figures. Femi says, “Whoever is doing this, they’re masking their donations through the non-profits, packaging them, and then sending them to us as larger sums.”

Femi also takes his concerns to his immediate supervisor: One USA executive director Agatha “Aggie” Frost (played by Amy Sloan), who dismisses Femi’s concerns and rejects Femi’s idea to have this matter investigated further. As far as she is concerned, a Super PAC such as One USA isn’t supposed to care where the money comes from and should only care about getting the money. Agatha tells Femi sternly, “I gave you a chance when no one else would. Please don’t make me look like an asshole.” It’s later mentioned in the movie that Agatha’s work background is being the owner of an ad agency, which partially explains why she’s very concerned about One USA’s image.

In a staff meeting, Agatha enthusiastically introduces Femi and two other people who have recently joined the One USA team: deputy executive director Fred Fowlkes (played by Michael Harney) and a committee research director named Sahar (played by Pegah Rashti), who happens to be Agatha’s wife. Fred, who is in his 60s, is a well-respected political campaign veteran with a very impressive track record, because it mentioned that all of the candidates that he’s worked with in the past several years have won their elections.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Agatha gives a pep talk to the One USA employees, by saying: “We raised more money faster than any other Democratic Super PAC [in] this election cycle. And we won’t slow down until Harold Roundtree is in the White House … We’re more than suits and ties. We’re a movement.”

During a lunch meeting in a diner, Femi and Ira talk about Femi’s curiosity about why so much of the One USA’s donation money is coming from two small non-profit groups. Femi tells Ira that Femi’s boss Agatha has ordered him not to investigate further, but Ira is eager to look into this mystery. After some coaxing, Ira convinces Femi to give more files to Ira, so that Ira can do some independent research.

And what Ira finds and tells Femi further deepens the mystery: All of the donation figures, if each digit is added up in different combinations, end up totaling the number 88. Ira has a mind-blowing theory of what the number 88 means. This theory is spoiler information that won’t be revealed in this review. However, it’s enough to say that it’s a vast conspiracy theory that goes beyond just one presidential election.

The rest of “88” has Femi going further down a proverbial rabbit hole of investigating this conspiracy theory. He ends up crossing paths with an author/conspiracy theorist named Hans Muller (played by Jonathan Weir), an elderly recluse who uses a wheelchair and has to breathe through an oxygen mask. Femi’s meeting with Hans is one of the intentionally creepy scenes in the movie because of what Hans tells Femi.

There’s also a British billionaire named Sam Trask (played by Julian Wadham), who’s vacillating between supporting Harold and supporting Hank McGonville, who is Harold’s main Democratic Party rival in the presidential election. Hank is never seen in the movie, but his TV campaign “attack” ad against Harold triggers some desperate reactions from members of the One USA team. Harold’s campaign manager Tom Woods (played by Jon Tenney) plays an important role as a gatekeeper and decision maker in this story.

And just who is Harold Roundtree, the candidate at the center of all these political schemes and machinations? It’s revealed in Harold’s interview scenes with Ron that Harold used to be the CEO of the fictional City District Bank, until the bank went out of business during the bank financial crisis of 2008. But by 2009, Harold had started a non-profit group called the Roundtree Institute with an initial investment of $15 million. In the TV interview, Harold spins his bank failure as being a positive learning experience, and he says that at least his bank didn’t take any bailouts from the U.S. government.

One of the best things about “88” is that it has memorable characters and conversations that are very true-to-life. The dynamic between trusted friends Femi and Ira is entertaining to watch and brings a few moments of comic relief. Some of the movie’s best scenes with Dixon and Sadoski are when Femi and Ira are together.

Dixon (who is one of the “88” producers) gives a fascinating performance as someone who has to come to terms with his political ideals and harsh realities. Jones is quite effective in his portrayal of shrewd politician Harold, who is as calculating as he is charismatic. Harney and Sloan also give believable performances, especially in a scene where Fred and Agatha are in a pivotal meeting together.

The movie tends to wander from the main political story when it shows a subplot involving Maria and her willingness to help an ex-con named Jose Gutierrez (played by Elimu Nelson), who wants a bank loan to start a business selling his hand-carved wooden toys. Jose is having trouble getting a loan because he was a convicted felon. (He was in prison for selling marijuana, before California decriminalized its marijuana laws.) And “88” starts to veer a little into soap opera drama when Maria gives birth, and there are some health issues involved in this birth.

However, Naughton has some standout scenes showing where Maria’s political beliefs and life experiences affect Maria’s view of the world and how she interacts with people. There’s a great scene where Maria has a tense discussion with her supervisor Veronica Verton (played by Kelly McCreary) about Veronica’s decision for Jose’s loan application. This powerful scene speaks to issues that people of color have when it comes to helping other people of color.

What’s admirable about “88” is that the characters are not stereotypes but have complexities that are very authentic to real people. The movie shows how Maria isn’t a shallow cliché of a Black Lives Matter extremist who hates all cops. Maria’s sister is married to a white cop named Harry Quale (played by Jonathan Camp), who is welcome in the Jackson home and who spends some quality time with Ola. Maria and Femi teach Ola that there are good cops and bad cops, just like there are good people and bad people in any profession, but that people can be treated differently because of their race.

“88” writer/director/editor Eromose keeps a mostly taut pace throughout this 122-minute film, which sizzles with an intensity of a political thriller that could be based on real events. The conspiracy theory revealed in “88” is not far-fetched, considering all the wild and crazy facts about politics that have been uncovered in real life. Even though “88” is a fictional drama, it sounds an alarm to voters and other people to pay more attention to the sources of political funding. As the movie’s tag line says: “Follow the money.”

Review: ‘Four Samosas,’ starring Venk Potula, Sonal Shah, Sharmita Bhattacharya, Nirvan Patnaik, Karan Soni, Summer Bishil and Meera Simhan

June 18, 2022

by Carla Hay

Sonal Shah, Venk Potula, Sharmita Bhattacharya and Nirvan Patnaik in “Four Samosas” (Photo by Aakash Raj)

“Four Samosas”

Directed by Ravi Kapoor

Culture Representation: Taking place in Artesia, California, the comedy film “Four Samosas” features an all-Indian and Indian American cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: When a wannabe rapper finds out that his ex-girlfriend is getting married, he and three other people plot to steal the ex-girlfriend’s dowry of diamonds from her father.

Culture Audience: “Four Samosas” will appeal primarily to people who like quirky comedies and don’t mind if there are too many silly plot developments and irritating characters.

Sonal Shah, Venk Potula, Sharmita Bhattacharya and Nirvan Patnaik in “Four Samosas” (Photo by Aakash Raj)

If the annoying comedy “Four Samosas” were an actual meal, it would be junk food that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. This crime caper film has too much nonsense and bad acting to be enjoyable. The basic concept of “Four Samosas” had a lot of potential, but it’s ruined by scatterbrained plot developments and the movie’s desperation to be a quirky slapstick comedy.

Written and directed by Ravi Kapoor, “Four Samosas” had its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. However, “Four Samosas” looks like a student film or the type of movie that amateur filmmakers put on the Internet in the hopes of being discovered. The movie should be commended for having characters with easily identifiable personalities. Unfortunately, those personalities are shallow and can be described in two ways: obnoxious or dull.

And the most off-putting character is the “Four Samosas” protagonist: Vinesh, who goes by the nickname Vinny (played by Venk Potula), a wannabe rapper in his 20s, who lives in Artesia, California. Artesia is a small city that’s about 23 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Artesia has the nickname Little India because a large percentage of its population consists of Indian immigrants and Indian Americans.

Vinny has a day job as a sales clerk at a store that sells South Asian clothing. Expect to see some unfunny scenes of Vinny’s inept sales skills, as he tries to sell people items such as saris. Vinny has a mute female co-worker named Pushpa (played by Poonam Basu), whose muteness is mocked in some unamusing scenarios. Vinny’s so-called “rapping” is even worse than his sales skills. Kapoor co-wrote the original songs that are performed in the movie. Let’s just say that the songs range from forgettable to just plain embarrassing.

Vinny lives with his divorced mother Kamala (played by Meera Simhan), a seamstress who works out of the garage in their modest house. It’s mentioned early on in “Four Samosas” that Vinny’s father (played by “Four Samosas” director Kapoor), who doesn’t have a name in the movie, abandoned the family when Vinny was a child, but he still lives nearby. This deadbeat dad is now a Hindu priest, and Vinny seeks his advice in a few scenes that (much like most of this movie) end up falling flat in its attempt at being funny.

Vinny is living an aimless existence when he gets news that shakes him to the core: His ex-girlfriend Rina (played by Summer Bishil) is engaged to be married. Vinny and Rina dated for two years and broke up three years ago. Rina owns a hair salon, where Vinny goes to confront Rina about her upcoming wedding.

And in a very contrived scene, Vinny happens to meet Rina’s fiancé Sanjay (played by Karan Soni) outside of the salon. Sanjay is as confident as Vinny is insecure. Predictably, Vinny and Sanjay have an argument over Rina. It’s the type of silly scene where Sanjay brags that he’s better than “goat shit” and that he’s the “GOAT [greatest of all time] of goat shit.” It’s an example of the idiotic dialogue in “Four Samosas.”

And then, Vinny goes in the salon and argues with Rina, because an egomaniac like Vinny just can’t believe that Rina could marry someone else and possibly be happy without Vinny. Vinny asks Rina to break up with Sanjay and give Vinny another chance to date her. However, Rina essentially reminds Vinny why their relationship didn’t work: “You were so insecure. I got tired of waiting for you to realize that you deserve me.”

Vinny didn’t think he was good enough for Rina because she comes from a family of a higher social class. Her father, who’s only identified in the movie as Mr. Juneja (played by Tony Mirrcandani), owns a successful grocery store in Artesia called Juneja’s. (Rina’s mother is not seen or mentioned in the movie.) Vinny always believed that Mr. Juneja didn’t think Vinny was worthy of Rina. There are hints that Rina might still have feelings for Vinny, but she knows deep down that they were a mismatched couple.

Vinny is determined to stop Rina from getting married to Sanjay. He comes up with a plan to steal Rina’s dowry from Mr. Juneja. And it just makes Vinny look like an even more pathetic loser. The movie rapidly goes downhill from there.

Vinny ends up recruiting three accomplices for this crime:

  • Zak (played by Nirvan Patnaik), who is described as a “Bollywood dreamer,” is the only person in Vinny’s life who seems to be Vinny’s friend. Zak is a mild-mannered person who works at a server at a casual South Asian restaurant called Chaat House, but what Zak really wants to do with his life is be a Bollywood star. (You can easily predict that Zak will have a Bollywood musical moment in the movie.)
  • Anjali (played by Sharmita Bhattacharya), who is described as an “under overachiever,” is an aspiring journalist. She’s the editor-in-chief and publisher of a new start-up publication called the Great Little India Times, which she calls a newspaper, but it’s really a newsletter. Anjali has a crush on Zak, and the feeling is mutual. A running gag in the movie is that Anjali comes up with elaborate ideas that are more complicated than what needs to get done.
  • Para (played by Sonal Shah), who is described as a “malcontent engineer,” is an arrogant and cranky immigrant. Para is bitter because her plans fells apart to get a work visa or a green card. Para thinks she’s always the smartest person in the room. But in a badly made movie like “Four Samosas,” she’s just one of many idiots.

Somehow, Vinny knows that Rina’s dowry includes diamonds that her father keeps locked up in a safe in the back office of the grocery store. Vinny believes that they are “dirty diamonds” that were purchased on the black market. He tells his cohorts that stealing the diamonds will be “wealth reappropriation” where they will be stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

Zak is hesitant about getting involved in this crime, but Vinny tells him, “It isn’t right that people like Rina’s dad get rich, while good people like my auntie are dying because they can’t afford an operation.” Vinny says he’s going to use the money to pay for his aunt’s heart valve operation. Zak plans to use the money to finance Zac’s dreams of being a Bollywood star. Anjali wants more money for her start-up publication, while Paru plans to use the money to sort out her immigration problems. In other words, most of the money is going to be used for selfish reasons by these thieves.

“Four Samosas” has some supporting characters who are nothing but distracting nuisances. Nikki (played by Maya Kapoor) is Vinny’s teenage cousin, who tries to convince him to be a contestant in the Little India Cultural Show, a local talent contest. Vinny is very reluctant to participate. And you know what that means: There will eventually be a scene of Vinny in this talent show. Nikki is an aspiring rapper too. Her heinous shouting and screeching when she raps will make viewers want to cover their ears or stop watching this train wreck movie.

There’s also a group of five bizarre activists who call themselves the Revolutionaries. They all dress in identical red track suits, like they’re in some kind of cult, and they congregate outside an empty grassy lot to gather signatures for a petition. What is their cause? The Revolutionaries want to create an “independent South Asian state” on this tract of land. They want to name this state Aisetra, which is Artesia spelled backwards.

When Vinny walks past them on the street, the Revolutionaries ask him to sign their petition, but he refuses. “This is America,” he responds. “I want to keep it that way. If I wanted to be in South Asia, I’d go to South Asia.” The Revolutionaries then say that their proposed state could be the 51st state in the United States. Meanwhile, Vinny repeatedly tells the Revolutionaries in a condescending voice that Aisetra is Artesia spelled backwards. That’s what’s supposed to pass as “comedy” in this dreadful movie.

There are so many terribly conceived moments in “Four Samosas,” the movie just becomes a mishmash of people mugging for the cameras in nonsensical scenes. (And the mugging looks worse because of the movie’s over-reliance on close-up shots.) There’s no explanation for how Paru met the other three accomplices. She just shows up in her first scene with a rushed explanation about her immigration problems.

There’s a dumb scene where Anjali shows up unannounced at Mr. Juneja’s back office at the grocery store to pretend that she wants to interview him for the Great Little India Times. He agrees to the interview. Meanwhile, Zak begins to dance on a checkout counter in the store, so that the movie can waste a little time doing a Bollywood musical fantasy sequence. Mr. Juneja sees on surveillance video monitors in his office that Zak is causing a commotion in the store, so Mr. Juneja leaves the office to investigate.

It’s all a setup so that Anjali could be alone in the office to take pictures of the closed safe where Mr. Juneja keeps the diamonds. The safe also has a wad of cash, but the would-be thieves only want to take the diamonds, because they think they’re “dirty diamonds” that Mr. Juneja won’t report as missing to the police if the diamonds gets stolen. What’s so asinine about this “get Mr. Juneja out of the office” scene is that there’s no real reason for anyone to take photos of a closed safe (which can be opened by a combination code on a touch-tone keypad) when it doesn’t really help the would-be thieves figure out what the safe’s combination code could be.

Needless to say, more witless hijinks ensue before and after the theft. The thieves decide the best way to steal the diamonds is to hide in the grocery store when it’s closed, so that they have plenty of time to crack the safe. The movie’s opening scene announces that the theft did occur, and the thieves are shown running out of the grocery store, so there’s no suspense leading up to that moment.

One of the few things that seems slightly amusing in “Four Samosas” is that the four thieves decide to disguise themselves by dressing up as the opposite sex. These drag disguises could have been the source of some hilarious comedic scenarios, but this idea is just a cheap gimmick that goes nowhere. It’s one of many examples of the movie’s half-baked ideas that are overshadowed by ditsy dialogue and characters with terrible or boring personalities.

Sagar Desai’s musical score for “Four Samosas” is better-suited for a tacky sitcom rather than a screwball comedy movie. It seems like the “Four Samosas” filmmakers mistakenly thought that dialing up the grating music and the manic energy would somehow make everything funnier. It doesn’t. The aftermath of the theft is just ridiculousness that will make viewers dislike the characters even more.

“Four Samosas” also has a mid-credits scene and an end-credits scene that have no bearing on the main story. These credits scenes just reek of self-indulgent garbage with no real thought put into making anything truly funny. Anyone who keeps watching “Four Samosas” until the very excruciating end will feel like they’ve gone through a more squirm-inducing endurance test than any of the foolish shenanigans inflicted by the moronic characters in this time-wasting movie.

Review: ‘January’ (2022), starring Karlis Arnolds Avots, Alise Danovska, Baiba Broka, Aleksas Kazanavicius, Juhan Ulfsak and Sandis Runge

June 17, 2022

by Carla Hay

Kārlis Arnolds Avots in “January” (Photo by Andrejs Strokins)

“January” (2022)

Directed by Viesturs Kairiss

Latvian with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Latvia (mainly in the city of Riga), in January 1991, the dramatic film “January” features an all-white cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A 19-year-old film student finds his artistic and political awakening during the Soviet Union’s attempts to forcibly occupy Latvia.

Culture Audience: “January” will appeal mainly to people who are interested in watching coming-of-age stories that take place during political unrest.

Kārlis Arnolds Avots and Alise Danovska in “January” (Photo by Andrejs Strokins)

“January” is a “slow-burn” character study taking place during Latvia’s January 1991 political conflicts with the Soviet Union. This well-acted coming-of-age story about an aspiring filmmaker fares better with its historical context than with its dull romance. People who see “January” are better-off knowing in advance that the film has a meandering quality that reflects the movie’s protaganist being undecided about what he is going to do with his life. Therefore, viewers who are expecting the movie to have a lot of snappy dialogue or suspense-filled scenes will be very disappointed.

Instead, “January” takes a more realistic tone in depicting one month in the restless life of a 19-year-old aspiring filmmaker, who unexpectedly finds his artistic voice during the Soviet Union’s violent attempted takeover of Latvia. “January” director Viesturs Kairiss says the movie was largely inspired by his own life: He was also a 19-year-old aspiring filmmaker in Lativia in January 1991.

Kairiss co-wrote the “January” screenplay with Andris Feldmanis and Livia Ulman. “January” had its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival, where it won the jury prize for Best International Narrative Feature. “January” has an artistic touch with recreations of Super 8 footage playbacks for the most nostalgic-looking scenes.

In “January,” the 19-year-old protagonist is named Jazis (played by Karlis Arnolds Avots), who is an only child still living with his parents in his hometown of Riga, Latvia. His mother Biruta (played by Baiba Broka) is a strong-willed and outspoken anti-Communist. His father Andrejs (played by Aleksas Kazanavicius) is a more laid-back parent and still a member of the Communist party. At the time this story takes place, Latvia’s Supreme Council had declared Latvia’s restored independence from the Communist Party-controlled Soviet Union less than a year earlier, in May 1990.

It’s later revealed in the movie that Jazis’ birth name is actually Jāzeps. His mother and maternal grandfather secretly had a Christian baptism for Jazis/Jāzeps because they didn’t want Communist member Andrejs to find out. The different political beliefs of Biruta and Andrejs cause some tension in their marriage, but it’s not bad enough where the spouses want to break up. Andrejs tells Jazis in an early scene, “I didn’t go to Moscow because you were born,” implying that Andrejs wanted to move to Moscow but he agreed to Biruta’s wish to raise Jazis in Latvia.

In the beginning of the movie, it’s shown that Biruta is worried for Jazis and his future, since Jazis is not quite sure what he wants to do with his life. She tells him that he’s better off being enrolled in a university so that he we won’t be conscripted by the Soviet Army. Because “January” shows only one month in the life of Jazis, it’s implied that Jazis was already enrolled as a college student but perhaps was thinking about dropping out.

Jazis is currently a student an unnamed arts university that has limited resources when it comes to filmmaking. The students have to make do with their own cameras, if they’re lucky enough to have a camera. Jazis is shown taking an acting class, where in one of the sessions is about acting like an animal. The unnamed, middle-aged male teacher (played by Artūrs Skrastiņš) randomly chooses students in the class to act out these exercises.

Jazis is told to act like “a whale cast on the sea shore.” Jazis’ moaning “beached whale” performance on the floor results in many of the students laughing at him—and not in a good way. The teacher also gives some criticism of Jazis’ performance for not being very believable. When the teacher asks a female student to act like a kitten drinking milk from a cup, she crawls on all fours, makes a purring sound, and starts rubbing herself against the teacher’s legs, while he smiles in delight and praises her performance. Many of the students walk out in protest because they think the teacher’s reaction shows sexist manipulation of this female student.

Jazis has a male friend at the school named Zeps (played by Sandis Runge), whose importance to the story fades away when the movie heads into a somewhat predictable direction of making Jazis fall for a more popular female student. Her name is Anna (played by Alise Danovska), who hangs out with a group of artistic rebels, some of whom go to the same school. She’s part of the group of students who walk out of the acting class and taunt Jazis in the hallway over his “beached whale” acting performance.

Jazis doesn’t care about being an actor. He wants to be a director, but he’s not quite sure what types of movies he wants to make. There’s a scene in “January” showing him going to a makeshift video store and renting a tape of filmmaker Jim Jarmusch’s 1984 movie “Stranger Than Paradise.” It’s an indication that he’s a fan of unconventional independent filmmakers.

Jazis may not know yet what type of movies he wants to make, but he’s first shown using his hand-held camera for another type of filming: video journalism. Jazis is fascinated by filming the soldiers of the Soviet Union’s OMON (a special police branch of the National Guard of Russia) that have become an increasing presence in Latvia. Whenever the OMON soldiers see Jazis filming them, they react angrily by demanding that he stop filming and sometimes by physically assaulting him.

Jazis comes home after one of these assaults and wears the cuts and bruises on his face almost like badges of honor. When his mother asks Jazis how he got hurt, he tells her. She’s concerned, but she also considers herself to be an outspoken resistor to any Soviet takeover of Latvia. Biruta is later shown participating in peaceful citizen protests against the Soviet Union’s attempts to control Latvia.

Jazis’ unwillingness to be intimidated by these OMON soldiers is the first indication that he won’t let obstacles get in his way when he wants to film something. It’s also the start of what will become his political awakening as the OMON and other Soviet military presence in Latvia become more ominous and more violent. However, the movie doesn’t have a predictable story arc of Jazis getting this political awakening.

Jazis doesn’t attend activist meetings. He doesn’t talk about politics too much with his mother, who has beliefs that are more in line with what Jazis believes, since Jazis definitely does not want to become a Communist. Nor does Jazis want to join a political party.

Instead, in this one-month period, Jazis arrives at a better understanding of the world and what he wants to do with his life through his love of filmmaking. His decision on what type of filmmaking career path to take is still undefined, and it’s tangled up in his romantic feelings for Anna, who eventually takes a liking to him too.

Jazis and Anna discover this mutual attraction when Jazis invites her to a family house party, where she meets his parents. They end up dancing at the party. Eventually, Anna opens up to Jazis about her family and her life goals.

Anna lives with her mother and stepfather, whom she says is not a Communist. “He supports the independence movement,” Anna comments about her stepfather. “Anna tells Jazis that her biological father died of alcoholism. Her biggest goal in life is to make movies.

Jazis starts hanging out more with Anna and her rebellious friends. She even changes his hairstyle to look more punk rock, with his hair fluffed out and greased up into a Mohawk-inspired look. Later in the movie, Jazis gets his hair cut at around time he becomes more concerned about the violence happening around him. This haircut is the movie’s symbolic way of showing development in Jazis’ maturity.

Anna and her clique aren’t true anarchists. They mostly talk about being anti-establishment, and they make some annoying but harmless mischief. For example, there’s a scene where Anna, Jazis and her friends are hanging out a food court, when she and some of the friends start grabbing and eating food from other people’s plates before being chased away. Jazis doesn’t participate in these shenanigans. He always seems like a little bit of an outsider at these get-togethers.

Eventually, Anna and Jazis become sexually intimate, but their first sexual encounter together is less-than-romantic, since he has “performance issues” and seems to be very inexperienced. “January” tends to falter in depicting this budding romance, because Anna and Jazis don’t really have any meaningful conversations with each other outside of their interest in filmmaking. Anna seems more willing to be open about her feelings than Jazis, who always seems to be holding back on showing who he really is when he’s with her.

Therefore, people with enough life experience can see that what Jazis and Anna have isn’t real love. It’s a mutual attraction that stops and starts intermittently. However, it seems like the “January” filmmakers want to sell Anna and Jazis’ relationship as an impactful “love story,” when it’s really just a teenage crush. The “romance” in this film is actually quite monotonous and not as meaningful as it could have been.

Anna has been developing her skills as a filmmaker by doing music videos. One day a semi-famous director named Juris Podnieks (played by Juhan Ulfsa) comes to the school to look at the students’ work. Juris is so impressed with Anna’s work that he immediately offers her a job working for him as an assistant. She eagerly accepts.

But you know what that means: Jazis gets jealous, although he tries to pretend that he isn’t jealous. At first, he congratulates Anna, who seems so relieved that he’s not angry, she hugs him. However, at a party to celebrate Anna’s new job, Jazis sulks on a couch.

And later, Jazis shows up unannounced when Anna is supposed to leave with Juris and other co-workers for a film shoot. Jazis accuses Anna and Juris of getting romantically involved. Anna angrily denies it and tells Jazis that he’s acting like a paranoid lover. He even tries to block her from getting in the car where Juris and her co-workers are witnessing this conflict. This argument is another turning point in Jazis and Anna’s bumpy relationship.

Because “January” takes a realism approach to showing this month in the life of Jazis, not everything in the movie is compelling drama, just like in real life. There are stretches of the movie where not much happens except Jazis moping around and doing some filming here and there. The best scenes in “January” are those that involve Jazis becoming more enlightened about the stakes involved in Latvian freedom and the sacrifices that Latvian residents have to make to fight for that freedom.

The emotional crediblity of “January” is largely dependent on Avots’ performance as Jazis. Avots does a very good job of portraying the late-teens angst of someone who is old enough to legally be an adult but might not be emotionally mature enough to make adult decisions. Danovska’s nuanced and admirable performance as Anna indicates that there could’ve been potential to develop this character beyond just being the protagonist’s love interest.

Because “January” spends a great deal of screen time on the relationship between Jazis and Anna, opinions about “January” might vary, depending on how viewers feel about Anna and Jazis being a couple. It’s impossible not to notice that Jazis and Anna’s romance doesn’t have a lot of convincing passion or a deep emotional connection. Jazis’ jealous streak is also an indication that Jazis and Anna ultimately aren’t right for each other, since he’s already showing signs of being enviously competitive with her as a filmmaker.

Fortunately, “January” doesn’t veer too far off-course into Jazis and Anna’s topsy-turvy relationship. The movie is essentially about Jazis thinking that his earliest filmmaking experiences would be making short student films, but instead his earliest filmmaking experiences ended up documenting the increasing political terror around him. Someone’s life shouldn’t be defined by just one month, but “January” shows in effective ways how one month can change the course of someone’s life.

2022 Tribeca Film Festival: complete list of winners

June 16, 2022

The following is a press release from the Tribeca Film Festival:

The 21st annual Tribeca Festival, presented by OKX, announced the winning storytellers in its competition categories at this year’s awards ceremony at Tribeca eatery Thalassa. Awards were given in the following competition categories: Feature Film, Short Film, Audio Storytelling, Immersive, Games, Human / Nature, AT&T Untold Stories, and Tribeca X.

The ceremony awarded $165,000 in cash prizes. The Festival, which hosts over 600 events across New York City, concludes on June 19th.

“Today’s honorees are a testament to the vitality of cinematic storytelling, representing the most exciting achievements across countries, genres, and platforms,” said Cara Cusumano, Festival Director and Vice President of Programming. “We are proud to recognize such a diverse and innovative group of works and creators with today’s well-deserved award winners.”

A special Virtual Award Winner Screenings series will be available for U.S. audiences via Tribeca At Home on Saturday, June 18 and Sunday, June 19, 2022.

Tickets can be purchased at tribecafilm.com/festival/tickets. Competition winners in the Short Films Category, presented by Meta, are available to stream on the Meta Quest 2 virtual-reality headset as well as the Tribeca page on Facebook through Sunday, June 19.

In cash awards and in-kind services provided by sponsors, some award winners received the unique Tribeca Festival Art Award. Supported by CHANEL, the world-class artists donated work to honored filmmakers.

The winners of the Audience Award, which are determined by audience votes throughout the Festival, will be announced next week.

2022 Winners and Special Jury Mentions, as selected by the 2022 Festival Jury, are as follows:

U.S. NARRATIVE COMPETITION

Rain Spencer and Andie MacDowell in “Good Girl Jane” (Photo by Jake Saner)

The Founders Award for Best U.S. Narrative Feature: Good Girl Jane, (United States) – World Premiere, presented by OKX. Bullied out of private school and at odds with her divorced parents, lonely high schooler Jane spirals out of control after falling in with a hard-partying crowd and becoming smitten with a dangerously charismatic bad boy. Directed and written by Sarah Elizabeth Mintz. Produced by Fred Bernstein, Dominique Telson, Lauren Pratt, Sarah Elizabeth Mintz, Simone Williams. With Rain Spencer, Patrick Gibson, Andie MacDowell, Odessa A’Zion, Olan Prenatt, Eloisa Huggins. The winner receives $20,000.

Shyrley Rodriguez, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Liza Colón-Zayas and Daphne Rubin-Vega in “Allswell” (Photo by Oren Soffer)

Best Screenplay in a U.S. Narrative Feature: Ben Snyder and Elizabeth Rodriguez for Allswell, (United States) – World Premiere. Three Nuyorican sisters navigate the daunting life challenges of single motherhood, career, and family, all while finding humor and solace within the bonds of sisterhood in this absorbing dramedy. Directed and written by Ben Snyder, and written by Elizabeth Rodriguez. Produced by Gia Walsh, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Vince Jolivette, Ben Snyder, Ari Issler, Paul Jarrett, Kara Baker. With Elizabeth Rodriguez, Liza Colon-Zayas, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Felix Solis, Max Cassella, Michael Rispoli, Shirley Rodriguez, MacKenzie Lansing, and J. Cameron Barnett. The winner received $2,500.

Katie Parker and Rahul Kohli in “Next Exit” (Photo courtesy of No Traffic For Ghosts LLC)

Best Cinematography in a U.S. Narrative Feature: Azuli Anderson for Next Exit, (United States) – World Premiere. In a world where ghosts are real and front-page news, a controversial new medical procedure allows people to peacefully kill themselves. In the midst of this breakthrough, two strangers travel cross country together to end their lives, only to unexpectedly find what they’ve been missing along the way. Directed and written by Mali Elfman. Produced by Derek Bishé, Narineh Hacopian. With Katie Parker, Rahul Kohli, Rose McIver, Karen Gillan, Tongayi Chirisa, Diva Zappa.

Rain Spencer in “Good Girl Jane” (Photo by Jake Saner)

Best Performance in a U.S. Narrative Feature: Rain Spencer in Good Girl Jane, (United States) – World Premiere. Bullied out of private school and at odds with her divorced parents, lonely high schooler Jane spirals out of control after falling in with a hard-partying crowd and becoming smitten with a dangerously charismatic bad boy. Directed and written by Sarah Elizabeth Mintz. Produced by Fred Bernstein, Dominique Telson, Lauren Pratt, Sarah Elizabeth Mintz, Simone Williams. With Rain Spencer, Patrick Gibson, Andie MacDowell, Odessa A’Zion, Olan Prenatt, Eloisa Huggins.

Special Jury Mention for Best Performance in a U.S. Narrative Feature: Liz Carbel Sierra in God’s Time, (United States) – World Premiere. A heart-racing, NYC-set dark comedy that sees two best bros in recovery for addiction trying to prevent the potential murder of their mutual crush’s ex-boyfriend.

Directed and written by Daniel Antebi. Produced by Emily Korteweg, Andrew Hutcheson, Reid Hannaford. With Ben Groh, Dion Costelloe, Liz Caribel Sierra, Jared Abrahamson, Christiane Seidel.

INTERNATIONAL NARRATIVE COMPETITION

Kārlis Arnolds Avots and Alise Danovska in “January” (Photo by Andrejs Strokins)

Best International Narrative Feature: January (Janvaris), (Latvia, Lithuania, Poland) – World Premiere. An aspiring filmmaker tries to search for who he is against the backdrop of Latvian independence in this dark but dreamy coming-of-age story. Directed by Viesturs Kairiss. Written by Viesturs Kairiss, Andris Feldmanis, Livia Ulman. Produced by Inese Boka-Grūbe, Gints Grūbe. With Kārlis Arnolds Avots, Alise Danovska, Sandis Runge, Baiba Broka, Aleksas Kazanavičius, Juhan Ulfsak. In Latvian, Lithuanian, Russian, with English subtitles. The winner received $20,000.

Enrique Araoz in “The Visitor” (Photo by German Nocella)

Best Screenplay in an International Narrative Feature: Martín Boulocq and Rodrigo Hasbún for The Visitor, (Bolivia, Uruguay) – World Premiere. In the atmospheric and visually-compelling drama The Visitor, an ex-convict returns home in search of a new life and a chance to reconnect with his estranged young daughter, only to be met with resistance from his father-in-law – an influential pastor in the Evangelical community in town. Directed by Martín Boulocq. Written by Martín Boulocq, Rodrigo Hasbún. Produced by Andrea Camponovo, Alvaro Olmos. With Enrique Aráoz, César Troncoso, Mirella Pascual, Svet Ailyn Mena, Romel Vargas, Teresa Gutiérrez. In Spanish with English subtitles. The winner received $2,500.

“We Might As Well Be Dead” (Photo by Jan Mayntz)

Best Cinematography in an International Narrative Feature: Jan Mayntz for We Might As Well Be Dead (Wir könnten genauso gut tot sein), (Germany, Romania) – International Premiere. The disappearance of a dog and the sudden isolation of a security guard’s daughter start a bizarre chain of events in an apartment complex obsessed with keeping up appearances. Directed by Natalia Sinelnikova. Written by Natalia Sinelnikova, Viktor Gallandi. Produced by Julia Wagner. With Ioana Iacob, Pola Geiger, Jörg Schüttauf, Şiir Eloğlu, Moritz Jahn, Susanne Wuest, Knut Berger, Mina Özlem Sağdıç. In German, Polish with English subtitles.

Dorota Pomykala (pictured at far right) in a “Woman on a Roof”

Best Performance in an International Narrative Feature: Dorota Pomykala for Woman on a Roof, (Poland, France, Sweden) – World Premiere. One morning a 60-year-old midwife does something extremely unexpected, which breaks her family and life apart. Inspired by a true story, this is a complex character portrayal told with outstanding cinematic realism. Directed and written by Anna Jadowska.

Produced by Maria Blicharska. With Dorota Pomykala, Bogdan Koca, Adam Bobik. In Polish with English subtitles.

DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

Jason Wilson (pictured at right) in”The Cave of Adullam” (Photo by Greg Harriott)

Best Documentary Feature: The Cave of Adullam, (United States) – World Premiere. Living by the mantra ‘it’s easier to raise boys than to repair broken men’, martial arts sensei Jason Wilson tenderly guides his often-troubled young Detroit students with a beautifully effective blend of compassion and tough love. Directed by Laura Checkoway. Produced by Laurence Fishburne, Helen Sugland, Roy Bank, Joe Plummer, Laura Checkoway. With Jason Wilson, Kevin L. Collins Jr., Gabriel Davenport, Daniel White, Tamarkus Williams. The winner receives $20,000.

“The Wild One”

Best Cinematography in a Documentary Feature: Boris Levy for The Wild One, (France) – World Premiere. Jack Garfein — Holocaust survivor, theater and film director, key figure in the formation of the Actors Studio — vividly, animatedly, passionately recalls a life where historical tragedy and personal art formed a unique, driving, uncompromising vision. Directed, written, and produced by Tessa

Louise-Salomé. With Jack Garfein, Willem Dafoe, Peter Bogdanovich, Irène Jacob, Boby Sotto, Dick Guttman, Blanche Baker, Patricia Bosworth, Foster Hirsch, Geoffrey Horne, Kate Rennebohm. The winner receives $2,500.

“The Cave of Adullam” (Photo by Greg Harriott)

Best Editing in a Documentary Feature: Christopher McGlynn for The Cave of Adullam, (United States)

– World Premiere. Living by the mantra ‘it’s easier to raise boys than to repair broken men’, martial arts sensei Jason Wilson tenderly guides his often-troubled young Detroit students with a beautifully effective blend of compassion and tough love. Directed by Laura Checkoway. Produced by Laurence Fishburne, Helen Sugland, Roy Bank, Joe Plummer, Laura Checkoway. With Jason Wilson, Kevin L. Collins Jr., Gabriel Davenport, Daniel White, Tamarkus Williams. The winner receives $2,500.

BEST NEW NARRATIVE DIRECTOR COMPETITION

“Huesera”

Best New Narrative Director: Michelle Garza Cervera for Huesera, (Mexico) – Feature Narrative, World Premiere. Valeria has long dreamed about becoming a mother. After learning that she’s pregnant, she expects to feel happy, yet something’s off. Nightmarish visions and an unshakeable paranoia have her questioning what she wants, and an ancient evil spirit may be the cause. Directed by Michelle Garza Cervera. Written by Michelle Garza Cervera, Abia Castillo. Produced by Paulina Villavicencio, Edher Campos. With Natalia Solián, Alfonso Dosal, Mayra Batalla, Mercedes Hernández, Aída López, Martha Claudia Moreno. In Spanish with English subtitles. An XYZ release. The winner receives $10,000.

Special Jury Mention for Best New Narrative Director: Floor van der Meulen for Pink Moon, (Italy, Netherlands, Slovenia) – World Premiere. An adult daughter kidnaps her father, whisking him away to a cabin in the snow, hoping to alter his unexpected announcement that he has had enough of life and will end it by his next birthday. Directed by Floor van der Meulen. Written by Bastiaan Kroeger. Produced by Derk-Jan Warrink and Koji Nelissen. With Julia Akkermans, Johan Leysen, Eelco Smits, Anniek Pheifer, Sinem Kavus.

BEST NEW DOCUMENTARY DIRECTOR COMPETITION

Edward Buckles Jr. in “Katrina Babies” (Photo by Myesha Evon Gardner)

The Albert Maysles Award for Best New Documentary Director: Edward Buckles Jr. for Katrina Babies, (United States) – World Premiere. Katrina Babies is a first-person account of the short-term and long-term devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, as told by young people who were between the ages of 3 and 19 when the levees broke. Directed by Edward Buckles Jr.. Written by Edward Buckles Jr., Luther Clement Lam, Audrey Rosenberg. Produced by Edward Buckles Jr., Audrey Rosenberg, Rebecca Teitel. With Miesha Williams, Cierra Chenier, Arnold Burks, Damaris Calliet, Calvin Baxter, Quintina Thomas Green. An HBO Documentary Films release. The winner receives $10,000.

NORA EPHRON COMPETITION

“Huesera”

Nora Ephron Award: Michelle Garza Cervera for Huesera, (Mexico) – Feature Narrative, World Premiere. Valeria has long dreamed about becoming a mother. After learning that she’s pregnant, she expects to feel happy, yet something’s off. Nightmarish visions and an unshakeable paranoia have her questioning what she wants, and an ancient evil spirit may be the cause. Directed by Michelle Garza Cervera. Written by Michelle Garza Cervera, Abia Castillo. Produced by Paulina Villavicencio, Edher Campos. With Natalia Solián, Alfonso Dosal, Mayra Batalla, Mercedes Hernández, Aída López, Martha Claudia Moreno. In Spanish with English subtitles. An XYZ release. The winner receives $20,000.

SHORTS COMPETITION

Sigirid Husjord and Ola Hoemsnes Sandum in “Night Ride” (Photo by Vegard Landsverk)

Best Narrative Short: Night Ride (Nattrikken), (Norway) – New York Premiere, Short Narrative. It is a cold night in December. As Ebba waits for the tram, an unexpected turn of events transforms the ride home into something she was not expecting. Directed and written by Eirik Tveiten. Produced by Gaute Lid Larssen, Heidi Arnesen. With Sigrid Husjord, Ola Hoemsnes Sandum, Axel Barø Aasen. In Norwegian with English subtitles. The winner receives $5,000.

“Heart Valley” (Photo Christopher Cargill)

Best Documentary Short: Heart Valley, (UK, Wales) World Premiere, Short Documentary. Heart Valley follows a day in the life of solitary Welsh shepherd Wilf Davies. Directed by Christian Cargill. Written by Kiran Sidhu. Produced by Christian Cargill, Lily Wakeley, Kiran Sidhu. With Evan Wilf Davies.

Richard “Mac” McKinney in “Stranger at the Gate” (Photo by Karl Schroder)

Special Jury Mention for Best Documentary Short: Stranger at the Gate, (United States) – New York Premiere, Short Documentary. A U.S. Marine plots a terrorist attack on a small-town American mosque. His plan takes an unexpected turn when he comes face-to-face with the people he sets out to kill. Directed by Joshua Seftel. Produced by Mohannad Malas, Suzanne Hillinger, Conall Jones, Jeremy Mack, Anna Rowe, Eric Nichols. With Bibi Bahrami, Dr. Saber Bahrami, Dana McKinney, Emily McKinney, Richard “Mac” McKinney, Jomo Williams.

“More Than I Remember”

Best Animated Short: More Than I Remember, (United States) – New York Premiere, Short Animation. Fourteen-year-old Mugeni awakes to the sounds of bombs. As her family scatters to the surrounding forests to save themselves, Mugeni finds herself completely alone. Directed by Amy Bench. Written by Mugeni Ornella, Amy Bench, Carolyn Merriman. Produced by Amy Bench, Carolyn Merriman. With Mugeni Ornella. The winner receives $5,000.

Student Visionary: Daydreamers, (Belgium) – North American Premiere, Short Narrative. A father and his daughter are very passionate about motorcycles. An eye condition jeopardizes their shared hobby. Directed by Ante Pask. Written by Ante Pask, Emiel van Wouwe. Produced by Ella Bal, Ante Pask.With Jurgen Delnaet, Flo Martens, Robby Cleiren. In Dutch with English subtitles. The winner receives $5,000.

TRIBECA AUDIO STORYTELLING COMPETITION

“Mother Country Radicals”

Best Audio Storytelling in Nonfiction: Mother Country Radicals.

In 1970, Bernardine Dohrn declared war on the United States. Now, her son Zayd tells the story of how she was radicalized, and became the most wanted woman in America. Created by Zayd Ayers Dohrn, executive produced by Zayd Ayers Dohrn, Jon Favreau, Sarah Geismer, Lyra Smith, Alison Falzetta, Misha Euceph, with sound design by Arwen Nicks, Stephanie Cohn, Ariana Gharib Lee, and Misha Euceph, and music by Andy Clausen.

Special Jury Mention Best Audio Storytelling in Nonfiction: I Was Never There.

Take a trip into the countercultural movements swirling through West Virginia in the 1970s and 80s. Jamie Zelermyer and her mother Karen investigate the shocking disappearance of their friend Marsha “Mudd” Ferber and explore her evolution from suburban housewife to back-to-the-land hippie to drug-dealing bar owner. As mother and daughter venture deeper into the mystery of Marsha’s disappearance, the two process their own history: Jamie reflects on her nontraditional upbringing and Karen reckons with the joyful and complicated consequences of her decisions. Created by Jamie and Karen Zelermeyer, produced by Adesuwa Agbonile, Lindsey Kratochwill, Liz Smith, Alessandra Wollner, edited by Jenny Kaplan and Liz Smith. Executive produced by Jamie Zelermyer, Jenny Kaplan (Wonder Media Network), and Karen Zelermyer, with sound design by Liz Smith.

“The Hollowed Out”

Best Audio Storytelling in Fiction: The Hollowed Out.

When a journalist returns to her hometown to investigate a suspicious accident involving a friend, she finds fractured relationships and mysterious rumors about what’s really going on in her town. Created, written, edited, and produced by Brit and Nick Kewin. Starring Stephanie Costa, Carolyn Taylor, Moynan King, Madison Cheeatow, Shomari Downer, Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll, with sound design by Justin Helle.

TRIBECA IMMERSIVE COMPETITION

“Kubo Walks the City”

Storyscapes Award: Kubo Walks The City, (France, South Korea) – North American Premiere. Seoul, 1934. Korea is under Japanese occupation. Like “ethno-detectives,” viewers follow in the footsteps of Kubo, a Korean writer, in his urban flânerie. Through caricatures that mock the shortcomings of a Korean society emerging from the poverty and archaisms of the past, explore a city recklessly discovering the modernity and prosperity that come with occupation. Directed by Hayoun Kwon and produced by Innerspace VR. The winner receives $10,000.

Special Jury Mention for Storyscapes Award: EVOLVER, (United Kingdom, France, United States) – World Premiere. EVOLVER from Marshmallow Laser Feast is a collective virtual reality experience which drops audiences deep inside the landscape of the body, following the flow of oxygen through our branching ecosystem, to a single ‘breathing’ cell. Through this transcendental narrative, it becomes clear that breath not only sparks life, but also connects us to the natural world through the cycle of respiration.

Project Creators: Marshmallow Laser Feast, Jonny Greenwood, Meredith Monk, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Howard Skempton. Producers: Nicole Shanahan (Bia-Echo), Edward R. Pressman, and & Sam Pressman (Pressman Film), Terrence Malick (TF Malick Productions), Antoine Cayrol (Atlas V), and Mike Jones (Marshmallow Laser Feast).

“LGBTQ + VR Museum”

New Voices Award: LGBTQ + VR Museum, (United Kingdom, Denmark) – North American Premiere. LGBTQ + VR Museum is the world’s first virtual reality museum dedicated to celebrating the stories and artwork of LGBTQ people by preserving queer personal histories. The museum contains 3D scans of touching personal artifacts, from wedding shoes to a teddy bear, chosen by people in the LGBTQ community and accompanied by their stories told in their own words. The in-person version presented at Tribeca is a never-before-seen multiplayer biometric experience controlled by users’ emotions in real-time. Project Creators: Antonia Forster and Thomas Terkildsen. Producer: Albert Millis.

TRIBECA GAMES COMPETITION

“Thirsty Suitors”

Tribeca Games Award: Thirsty Suitors, (United States) – World Premiere. Jala is a young woman returning home for her sister’s wedding and confronting her past. With wildly varied gameplay, Jala will fight skate punks, random suitors, and ultimately, her exes, in the ultimate battle to heal old hurts and ignite new truths, bringing Jala closer to understanding what she wants from her future. Can she learn to love herself and heal the wounds of her past? Created by Outerloop Games. Published by Annapurna Interactive

Special Jury Mention for Tribeca Games Award: Oxenfree II: Lost Signals (United States) – World Premiere. OXENFREE II: Lost Signals is the mind-bending follow-up to the critically-acclaimed narrative adventure game OXENFREE from Night School Studio. In the small coastal town of Camena, unnaturally occurring electromagnetic waves are causing interference with electrical and radio equipment.

Reluctantly, Riley Poverly returns to her hometown to investigate the mystery. What she finds is more than she bargained for. Created by Night School Studios. Published by Netflix.

HUMAN / NATURE COMPETITION

Edward Buckles Jr. holding a photo in “Katrina Babies” (Photo by Myesha Evon Gardner)

HUMAN / NATURE Award: Katrina Babies, (United States) – World Premiere, presented by Bulleit. Katrina Babies is a first-person account of the short-term and long-term devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, as told by young people who were between the ages of 3 and 19 when the levees broke. Directed by Edward Buckles Jr.. Written by Edward Buckles Jr., Luther Clement Lam, Audrey Rosenberg. Produced by Edward Buckles Jr., Audrey Rosenberg, Rebecca Teitel. With Miesha Williams, Cierra Chenier, Arnold Burks, Damaris Calliet, Calvin Baxter, Quintina Thomas Green. An HBO Documentary Films release. The winner receives $5,000 and a custom engraved bottle of Bulleit Bourbon.

AT&T PRESENTS UNTOLD STORIES COMPETITION

AT&T Presents Untold Stories: Smoking Tigers, (United States). Over one summer spent at an elite academic bootcamp, a lonely Korean American teenager hides her true identity to fit in, only to discover the bittersweet pains of adulthood. Directed and Written by So Young Shelly Yo. Produced by Guo Guo. Untold Stories is a multi-year, multi-tier alliance between AT&T and the Tribeca Festival that awards $1 million dollars, mentorship, and distribution support to systemically underrepresented filmmakers to produce their films. Smoking Tigers will also be guaranteed a premiere at the 2023 Tribeca Festival, subject to timely delivery of the film and granted a dedicated “first look” opportunity with HBO Max.

TRIBECA X AWARD COMPETITION

“The Beauty of Blackness”

Best Feature for Tribeca X: The Beauty of Blackness. Brand: Sephora. Agency: Epic Digital, VOX Creative, Digitas, Ventureland. Directors: Kianna Moore and Tiffany Johnson. In 1973, Eunice Johnson, the founder of Ebony and Jet, noticed a problem: Black women had to mix their own foundation in order to find a color that matched their skin. To tackle the problem, Johnson launched Fashion Fair, the first national cosmetics company that focused entirely on Black women. The brand triggered a renaissance in style among Black women and the global cosmetics industry took notice. Now, Fashion Fair is staging its comeback as a Black-owned business in a new era defined by massive cultural shifts and increased competition. The Beauty of Blackness follows current Fashion Fair CEO Desiree Rogers and President Cheryl Mayberry McKissack as they face the massive undertaking that goes into reviving an iconic beauty brand amidst a new cultural context and gives a front-row look to how the industry has changed, and how much progress we still have to make.

“The Comeback”

Best Short for Tribeca X: The Comeback. Brand: Apple. Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab Shanghai. Director: Zhang Meng. The story follows a disheartened young stunt double-slash-wannabe director, his father, and a rag-tag crew of villagers as they set out to shoot an out-of-this-world movie in hopes of reviving their fading village and making it “internet famous”. This 23-minute heartwarming story is set to encourage everyone to never stop believing in their dreams, even if that dream is as far aways as Mars. Will they succeed in the end? A multi-genre movie mixes up Hollywood sci-fi, traditional Kung Fu action and nostalgic feel-good comedy, entirely shot on iPhone.

“Stories About Helpful People”

Best Series for Tribeca X: Stories About Helpful People. Brand: Zendesk. Creative Studio: Even/Odd. Directors: Sindha Agha, Erin Brethauer, and Tim Hussin. As a customer support company, everything Zendesk does — from how they build their customer experience software to the way they work with customers, is all about being helpful. It’s the spirit they believe in. “Stories About Helpful People” is a series of mini-documentaries and photo stories. It’s a series intended to inspire the Zendesk community to rally around the spirit of helpfulness. In GOLDEN AGE KARATE, a high school student helps a group of senior citizens get through a vulnerable time, by teaching them karate. In ERIC AND THE BEES, a U.S. military veteran discovers that beekeeping helps him cope with PTSD — and teaches other vets the healing powers of the hive.

Best Immersive for Tribeca X: Emerging Radiance: Honoring the Nikkei Farmers of Bellevue. Brand: Meta. Creators: Tani Ikeda and Michelle Kumata. Emerging Radiance, directed by Tani Ikeda and illustrated by Michelle Kumata, celebrates the untold stories of Japanese American strawberry farmer

who lived in Bellevue from 1920 to 1942. With a hand-painted mural and Spark AR Instagram filters, visitors have the opportunity to meet Toshio Ito, Rae Matsuoka Takekawa, and Mitsuko Hashiguchi, three survivors of the World War II incarceration camps, as they share in their own words their connections to the land before World War II, during incarceration, and post-World War II. Produced by Meta Open Arts.

About the Tribeca Festival

The Tribeca Festival, presented by OKX, brings artists and diverse audiences together to celebrate storytelling in all its forms, including film, TV, VR, games, music, and online work. With strong roots in independent film, Tribeca is a platform for creative expression and immersive entertainment. Tribeca champions emerging and established voices; discovers award-winning filmmakers and creators; curates innovative experiences; and introduces new technology and ideas through premieres, exhibitions, talks, and live performances.

The Festival was founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff in 2001 to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan following the attacks on the World Trade Center. Tribeca will celebrate its 21st year from June 8–19, 2022.

In 2019, James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems, a private investment company with locations in New York and Mumbai, bought a majority stake in Tribeca Enterprises, bringing together Rosenthal, De Niro, and Murdoch to grow the enterprise.

About the 2022 Tribeca Festival Partners

The 2022 Tribeca Festival is presented by OKX and with the support of our partners: AT&T, Audible, Bayer’s One a Day, Bloomberg Philanthropies, CHANEL, City National Bank, CNN Films, Converse, Diageo, Discovery+, DoorDash, Indeed, Meta, NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, Sephora, Spring Studios New York, P&G, United Airlines and Unreal Engine.

June 18, 2022 UPDATE:

AUDIENCE AWARD – NARRATIVE

Babetida Sadjo and Souléymane Sy Savané in “Our Father, the Devil” (Photo by Tinx Chan)

First Place: Our Father, the Devil – Directed by Ellie Foumbi
Marie Cissé’s (Babetida Sadjo) troubled past comes calling with the arrival of Father Patrick (Souléymane Sy Savané), an African priest whom she recognizes from a terrifying episode in her homeland.

Second Place: Wes Schlagenhauf Is Dying– Directed by Parker Seaman
A personalized video message to a coworker who contracted COVID, ignites an artistic fire in two aspiring directors, inspiring them to take a cross country road trip to visit their sick friend.

AUDIENCE AWARD – DOCUMENTARY

Jason Wilson (pictued at right) in “The Cave of Adullam” (Photo by Greg Harriott)

First Place: The Cave of Adullam– Directed by Laura Checkoway
A heartwarming look at Detroit martial arts teacher Jason Wilson, who mentors young Black boys, giving them rare and invaluable experience of being seen and cared for as the vulnerable beings they are.

Second Place: Lift– Directed by David Peterson New York Theatre Ballet’s Project LIFT program has been offering scholarships to homeless, home insecure and at-risk children, exposing them to the beauty and discipline of ballet, often for the first time while helping them develop talent they never knew they had.

AUDIENCE AWARD – ONLINE

Alex Trewhitt in “Cherry” (Photo by Damien Steck)

First Place: Cherry – Directed by Sophia Galibert
A driftless and uncommitted 25-year-old in Los Angeles discovers she has only 24 hours to make one of the most consequential decisions of her life, what to do about an unplanned pregnancy.

Second Place: In Her Name– Directed by Sarah Carter
Frustrated, aspiring artist Freya has to put her career on hold to care for her formerly famous artist dad. When her estranged, well-heeled sister Fiona shows up, the sisters grapple with the impending demise of their father, reigniting their sibling rivalry.

Review: ‘The Lost Weekend: A Love Story,’ starring May Pang

June 15, 2022

by Carla Hay

An archival photo of John Lennon and May Pang in “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” (Photo courtesy of May Pang Collection)

“The Lost Weekend: A Love Story”

Directed by Eve Brandstein, Richard Kaufman and Stuart Samuels

Culture Representation: The documentary film “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” features a nearly all-white group people (with one Asian) discussing the 1973-1975 love affair that John Lennon had with May Pang, who was also his personal assistant at the time.

Culture Clash: Pang, who is the documentary’s narrator, says that Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono insisted that Pang start an affair with Lennon during the spouses’ separation, and that Ono was the cause of manipulative conflicts that eventually led to Lennon reuniting with Ono.

Culture Audience: “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” will appeal mainly to fans of Lennon and the Beatles who want to know more about the life that Lennon had when he was separated from Ono.

In the very personal documentary “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story,” May Pang narrates and shares her memories of the love affair that she had with John Lennon from 1973 to 1975. Pang’s 1983 memoir “Loving John” went into many of the same details. However, this cinematic version of Pang’s story is a visual treat and an emotional journey that offers intriguing photos and audio recordings, including rare chronicles of Lennon’s reunions with his former Beatles bandmate Paul McCartney. “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” had its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

Directed by Eve Brandstein, Richard Kaufman and Stuart Samuels (who are also the producers of the documentary), “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” refers to the notorious “Lost Weekend” in Lennon’s life. It actually wasn’t a weekend but it was in reality a period of about 18 months when Lennon was separated from his second wife, Yoko Ono, whom he married in 1969. It was also a time when, by Lennon’s own admission, he was drinking and drugging heavily, although Lennon says he eventually sobered up and stopped his hard-partying ways around the time he made his 1975 album “Rock and Roll.”

The documentary starts out with Pang describing her turbulent childhood where she often felt like a misfit. Born in New York City on October 24, 1950, Pang says that her Chinese immigrant parents had an unhappy marriage. She spent much of her childhood growing up in New York City’s Spanish Harlem district, which was populated by mostly African Americans and Puerto Ricans. “I was a minority among minorities,” Pang comments in the documentary.

Pang describes her father as “abusive” and someone who eventually abandoned her when he adopted a son, since her father was open about preferring to have a son. By contrast, Pang describes having a close relationship with her loving mother, who encouraged Pang to be strong and independent. Pang’s mother, who had “beauty and brains,” opened her own laundromat called OK Laundry. Pang’s older biological sister is not mentioned in the documentary.

Pang says, “Dad was an atheist, and Mom was a Buddhist, so naturally, they sent me to Catholic school … Dad fought with Mom. I fought with the nuns, so my only escape was music.” From an early age, Pang says, “I was hooked on rock and roll, especially these four guys from Liverpool.”

Those “four guys from Liverpool” in England were, of course, the Beatles. Pang didn’t like school very much, so she dropped out of college and quickly found a job working at the New York offices of ABKCO, the company that managed Apple Corps, the Beatles’ entertainment company. ABKCO, which was founded by Allen Klein, also managed Lennon’s solo career.

Pang says she walked right in the office one day, asked if they were hiring, and she basically lied about having secretary skills in order to get the job. A week later, she started working for ABKCO’s Apple Corps side of the business. Pang describes herself as a go-getter who doesn’t get easily defeated.

But not long after she started working for Apple Corps, the Beatles announced their breakup in 1970. Pang then started to do more ABKCO work for the company’s management of Lennon’s solo career. By the early 1970s, Lennon and Ono had relocated to New York City as their primary home base, although they still maintained a home in England. And then, Pang was asked by Lennon and Ono to leave ABKCO to be the couple’s personal assistant. She eagerly accepted the offer.

Sometime in 1973, Lennon and Ono decided to separate. Ono had an unusual demand during this separation: According to Pang, Ono told Pang that Pang had to start an affair with Lennon. The reason? Ono knew that Lennon would be dating other women, and she felt that Pang was a “safe choice.” Pang and Lennon than moved to Los Angeles, where the so-called “Lost Weekend” really began. In the documentary’s archival interview footage (which is mostly from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s), Ono doesn’t really deny Pang’s claims but is vague about how she interacted with Lennon and Pang during the marital separation.

Just as Pang did in her memoir and in many interviews that she’s given over the years, Pang says in the documentary that she was at first very confused and frightened by Ono’s demand for Pang to have an affair with Lennon. Up until that point, Pang’s relationship with Lennon was strictly professional. Pang says her first instinct was to say no, but she eventually agreed because she says she didn’t want to lose her job. She also liked Lennon immensely as a person. Pang describes him as witty, funny, intelligent and generous, but with a bit of cruel streak and some insecurities that didn’t make him always easy to deal with on a daily basis.

Pang says that after Ono gave Lennon “permission” to start dating Pang, Lennon ended up pursuing Pang, starting with flirting. Flirting led to kissing, and then after a short period of time, they became lovers. Pang says, “Before I knew it, John Lennon charmed the pants off of me.” Pang remembers her first sexual encounter with Lennon: “After we made love, I started to cry.” She says she asked him: “What does this mean?” Lennon replied, “I don’t know.”

Pang says in the documentary that she believes Ono mistakenly assumed that Lennon and Pang would have a casual fling. Instead, Pang says that her romance with Lennon was true love for the both of them, and she and Lennon eventually moved in together. Before Lennon and Ono reunited in 1975, Pang says that Pang and John looked at houses on New York’s Long Island, because he was planning to buy a Long Island home where they could live together.

At the beginning of the relationship, Pang and Lennon spent most of their time in Los Angeles, where he did a lot of heavy partying with friends such Ringo Starr (his former Beatles bandmate), Harry Nilsson, Keith Moon, Alice Cooper, Mickey Dolenz and former Apple Corps employee Tony King. Cooper said they called themselves the Hollywood Vampires. The documentary includes some amusing video footage of King, dressed in drag as Queen Elizabeth II, doing a commercial for Lennon’s 1973 “Mind Games” album, with Lennon and King goofing around with his ball gown lifted up to show his underwear.

The intoxicated partying wasn’t all fun and games. Pang retells the infamous stories about how much of a tyrant Phil Spector was as a music producer in the studio, especially when he was drunk, which was often at the time. Spector was a producer of the Beatles’ 1970 “Let It Be” album and several of Lennon’s solo albums. Pang was there to witness Spector taking out a gun and shooting during an argument in the studio. (It’s a well-known story.)

Luckily, no one was physically hurt during that incident. But considering that in 2009, Spector was convicted of the 2003 shooting murder of actress Lana Clarkson, it’s an example of how his dangerous and erratic behavior had been going on for years prior to the murder. (Spector was still a prisoner in California when he died of COVID-19 complications in 2021. He was 81.)

Eventually, Lennon befriended Elton John and David Bowie, which resulted in successful collaborations with these other music legends. Lennon provided background vocals for Bowie’s 1975 hit “Fame.” John provided harmony and played keyboards on Lennon’s 1974 hit “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night.” Pang retells the story of how she and Lennon were in bed watching televangelist Reverend Ike on TV, and the preacher said, “Whatever gets you through the night” as part of the sermon. It inspired Lennon to write the song.

Lennon and John performed “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night” live one time on stage at John’s Madison Square Garden concert on November 28, 1974, after Lennon lost a bet. When they were recording the song in the studio, John had predicted that the song would be a No. 1 hit in the United States. Lennon disagreed, so John made a bet with Lennon that if the song became a No. 1 hit, Lennon would have to perform the song in concert with John if that prediction turned out to be true.

This concert was Lennon’s first time performing at an arena show without the Plastic Ono Band (whose members included Ono), and it would turn out to be his last time performing in public. Pang describes Lennon as being extremely nervous before the performance. It was also at this fateful concert that Ono showed up backstage in what would be among the many signs that she was ready to get back together with Lennon.

Pang says in the documentary that some of her best memories of being with Lennon were the times she spent in the recording studio with him. She was credited as a production coordinator in several solo albums that Lennon made during the 1970s. Pang also did some backup vocals on a few of Lennon’s solo songs, most notably on “#9 Dream” from Lennon’s 1973 “Walls and Bridges” album. Pang can be heard whispering “John” on the song.

She got to witness a lot of music history, including a jam session with Lennon, McCartney and Stevie Wonder doing an impromptu version of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me.” Pang says that Linda McCartney (Paul’s first wife) was playing the organ during this session, while Pang and Mal Evans (former Beatles road manager/personal assistant) accompanied on tambourine. The documentary includes a brief audio clip of this recording session, which is believed to be the last recording of Lennon and Paul McCartney playing music together.

Pang was an avid photographer who took a lot of photos during this period of time that she was involved with Lennon. Her photo book “Instamatic Karma: Photographs of John Lennon” was published in 2008. “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” also includes many photos from Pang’s personal collection, including a photo that Pang took of Lennon and Paul McCartney at a hillside house in Los Angeles where Lennon was staying in 1974. (The house was semi-famous for being where Marilyn Monroe would have sexual trysts with John F. Kennedy and his younger brother Robert F. Kennedy.) The candid photo shows Lennon and Paul McCartney sitting outside (on what looks like a balcony) and talking while shielding the sun with their hands near their eyes. Pang says it’s the last-known photo of Lennon and Paul McCartney together.

“The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” also includes several of Lennon’s sketches and doodles that he gave to Pang as gifts. One of these drawings shown in the documentary is of the UFO sighting that Pang says she and Lennon experienced one night when they were on the top of their apartment building on August 23, 1974. Another illustration shows what Lennon (who went to art school when he was in his teens) thought his future would look like. The drawing depicts him in a heavenly-type garden as a naked, potbellied old man with a young-looking and nude Pang floating above on a cloud.

Pang also credits Lennon with being the inspiration for her political awakening in the early 1970s. He was an outspoken anti-war activist, which got him on the “enemy of the state” radar of then-U.S. president Richard Nixon, whose administration caused immigration problems for Lennon. It was revealed years ago that Lennon was under FBI surveillance during this time. All of these issues are mentioned in the documentary through archival news footage. Pang doesn’t give any further insight, except to say she saw firsthand that Lennon knew he was being spied on by the U.S. government, and he was paranoid about it.

One of the most poignant aspects of the documentary is Pang describing how she befriended John’s son Julian (from John Lennon’s first marriage, which ended in divorce), who came from England to visit John Lennon on a semi-regular basis, after father and son ended an estrangement that had been going on for a number of years. Pang remembers Julian being a mischievous child but an overall good kid who craved his father’s love and attention. Pang says she encouraged John Lennon and Julian to spend as much father/son time together, which Pang says was in direct contrast to what Ono wanted.

Pang says that when Julian called, Ono would sometimes order Pang not to put the call through to John Lennon, so that Julian wouldn’t be able to talk to his father. According to Pang, Ono also ordered Pang to lie to John Lennon about how many times Julian called. In the documentary, Pang expresses deep regret about participating in these lies. Pang says that her friendship with Julian also extended to Julian’s mother, Cynthia Lennon, who died of cancer in 2015, at the age of 75.

Even when John Lennon and Pang were thousands of miles away from Ono, Pang says that Ono was a constant presence in their lives, because Ono would call at all hours of the day and night. Ono is described by Pang as being a highly manipulative control freak, who eventually got jealous that John Lennon had fallen in love with Pang. Ono wasn’t exactly celibate during the marital separation, since it’s mentioned in the documentary that her guitarist David Spinozza was Ono’s lover.

In the documentary, Pang fully acknowledges that John Lennon loved Ono too, and that he once loved his first wife Cynthia. However, Pang wants to make it clear that the love that she and John Lennon shared was real and very meaningful to both of them. Some people interviewed in the documentary, including John Lennon’s son Julian, confirm that John Lennon and Pang were in love with each other. Things were more complicated for Pang in this love triangle because John Lennon and Ono remained her employers during her entire “Lost Weekend” affair with John.

Pang says that even though John Lennon and Ono reunited in 1975, he was never completely out of Pang’s life. In the documentary, she admits that she and John Lennon would occasionally see each other and had secret, intimate trysts in the years after he and Ono had gotten back together. Pang does not mention Sean Lennon (John Lennon and Ono’s son), who was born on October 9, 1975, which was John Lennon’s 35th birthday. Like many people around the world, Pang was devastated when John Lennon was murdered on December 8, 1980.

An epilogue in the documentary mentions that Pang was married to music producer Tony Visconti from 1989 to 2003. The former spouses have two children together: Sebastian and Lara, who both are seen briefly in a childhood photo. But since this documentary is about Pang’s time with John Lennon, don’t expect to hear any details about what happened in her life during and after her marriage to Visconti.

One of the curiosities and flaws of “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” is that it has voiceover comments from several people who knew John Lennon and Pang during the Lennon/Pang love affair, but it’s unclear how much of those comments are audio recordings that were made specifically for the documentary, or if they are archival recordings from other interviews. Paul McCartney, Cynthia Lennon, Julian Lennon, Cooper, King, drummer Jim Keltner, Spinozza, photographer Bob Gruen, former Apple Corps employee Chris O’Dell, attorney Harold Seider and former Apple Corps employee Francesca De Angelis (who gave Pang the job at Apple) are among those whose voices are heard in the documentary. Pang and Julian Lennon are the only ones seen talking on camera for documentary interviews. (Pang doesn’t make her on-camera appearance until near the end of the movie.)

“The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” has the expected array of archival video footage from various media outlets, but there’s also some whimsical animation to illustrate some of Pang’s fascinating anecdotes. She has a tendency to name drop like a star-struck fan, but it might be because she was and perhaps still is a star-struck fan of many of the people she got to hang out with during her relationship with John Lennon. Pang also says that she did not drink alcohol or do drugs during this period of time. It made her an outsider to some of the partying, but this sobriety allowed her to continue to do her job professionally when she was required to do a lot of important planning and scheduling in John Lennon’s career and personal life.

Pang briefly mentions that sometimes John Lennon was physically abusive to her when he would be in a drunken blackout, but that he was extremely remorseful and apologetic for his abuse when he was sober. Pang will only admit that he shoved her against a wall, but you get the feeling that the abuse was much worse than that, because at one point she says she temporarily fled to New York because she was scared of John Lennon. He later made public apologies and expressed regrets to people whom he hurt in his life. The documentary includes a media interview with one of these regretful apologies.

Despite his flaws, Pang says that John Lennon was someone who really did try to live by his “peace and love” values that he shared with the world. He was a brilliant artist, of course. But viewers of “The Lost Weekend: A Love Story” will also come away with a deeper sense that he was not only Pang’s first love but also an unforgettable friend.

2022 Tony Awards: ‘Company,’ ‘The Lehman Trilogy,’ ‘A Strange Loop’ win big

June 12, 2022

by Carla Hay

The revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company,” the original play “The Lehman Trilogy” and the original musical “A Strange Loop” were among the top winners at the 75th annual Tony Awards, which were presented at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on June 12, 2022. Ariana DeBose hosted the show, which CBS telecast in the U.S., and Paramount+ livestreamed. The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing produce the annual Tony Awards, which honor Broadway shows and specially designated award recipients who work in the American performing arts theater industry.

“Company” garnered five Tony Awards: Best Revival of a Musical; Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical (for Matt Doyle); Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (for Patti LuPone); Best Scenic Design of a Musical; and Best Direction of a Musical. “The Lehman Trilogy” also won five Tony Awards: Best Play; Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for a Play (for Simon Russell Beale); Best Scenic Design of a Play; Best Lighting Design of a Play; and Best Direction of a Play. “A Strange Loop” had the most nominations (11) going into the ceremony and ended up winning two Tony Awards: Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical.

Other multiple winners included the Michael Jackson jukebox musical “MJ,” which won four Tony Awards, including Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Role of a Musical, for Myles Frost who portrays Jackson in the show. “Six: The Musical,” “Take Me Out” and “Dana H.” won two Tony Awards each.

Eligible Broadway productions for the 2022 Tony Awards where those that opened between August 1, 2021 and May 4, 2022.

The 2022 Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre were presented to the Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC); Broadway For All; music copyist Emily Grishman; Feinstein’s/54 Below; and United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829, IATSE. Robert E. Wankel received the Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award. Special Tony Awards were given to actress Angela Lansbury (for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre) and James C. Nicola, who has been the Artistic Director of New York Theatre Workshop since 1988.

As is the tradition at the Tony Awards, the show featured performances by cast members from the year’s Tony Award-nominated musicals: “A Strange Loop,” “Company,” “Girl from the North Country,” “MJ,” “Mr. Saturday Night,” “Music Man,” “Paradise Square” and “Six: The Musical.” Other performers at the show included Bernadette Peters (who did a tribute to Sondheim, who died in 2021), Billy Porter, the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus and the original cast members of the 2007 Tony Award-winning musical “Spring Awakening.”

Presenters at the show included Utkarsh Ambudkar, Skylar Astin, Zach Braff, Danielle Brooks, Danny Burstein, Len Cariou, RuPaul Charles, Jessica Chastain, Lilli Cooper, Bryan Cranston, Wilson Cruz, Colman Domingo, Anthony Edwards, Cynthia Erivo, Raúl Esparza, Laurence Fishburne, Andrew Garfield, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Tony Goldwyn, David Alan Grier, Marcia Gay Harden, Vanessa Hudgens, Jennifer Hudson, Samuel L. Jackson, Nathan Lane, Telly Leung, Judith Light, Josh Lucas, Gaten Matarazzo, Ruthie Ann Miles, Patina Miller, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bebe Neuwirth, Kelli O’Hara, Sarah Paulson, Peters, Jeremy Pope, Porter, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson, Chita Rivera, Tony Shalhoub, Phillipa Soo, Sarah Silverman, George Takei, Aaron Tveit, Adrienne Warren, Patrick Wilson and Bowen Yang.

Darren Criss and Julianne Hough co-hosted the pre-show “The Tony Awards: Act One,” a one-hour special that was a Paramount+ exclusive livestream. Criss and Hough were also presenters at the main Tony Awards ceremony.

Here is the complete list of winners and nominees of the 2022 Tony Awards:

*=winner

Best Musical

Girl From The North Country

Producers: Tristan Baker & Charlie Parsons for Runaway Entertainment, Steven Lappin, Sony Music Entertainment/Sony ATV, David Mirvish, Len Blavatnik, The Dodgers, Eric & Marsi Gardiner, Dianne Roberts, John Gore Organization, Nederlander Presentations, Inc., Tommy Mottola, Independent Presenters Network, Rod Kaats, Diana DiMenna, Mary Beth O’Connor, Barbara H. Freitag, Patrick Catullo, Aaron Lustbader, The Old Vic, Matthew Warchus, Kate Varah, Georgia Gatti, The Public Theater, Oskar Eustis, Patrick Willingham, Mandy Hackett

MJ

Producers: Lia Vollack, John Branca, John McClain, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sony Music Entertaiment, Roy Furman, Cue to Cue Productions, James L. Nederlander, Kumiko Yoshii, Naoya Kinoshita, Latitude Link, Candy Spelling, Stephen C. Byrd, John Gore Organization, Sandy Robertson, Ed Walson, Peter W. May, CJ ENM, Martin Bandier, Michael Cassel Group, Albert Nocciolino, Playful Productions, Ken Schur, Willette & Manny Klausner, Doug Morris, Michael David, Estate of Michael Jackson

Mr. Saturday Night

Producers: James L. Nederlander, Face Productions, Inc., Hunter Arnold, Michael Cohl, TEG Dainty, Candy Spelling, Steve Traxler, Marc David Levine, Caiola Productions, Crossroads Live, Jamie deRoy, Roy Furman, Arny Granat, Grove Entertainment, John Gore Organization, Wolf Gutterman, Van Kaplan, Larry Magid, Peter May, Carl Moellenberg, Beth W. Newburger, Albert Nocciolino, Eva Price, Iris Smith, The Shubert Organization, Howard Tenenbaum, Barry and Fran Weissler

Paradise Square

Producers: Garth H. Drabinsky, Peter LeDonne, Jeffrey A. Sine, Matthew C. Blank, Joe Crowley, RSR Finance LLC, Hunter & Mariana Milborne, Len Blavatnik, Joseph Coffey, Sherry Wright & Craig Haffner, Bernard Abrams, James Scrivanich, Rick Chad, Arthur M. Kraus, Broadway & Beyond Theatricals, Brian Luborsky, Gilbert & Elisa Palter, The Shubert Organization, Terry Schnuck, Urban One, Inc., Robert Wolf, Richard Stursberg, Mark W. Everson, Sanjay Govil, Jeremiah J. Harris, Amabel James, Sheila C. Johnson, Dennis Mehiel, Louise H. & John G. Beard, Henry R. Muñoz, III & Kyle Ferari Muñoz, Walter Swett, Zachary Florence, Berkeley Repertory Theatre

SIX: The Musical

Producers: Kenny Wax, Wendy & Andy Barnes, George Stiles, Kevin McCollum, Chicago Shakespeare Theater

A Strange Loop*

Producers: Barbara Whitman, Pasek, Paul & Stafford, Hunter Arnold, Marcia Goldberg, Alex Levy & James Achilles, Osh Ashruf, A Choir Full Productions, Don Cheadle & Bridgid Coulter Cheadle, Paul Oakley Stovall, Jimmy Wilson, Annapurna Theatre, Robyn Coles, Creative Partners Productions, Robyn Gottesdiener, Kayla Greenspan, Grove Entertainment, Kuhn, Lewis & Scott, Frank Marshall, Maximum Effort Productions Inc., Joey Monda, Richard Mumby, Phenomenal Media & Meena Harris, Marc Platt & Debra Martin Chase, Laurie Tisch, Yonge Street Theatricals, Dodge Hall Productions/JJ Malley, Cody Renard Richard, John Gore Organization, James L. Nederlander, The Shubert Organization, RuPaul Charles, Alan Cumming, Ilana Glazer, Jennifer Hudson, Mindy Kaling, Billy Porter, Page 73 Productions, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Playwrights Horizons

Best Play

Clyde’s

Author: Lynn Nottage
Producers: Second Stage Theater, Carole Rothman, Khady Kamara

Hangmen

Author: Martin McDonagh
Producers: Robert Fox, Jean Doumanian, Elizabeth I. McCann, Craig Balsam, Atlantic Theater Company, Jon B. Platt, Len Blavatnik, Richard Fishman, John Gore Organization, Stephanie P. McClelland, David Mirvish, The Shubert Organization, Jamie deRoy/Sandy Robertson, Patrick Myles/Alexander ‘Sandy’ Marshall, M. Kilburg Reedy/Excelsior Entertainment, Playful Productions, The Royal Court Theatre

The Lehman Trilogy*

Author: Stefano Massini, Ben Power
Producers: National Theatre, Neal Street Productions, Barry Diller, David Geffen, Kash Bennett, Lisa Burger, Caro Newling, Ambassador Theatre Group, Stephanie P. McClelland, Annapurna Theatre, Delman Whitney, Craig Balsam/Heni Koenigsberg/John Yonover, Fiery Angel/Seth A. Goldstein, Starry Night Entertainment, Gavin Kalin Productions, Paul & Selina Burdell/Bill Damaschke, 42nd.club/Phil & Claire Kenny, CatWenJam Productions, Amanda Dubois, Glass Half Full Productions, Dede Harris/Linda B. Rubin, Kallish Weinstein Creative, Kors Le Pere Theatricals LLC, James L. Nederlander, No Guarantees, Mark Pigott KBE, KStJ, Playing Field, Catherine Schreiber/Adam Zell, Tulchin Bartner Productions, Richard Winkler/Alan Shorr/Dawn Smalberg, The Shubert Organization, Independent Presenters Network, John Gore Organization, Sue Wagner, John Johnson, Jillian Robbins

The Minutes

Author: Tracy Letts
Producers: Jeffrey Richards, Rebecca Gold, Carl Moellenberg, Spencer Ross, Louise Gund, Elizabeth Armstrong, Blakeman Entertainment, HornosBerger, Across the River Productions, Stewart F. Lane/Bonnie Comley/Leah Lane, Jayne Baron Sherman, Kathleen K. Johnson, Emily Dobbs, Robert Flicker, Jacob Soroken Porter, The Shubert Organization, Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Skeleton Crew

Author: Dominique Morisseau
Producers: Manhattan Theatre Club, Lynne Meadow, Barry Grove

Best Revival of a Musical

Caroline, or Change

Producers: Roundabout Theatre Company, Todd Haimes, Julia C. Levy, Sydney Beers, Steve Dow, Lot’s Wife, Hunter Arnold, Caiola Productions/Willette & Manny Klausner, Chambers -D’Angora/Joseph & Alyson Graci

Company*

Producers: Elliott & Harper Productions, The Shubert Organization, Catherine Schreiber, Nederlander Presentations, Inc., Crossroads Live, Anapurna Theatre, Hunter Arnold, No Guarantees, Jon B. Platt, Michael Watt, John Gore Organization, Tim Levy, Grove – REG, Hornos – Mollenberg, Levine – Federman – Adler, Beard – Merrie – Robbins, LD Entertainment/Madison Wells Live, Benjamin Lowy/Roben Alive, Daryl Roth/Tom Tuft, Salmira Productions/Caiola Productions, Aged in Wood/Lee – Sachs, Berinstein – Lane/42nd.club, Boyett – Miller/Hodges – Kukieiski, Finn – DeVito/Independent Presenters Network, Armstrong – Ross/Gilad – Rogowsky, Boardman – Koenigsberg/Zell – Seriff, Concord Theatricals – Scott Sanders Productions/Abrams – May, deRoy – Brunish/Jenen – Rubin, Fakston Productions/Sabi – Lerner – Ketner, Maggio – Abrams/Hopkins – Tackel, Levy & Chauviere, Jujamcyn Theaters

The Music Man

Producers: Barry Diller, David Geffen, Kate Horton, Fictionhouse

Best Revival of a Play

American Buffalo

Producers: Jeffrey Richards, Steve Traxler, Stephanie P. McClelland, GFour Productions, Spencer Ross, Gemini Theatrical, Chris and Ashlee Clarke, Suna Said Maslin, Ted & Richard Liebowitz/Cue to Cue Productions, Patty Baker/Good Productions, Brad Blume, Caiola Productions, Joanna Carson, Arthur Kern, Willette Klausner, Jeremiah J. Harris and Darren P. Deverna, Van Kaplan, Patrick Myles/David Luff, Alexander Marshall, Ambassador Theatre Group, Kathleen K. Johnson, Diego Kolankowsky, Steve and Jacob Levy, Morwin Schmookler, Brian Moreland, Jacob Soroken Porter, The Shubert Organization

for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf

Producers: Nelle Nugent, Ron Simons, Kenneth Teaton, Ellen Ferguson and Vivian Phillips, Willette and Manny Klausner, Hunter Arnold, Dale Franzen, Valencia Yearwood, One Community, Audible, Dennis Grimaldi, Terry Nardozzi and Tracey Knight Narang, Grace Nordhoff/Mickalene Thomas, Angelina Fiordellisi/Caiola Productions, The Public Theater, Oskar Eustis, Patrick Willingham, Mandy Hackett

How I Learned to Drive

Author: Paula Vogel
Producers: Manhattan Theatre Club, Lynne Meadow, Barry Grove, Daryl Roth, Cody Lassen, Vineyard Theatre

Take Me Out*

Producers: Second Stage Theater, Carole Rothman, Khady Kamara

Trouble in Mind

Producers: Roundabout Theatre Company, Todd Haimes, Julia C. Levy, Sydney Beers, Steve Dow

Best Book of a Musical

Girl From The North Country

Conor McPherson

MJ

Lynn Nottage

Mr. Saturday Night

Billy Crystal, Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel

Paradise Square

Christina Anderson, Craig Lucas & Larry Kirwan

A Strange Loop*

Michael R. Jackson

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

Flying Over Sunset

Music: Tom Kitt
Lyrics: Michael Korie

Mr. Saturday Night

Music: Jason Robert Brown
Lyrics: Amanda Green

Paradise Square

Music: Jason Howland
Lyrics: Nathan Tysen & Masi Asare

SIX: The Musical*

Music and Lyrics: Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss

A Strange Loop

Music & Lyrics: Michael R. Jackson

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

Simon Russell Beale, The Lehman Trilogy*
Adam Godley, The Lehman Trilogy
Adrian Lester, The Lehman Trilogy
David Morse, How I Learned to Drive
Sam Rockwell, American Buffalo
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Lackawanna Blues
David Threlfall, Hangmen

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

Gabby Beans, The Skin of Our Teeth
LaChanze, Trouble in Mind
Ruth Negga, Macbeth
Deirdre O’Connell, Dana H.*
Mary-Louise Parker, How I Learned to Drive

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

Billy Crystal, Mr. Saturday Night
Myles Frost, MJ*
Hugh Jackman, The Music Man
Rob McClure, Mrs. Doubtfire
Jaquel Spivey, A Strange Loop

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

Sharon D Clarke, Caroline, or Change
Carmen Cusack, Flying Over Sunset
Sutton Foster, The Music Man
Joaquina Kalukango, Paradise Square*
Mare Winningham, Girl From The North Country

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play

Alfie Allen, Hangmen
Chuck Cooper, Trouble in Mind
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Take Me Out*
Ron Cephas Jones, Clyde’s
Michael Oberholtzer, Take Me Out
Jesse Williams, Take Me Out

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play

Uzo Aduba, Clyde’s
Rachel Dratch, POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive
Kenita R. Miller, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Phylicia Rashad, Skeleton Crew*
Julie White, POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive
Kara Young, Clyde’s

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

Matt Doyle, Company*
Sidney DuPont, Paradise Square
Jared Grimes, Funny Girl
John-Andrew Morrison, A Strange Loop
A.J. Shively, Paradise Square

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

Jeannette Bayardelle, Girl From The North Country
Shoshana Bean, Mr. Saturday Night
Jayne Houdyshell, The Music Man
L Morgan Lee, A Strange Loop
Patti LuPone, Company*
Jennifer Simard, Company

Best Scenic Design of a Play

Beowulf Boritt, POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive
Michael Carnahan and Nicholas Hussong, Skeleton Crew
Es Devlin, The Lehman Trilogy*
Anna Fleischle, Hangmen
Scott Pask, American Buffalo
Adam Rigg, The Skin of Our Teeth

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Beowulf Boritt and 59 Productions, Flying Over Sunset
Bunny Christie, Company*
Arnulfo Maldonado, A Strange Loop
Derek McLane and Peter Nigrini, MJ
Allen Moyer, Paradise Square

Best Costume Design of a Play

Montana Levi Blanco, The Skin of Our Teeth*
Sarafina Bush, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Emilio Sosa, Trouble in Mind
Jane Greenwood, Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite
Jennifer Moeller, Clyde’s

Best Costume Design of a Musical

Fly Davis, Caroline, or Change
Toni-Leslie James, Paradise Square
William Ivey Long, Diana, The Musical
Santo Loquasto, The Music Man
Gabriella Slade, SIX: The Musical*
Paul Tazewell, MJ

Best Lighting Design of a Play

Joshua Carr, Hangmen
Jiyoun Chang, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Jon Clark, The Lehman Trilogy*
Jane Cox, Macbeth
Yi Zhao, The Skin of Our Teeth

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Neil Austin, Company
Tim Deiling, SIX: The Musical
Donald Holder, Paradise Square
Natasha Katz, MJ*
Bradley King, Flying Over Sunset
Jen Schriever, A Strange Loop

Best Sound Design of a Play

Justin Ellington, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Mikhail Fiksel, Dana H.*
Palmer Hefferan, The Skin of Our Teeth
Nick Powell and Dominic Bilkey, The Lehman Trilogy
Mikaal Sulaiman, Macbeth

Best Sound Design of a Musical

Simon Baker, Girl From The North Country
Paul Gatehouse, SIX: The Musical
Ian Dickinson for Autograph, Company
Drew Levy, A Strange Loop
Gareth Owen, MJ*

Best Direction of a Play

Lileana Blain-Cruz, The Skin of Our Teeth
Camille A. Brown, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Sam Mendes, The Lehman Trilogy*
Neil Pepe, American Buffalo
Les Waters, Dana H.

Best Direction of a Musical

Stephen Brackett, A Strange Loop
Marianne Elliott, Company*
Conor McPherson, Girl From The North Country
Lucy Moss & Jamie Armitage, SIX: The Musical
Christopher Wheeldon, MJ

Best Choreography

Camille A. Brown, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
Warren Carlyle, The Music Man
Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, SIX: The Musical
Bill T. Jones, Paradise Square
Christopher Wheeldon, MJ*

Best Orchestrations

David Cullen, Company
Tom Curran, SIX: The Musical
Simon Hale, Girl From The North Country*
Jason Michael Webb and David Holcenberg, MJ
Charlie Rosen, A Strange Loop

Review: ‘Rounding,’ starring Namir Smallwood, Sidney Flanigan and Michael Potts

June 10, 2022

by Carla Hay

Namir Smallwood in “Rounding” (Photo by Nate Hurtsellers)

“Rounding” 

Directed by Alex Thompson

Culture Representation: Taking place in unnamed U.S. cities, the dramatic film “Rounding” features a cast of African American and white characters representing the working-class and the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A fairly new doctor, who has a history of mental illness, starts working at a rural hospital, where he becomes fixated on a 19-year-old woman with serious respiratory problems.

Culture Audience: “Rounding” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching unrealisitic and incoherent medical dramas.

Although the medical drama “Rounding” has a very talented cast, this rambling and pointless movie is an insult to the medical profession and to viewers’ intelligence. The movie’s horror elements are time-wasting, repetitive distractions that are used as borderline tacky ways to represent mental illness. And the “medical mystery” in “Rounding” is terribly mishandled in a story about a mentally ill doctor who is convinced that something sinister is going on with one of his patients at the hospital where he works.

It’s all so disappointing, because “Rounding” director Alex Thompson made such a memorable and appealing feature-film debut with 2020’s “Saint Frances,” a comedy/drama about a nanny who experiences an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy while caring for a precocious 6-year-old girl named Frances. Thompson should be commended for taking the risk of having his second feature film as a drastic departure from his first feature film, but “Rounding” is most definitely a “sophomore slump.” “Rounding” is almost a direct opposite movie to “Saint Frances” in every way, including the quality of the filmmaking.

“Saint Frances” was written by Kelly O’Sullivan, who starred as the nanny in the movie. She also has a supporting role in “Rounding” as a hospital doctor. “Rounding” (which had its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City) was written by Alex Thompson and Christopher Thompson, and it’s a far inferior screenplay to “Saint Frances.” “Rounding” is as dull as “Saint Frances” is lively.

One of the biggest strengths of “Saint Frances” was the authentic-sounding and witty dialogue, as well as characters that were written as people with believable personalities. By contrast, “Rounding” looks and sounds very phony, with empty characters acting out unrealistic scenarios. It’s also very hard to care about any of the characters in “Rounding,” because they (and the rest of this movie) are written as incomplete sketches.

The title of “Rounding” refers to the word used for medical professionals making the rounds to visit patients, usually at a hospital. In the production notes for “Rounding,” Alex Thompson makes a statement that reads, in part: “I grew up in a family of medical professionals. Dinner conversations often included black lung and bronchoscopies, and when asked how his day went, my father can be relied upon to reply, ‘I didn’t kill anyone.’ At the start of the [COVID-19 pandemic] lockdown in Kentucky, he told me about a patient he’d seen frequently as a young resident whose story was strange and who he thought about often.”

It’s astonishing that Alex Thompson says he comes from a family of medical professionals, because “Rounding” is so full of plot holes and ridiculous nonsense, it looks like it was made by a director who didn’t bother consulting with any medical professionals. Adding to the movie’s problems, it seems like Alex Thompson couldn’t decide if he wanted to make a medical mystery drama, a psychological thriller or a horror movie. “Rounding” has elements of all three genres, but it’s mostly a medical drama with some psychological and horror scenes thrown into the mix in redundant ways.

“Rounding” begins with a scene showing the death of an elderly hospital patient named Vivian Spurlock (played by Cheryl Lynn Bruce), who has an unnamed respiratory condition, because she needs to breathe through a tube in her throat. Vivian is being attended to by Dr. James Hayman (played by Namir Smallwood), who’s a resident at this unnamed hospital in this unnamed U.S. city with a large urban population. Before going into Vivian’s hospital room, where she is the only patient, James stopped by a medication supply room to get a liquid drug that viewers find out later is potassium chloride. He’s seen by a security guard named Bart (played by Alex Wilson), and they exchange pleasant small talk.

James is very calm and measured when he goes into Vivian’s room. They talk for a little bit before he says to her: “I found that poem you remembered. Are you sure this is what you want?” Vivian replies, “I’m sure.” James removes the tube from Vivan’s throat and puts the potassium chloride in Vivian’s intravenous fluid bag. At this point, it’s easy for viewers to see that James is about to kill Vivian with a lethal dose. But is it euthanasia, or is it murder?

As the potassium chloride starts to flow through Vivian’s body, James reads her the poem that she requested. It’s implied that she asked James to help her commit euthanasia, and her request included that he would read this poem as she lay dying on the hospital bed. But something goes terribly wrong.

Vivian changes her mind about dying, and she begs James to help her live. But it’s too late. The overdose has already been administered. Vivian dies. James calls for help, and several hospital workers rush into the room. James is seen running out of the room and collapsing in a hospital hallway.

The next scene takes place two months later. James is in an office meeting with a supervisor named Dr. Justin Groff (played by Ed Kross), who is unhappy with what James has just told him: James has decided to accept a job offer at a rural hospital named Greenville, which is in an unnamed part of the United States. It’s mentioned (but never shown in the movie) that James had a nervous breakdown after Vivian’s death and was in a psychiatric facility for it. Because of this breakdown, James was on a leave of absence from this hospital job that he’s about to quit.

James has been released from the facility, but he’s supposed to be in ongoing therapy for his mental health. Justin thinks that it’s too early for James to start working again, but James disagrees. “You barely started counseling,” Justin tells James. “You don’t strike me as a country mouse,” he adds of James moving to a rural area to work at a hospital with less resources than the hospital that James is leaving. However, James is undeterred. He’s going to work at Greenville Hospital.

This meeting with James and Justin is the scene where “Rounding” immediately starts to go downhill. First of all, a medical examination would reveal that Vivian’s cause of death was a potassium chloride overdose. Therefore, Vivian’s death would be investigated as suspicious and probable homicide. It’s no mystery who was the last person to see Vivian alive. And that same person was seen in the medical supply room, where some potassium chloride has gone missing.

In real life, most hospitals in large urban areas have strict ways of making sure that employees don’t steal medication from the supply room. And even if this hospital didn’t have those policies in place, James was still seen taking medication from the supply room, and then Vivian died shortly after he visited her room, and he was the last person to see her alive. At the very least, James would have to undergo an investigation, which is never mentioned in the movie.

But “Rounding” wants viewers to be too ignorant to think about or know about all of these real-life facts. Not only does James never undergo an investigation over Vivian’s death, it’s mentioned later in the movie that he also got a recommendation letter from his supervisor (presumably Dr. Groff) to take this new job at Greenville Hospital. The entire flimsy premise of “Rounding” is reliant on viewers believing that James experienced no consequences or scrutiny for a patient dying of a potassium chloride overdose while under his watch.

James is a doctor, but apparently he’s not making enough money to afford more than being able to rent a room in a non-descript house when he moves to this unnamed rural area. (He might be heavily in debt from student loans.) His middle-aged landlord Mrs. Watts (played by Meighan Gerachis) is disheveled and world-weary. She tells James that the room he’s renting used to be her son’s room, which is why it still has a lot of his belongings from his childhood. Mrs. Watts also mentions that her son didn’t approve of renting out the room, but now her son has been “dead for a few years. He was struggling with depression.”

And what a coincidence: Another young doctor at Greenville Hospital is also renting a room in Mrs. Watts’ home. His name is Carol Hontolas (played by Max Lipchitz), and his only purpose in the movie is to be a co-worker who has the ability to see how James acts when James is at home. Carol is a friendly and upbeat person who seems to want the best for an obviously troubled James.

If people start watching “Rounding” by thinking it will be a horror movie, they might mistakenly believe that this house will be a source of mystery and intrigue. It’s not. In fact, there was really no point in even having the scene where Mrs. Watts had to mention that James is now living in a room where her dead son once lived. It’s one of many examples of pointless scenes in the movie.

James’ supervisor at Greenville Hospital is Dr. Emil Harrison (played by Michael Potts), whose actions and words become increasingly odd and unprofessional as the story continues. But when Emil first meets James, he’s warm, welcoming and seems to care a great deal about providing empathetic medical treatment. He even gives James a tour of Greenville, which he describes as a hospital that prides itself on having a personal touch with its patients.

Emil is vaguely aware that James had some problems at the hospital where James previously worked, but Emil assumes it was burnout from working in a large urban hospital. He also knows that Emil has some mental health issues, but Emil doesn’t really know all the details. The movie shows whether or not Emil finds out the truth about James’ background.

Emil explains to James why Greenville is open to giving inexperienced doctors who are second-year residents (such as James) a chance to work there: “We’re such a flexible program.” Emil also tells James that Greenville will give James a “fresh start” and a “rural patient experience.” Emil adds, “There’s a real ability to make an impact here.”

At Greenville, James works closely with Carol and two other young doctors, who all go on rounds with him: Dr. Kayla Matthews (played by O’Sullivan) and Dr. Mac MacLauren (played by Bradley Grant Smith), who are ultimately fairly useless characters. Kayla is completely generic and forgettable and a waste of O’Sullivan’s actor talent. At first, Mac seems to be an antagonist to James, because he acts superior to James and seems to be waiting for James to do something wrong. However, whatever storyline that could’ve been developed for this Mac/James rivalry goes nowhere. James ultimately proves to be his own worst enemy.

There’s a scene that reveals that Mac and James attended the same middle school and hadn’t seen each other in years until James came back to his rural area to work for Greenville Hospital. It’s the movie’s first mention that James spent at least part of his childhood in this rural area, but then “Rounding” completely ignores this important information. When Mac sees James for the first time in years outside of a bar where some of the hospital doctors are hanging out, Mac says to James: “I hear you’ve been having a rough time.” James defensively brushes off this comment by abruptly saying, “I’m fine.”

However, whatever problems James was having before he moved to this rural area are not going away just because he’s changed where he lives. James predictably continues to suffer from the mental illness that he probably had before Vivian’s death. Expect to see James have numerous hallucinations involving some shadowy monsters in murky locations. These “horror” scenes aren’t very scary and are fairly short. Sometimes, James has these hallucinations on the job, so he’s shown freaking out in a hospital hallway or cowering in fear in a back room.

James also has blackouts on the job. Some of these blackouts last for hours. He wakes up to find a co-worker saying that people were looking for him, and he was expected to be somewhere hours ago. What kind of hospital employee or medical worker could get away with this incompetence? Only in a dumb movie like “Rounding.”

Even when he’s clearly unfit to do his job, James is never really held accountable. He’s just told to stay away from a certain patient after this patient becomes his obsession. That patient is 19-year-old Helen Adso (played by Sidney Flanigan), who is bedridden in the hospital after having a series of respiratory problems.

When James sees Helen in the hospital for the first time, he’s startled, because a number of days earlier, he saw Helen shoplifting candy in a grocery store. During this shoplifting incident (another pointless scene), Helen and James made eye contact with each other. She knew he saw her shoplifting, but Helen and James didn’t say anything to each other.

Helen has asthma, but she’s been in this hospital for symptoms that are definitely not asthmatic. Doctors can’t seem to diagnose Helen’s mystery respiratory illness. James notices from Helen’s medical records that Helen has been admitted to the hospital six times so far that year. James raises these concerns to Emil, who explains that Helen gets treated at the hospital when Helen’s lung specialist goes on vacation. James also questions the hospital’s medical test results for Helen.

Emil gets defensive and tries to make James feel like James is being paranoid and insubordinate whenever James is skeptical about how the hospital is treating Helen. Emil lets James run his own tests on one occasion, but Emil mostly acts like James is being a nuisance for constantly questioning the hospital’s treatment of Helen. Mac, Kayla and Carol also tell James not to question the hospital’s procedures.

Emil often leads Mac, Kayla, Carol and James on group “roundings” at the hospital. One day, during a rounding, Emil gives James the task of telling a patient named Mr. Jones (played by Edwin Lee Gibson) that Mr. Jones has Stage 4 lung cancer and has only three to six months to live. It doesn’t go well, because James is too aloof and clinical in telling this news, and Mr. Jones gets angry at how James is talking to him. Emil, Mac, Kayla and Carol see this outburst.

Later, Emil tells James in a private meeting that James needs to go to a seminar to improve James’ bedside manner. When James asks Emil if he’s doing anything wrong, Emil insists that all the hospital’s new doctors have to take this seminar. These seminar scenes just waste more screen time and ultimately just show that James hates being in an environment that resembles therapy and where people have to talk about feelings.

Helen has a very overprotective mother named Karen (played by Rebecca Spence), who is always with Helen in the hospital. Karen notices that James has taken an interest in Helen that goes beyond a normal doctor/patient relationship. It predictably leads to James and Karen clashing with each other.

While James is battling his personal demons, he suddenly wants to be an investigator into Helen’s mystery respiratory illness. He gets very upset when he finds out that Helen will be getting a lung transplant. He thinks this operation is unnecessary, while Karen and Emil vehemently disagree. James insists that they have to listen to what Helen’s body says. Yes, it’s that type of movie with this type of hokey dialogue.

“Rounding” makes very superficial and awkward attempts to make it look like James is building a friendly rapport with Helen. But it all looks so staged and unconvincing. And he comes off looking like a creepy older man who becomes obsessed with befriending a vulnerable teenage patient when she gets out of the hospital. James says and does things that are very inappropriate and would get most hospital doctors suspended or fired, although “Rounding” obviously wants James to look like a protagonist who should get sympathy from viewers.

James becomes so obsessed with Helen, he does some stalking and theft, which won’t be further detailed in this review. He also begins to think that Helen’s mystery illness is being caused by her mother Karen, who has set up an online fundraising collection for Helen (similar to a GoFundMe account), which has raised a six-figure sum so far. Munchausen syndrome (causing an illness to get sympathy and attention) is mentioned several times in the movie. But is Helen’s illness actually Munchausen syndrome caused by Helen, Munchausen syndrome by proxy caused by Karen, or is it something else?

The character of Helen could have been fascinating, but she has mostly a blank personality in this movie. “Rounding” is just a showcase for James’ neuroses and hallucinations, which become uninteresting in their repetitiveness. Helen’s lack of character development in “Rounding” is a big letdown and an underuse of Flanigan’s talent. Flanigan made an impressive feature-film debut starring in the 2020’s critically acclaimed drama “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” in which she played a 17-year-old who travels from Pennsylvania to New York to get an abortion.

“Rounding” gets worse, as James’ mental health and his unprofessionalism are never adequately addressed. Emil gets more and more aggravating as a supervisor who dismisses obvious problems, as if these problems will solve on their own. There’s a scene toward the end of the film where James tells Emil that he’s having nightmares. Emil just responds cheerfully and says, “You’re sleeping.”

This disconnected reaction is supposed to show Emil’s tendency to be out-of-touch and in denial, but it’s just an example of how the Emil character is poorly written. Potts gives an adequate performance in an awful role that will have a lot of viewers more irritated with Emil than any other character by the end of the movie. As bad as James is on the job, Emil is in many ways worse for letting so many medically and legally problematic things happen at the hospital, with Emil’s full knowledge.

Forget about getting any backstories for any of the characters in “Rounding.” There are no meaningful details about the backgrounds of any of these characters, except it’s repeated that James is emotionally attached to his mother, whom he says inspired him to become a doctor. There are a few scenes where James talks to his loving and supportive mother on the phone.

“Rounding” goes off on a mishandled tangent where James acts like a private investigator. But considering his mental instability, viewers will question if what James finds out is real or possibly a figment of his imagination. James gets an abscessed wound on his left foot, so the movie shows him limping around a lot, with no explanation for why he doesn’t get this wound treated. Not surprisingly, the wound gets worse.

Smallwood’s performance as James isn’t bad, but it’s not outstanding, and probably would’ve been better if this movie’s screenplay and direction were up to basic standards of engaging storytelling. “Rounding” has a surprise “reveal” at the end, which completely falls flat, and brings up some major questions that the movie never answers. By the end of “Rounding,” it becomes obvious that the filmmakers have made an atrocious mockery of the medical profession and mental illness, just to make a movie that’s trying to be artsy but is in fact an erratic mess.

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