Culture Representation: Taking place in Atlanta, the comedic film “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” features an all-African American cast of characters representing the working-class, and middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: A megachurch’s preacher and his wife strive to make a comeback after his fall from grace due to sexual misconduct scandals.
Culture Audience: “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” will appeal mainly to people who are fans of stars Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown, and will appeal to viewers who like mockumentaries that are satires of people who place more value on fame and fortune than on honesty and morality.
“Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” is a comedic mockumentary that adeptly skewers religious hypocrisy, vanity and greed in megachurch culture. The movie’s pacing drags in some parts, but Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown captivate with their lead performances as disgraced megachurch couple Trinitie Childs and Lee-Curtis Childs. “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” also offers bittersweet observations that are examples of the religious adage, “All that glitters is not gold.”
Written and directed by Adamma Ebo, “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” is Ebo’s feature-film directorial debut. The movie had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. The film’s producers include Hall, Brown, Daniel Kaluuya, Adamma Ebo and her identical twin Adanne Ebo. Jordan Peele is one of the executive producers. It’s a movie that puts a spotlight on the impact of religious leaders on African American communities and what can happen if one of those leaders is knocked down from a pedestal and tries to get back up on top again.
Although some things in the movie might seem over-the-top ridiculous, anyone who has followed news about scandal-plagued religious leaders will know that many of their antics, denials and posturings are very close to what’s portrayed in “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” The movie gets its title from several scenes in the movie where Trinitie, at Lee-Curtis’ persuasion, holds up a sign that reads “Honk for Jesus” to passing cars on the street, in desperate attempts to attract followers. Over time, Lee-Curtis convinces Trinitie to degrade herself when holding up the “Honk for Jesus” sign, such as telling her to shake her rear end in a sexually suggestive manner.
Beyond the obvious comedic parts, “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” is a searing indictment of the patriarchal ways of megachurch culture and how women are expected to be subservient to men. In the movie, Lee-Curtis is the one who caused the scandal that lead to his megachurch’s downfall, but his loyal wife Trinitie is the one who gets the brunt of the pressure to redeem their reputation. Lee-Curtis makes demands on Trinitie that slowly chip away at her soul, and Trinitie has to decide if her marriage to Lee-Curtis is worth this erosion of her self-esteem and self-worth.
“Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” begins with Trinitie doing a sit-down interview by herself in the empty building of the Wander to Greater Paths Baptist Church, which Trinitie and Lee-Curtis founded but whose congregation has drastically shrunk from 26,000 members to five loyal members. The church’s followers have diminished, but Lee-Curtis has accumulated a lot of personal wealth that he and Trinitie are determined to keep. Trinitie and Lee-Curtis not only believe that they deserve this wealth but that it’s also God’s destined plan for them.
A documentarian named Anita Bonet (who is heard occasionally in the movie but never seen on camera) is directing a documentary about Trinitie and Lee-Curtis and their attempt to make a comeback after Lee-Curtis experienced several accusations of sexual misconduct. Several of Lee-Curtis’ accusers are suing him over these allegations. The details of these allegations are revealed about halfway through the movie but won’t be mentioned in this review.
Trinitie says in her interview: “Every woman is not built for the responsibility of being a first lady. Lee-Curtis and I, we’re just going to the other side … You know, have you ever seen a rat go from the inside of a house to the outside of a house? They chew through. So, we’re going to gnaw through the hardest parts.”
Lee-Curtis is arrogant and unapologetic about his alleged misdeeds. He also has unwavering confidence that the couple’s comeback, which they plan to take place during the upcoming Easter Sunday, will be entirely successful. Over time, some cracks in his veneer of morality start to show, which should come as no surprise when considering many real-life religious leaders who go through scandals with former secrets that expose their hypocrisy.
The mockumentary includes interviews with Lee-Curtis, Trinitie, some of the couple’s supporters, some of the couple’s critics and people from the general public who are somewhat neutral. In addition, there are snippets of “archival” footage of Wander to Greater Paths Baptist Church services in the couple’s heyday at the church. In one of his sermons, Lee-Curtis shows his homophobia by saying that the “homosexual agenda” is “disrespectful to marriage. Take it from me: I am the prophet with the beautiful wife and the gorgeous Bugatti.”
The Childs couple’s five loyal followers are Deacon Alastor Culpepper (played by Robert Yatta); his wife, Deaconess Culpepper (played by Greta Glenn, also known as Greta Marable Glenn); Kensington Straterly (played by Perris Drew), a Divinity School graduate student; Sapphire Devaughn (played by Crystal Alicia Garrett); and Aria Devaughn (played by Selah Kimbro Jones), Sapphire’s daughter, who’s about 12 or 13 years old. Kensington says, “Pastor Childs is ahead of his time. He’s a visionary.”
While Trinitie and Lee-Curtis try to win back their flock of followers, they have some competition: a polite younger pastor named Keon Sumpter (played by Conphidance) and his devoted wife Shakura Sumpter (played by Nicole Beharie), who want to form their own megachurch in Atlanta. The Sumpters have founded Heaven’s House Baptist Church, which has more than 1,000 congregants so far and has gained many new members who used to be congregants of the Wander to Greater Paths Baptist Church. And what a coincidence: Heaven’s House Baptist Church plans to have its grand opening on the same Easter Sunday that the Wander to Greater Paths Baptist Church plans to re-open.
“Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” mines this megachurch rivalry for all of what it’s worth, but the more interesting power dynamics are between Lee-Curtis and Trinitie. There’s not enough shown about Keon and Shakura to get a handle on their true personalities. Keon and Shakura have the polish of religious people who don’t want to say a bad thing about anyone in public, but there’s no real indication of what Keon and Shakura are really like in private. The movie seems to suggest that Keon and Shakura have not yet been corrupted by greed and fame because Keon and Shakura aren’t at the megachurch level where Lee-Curtis and Trinitie used to be and which Lee-Curtis and Trinitie are trying to reclaim.
Some scenes in the movie work better than others. For example, a scene of Trinitie visiting a hat shop isn’t as funny as it could have been. A much better comedic scene is one where Trinitie and Lee-Curtis interact with their few remaining congregants at the Wander to Greater Paths Baptist Church, in a pathetic attempt to pretend as if all is going well at the church. Another amusing scene shows the supposedly pious Lee-Curtis and Trinitie, who publicly preach about the evils of cursing, but privately in their car, they rap along to Crime Mob’s curse-filled song “Knuck If You Buck.”
There’s a sex scene in the movie that looks a little out of place because it’s the only scene that doesn’t look like it was filmed for a documentary. However, the purpose of this scene is made clear later in the movie when Lee-Curtis’ sex scandals are revealed in more detail. There are other clues that point to the nature of these sexual misconduct allegations and the damaging impact that Lee-Curtis’ actions have had on his accusers.
Lee-Curtis is very transparent in his ambitions, so his character is very easy to predict. Trinitie is less predictable and more interesting because she has moments where she looks like she begins to wonder if she made the right decision to “stand by her man.” There’s a very telling scene in the movie where Trinitie has breakfast with her mother Sabina (played by Avis-Marie Barnes), who gives advice that is an example of how sexist patriarchy is enabled and encouraged in the name of religious tradition.
Aside from certain aspects of church and religion, “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” offers social commentary on what lengths people will go to, in order to pursue fame and fortune; create an “aspirational” wealthy image; and try to give the impression of having a “perfect” life when one’s life is actually falling apart. The characters in this movie just happen to be African American. However, the movie cleverly brings up issues that are timeless and relevant to any culture.
Focus Features will release “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” in U.S. cinemas and on Peacock on September 2, 2022.
Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional city of Ancaster, Massachusetts, the horror film “Master” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans and a few Asians and Latinos) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy who are connected in some way to a prestigious university.
Culture Clash: A college professor, who is the first African American leader of a co-ed dormitory, finds herself getting involved in the problems of another African American woman, who is a first-year undergraduate student and might be the target of a curse that has haunted the college campus.
Culture Audience: “Master” will appeal mainly to people who are interested in horror movies that have social commentary about race relations in America.
“Master” has similar racism themes that were explored in filmmaker Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning 2017 horror movie “Get Out,” an impactful story about an African American man who goes with his white girlfriend to meet her parents for the first time and experiences terror that he did not expect. Instead of an upscale suburban house that’s the setting for the horror in “Get Out,” the horror in “Master” takes place on an upscale college campus and through the perspectives of African American women. In many ways, “Master” skillfully depicts the parallels between supernatural horror and realistic racism, but other parts of the movie needed improvement in resolving certain characters’ storylines.
Some viewers might find the ending of “Master” to be underwhelming or unsatisfying. However, the movie delivers enough suspense-filled scenes to be an entertaining thriller, especially for people who prefer horror movies that don’t have a lot a bloody gore. “Master” also has the benefit of a talented ensemble cast convincingly portraying the characters that are sometimes underdeveloped in the movie’s compelling but flawed screenplay. “Master” had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
Written and directed by Mariama Diallo, “Master” takes place almost entirely on the campus of the fictional Ancaster College in Ancaster, Massachusetts. Ancaster College is a prestigious institution that is one of the oldest colleges in the United States. The college campus was built on the land where a woman named Margaret Millett was hanged for witchcraft on December 3, 1694. And you know what that means for a horror movie.
“Master,” which is set in the present day, opens with the arrival of a freshman undergraduate student named Jasmine Moore (played by Zoe Renee), who immediately catches the attention of the other students. Why? For starters, she’s one of the few African American students on campus. Secondly, Jasmine has been assigned a dorm room (Room 302) that has a notorious and sinister reputation for being haunted. Jasmine is living in a co-ed dormitory called Belleville House. Not far from Belleville House is the site where suspected witch Margaret Millett was hanged.
Jasmine finds out later why the room is said to be cursed. But on her move-in day, she has no idea that there’s anything wrong with the room. She gets a hint though, when she tells some students that she’s in Room 302 at Belleville, and they react by telling her that she has “the room.” The tone in their voices indicates that “the room” means that Jasmine is either going to be the target of danger or the target of some cruel pranks.
Jasmine’s roommate is a spoiled and jaded student named Amelia (played by Talia Ryder), who is also in her first year at Ancaster College. The college has recently appointed a new “house master” for Belleville: Gail Bishop (played by Regina Hall), a tenured professor who is the first black person to become an Ancaster College house master. Gail is also an alum of Ancaster College, so she is accustomed to being in this predominantly white environment. However, based on the fact that it’s taken this long for Ancaster College to appoint a black person to a house master position, this elite institution isn’t as progressive as some of its politically liberal officials would like to think it is.
The use of the word “master” for the title of a house leader is also very outdated, since it conjures up images and attitudes of what it meant to be a “master” of a house when slavery was legal in the United States. According to the production notes for “Master,” when writer/director Diallo was an undergraduate at Yale University, the word “master” was still used at the university as the title for a dormitory house leader. Yale stopped using the word “master” for this house leader title in 2016, after students protested over the slavery connotations of the term.
In the “Master” production notes, Diallo describes an experience that she had years after she graduated from Yale, when she saw a former “master” of a Yale house where she used to live: “I was so excited to see him that I called out hello, addressing him as Master. He looked hugely uncomfortable because we were in earshot of a ton of people … Anyway, we went on to have a lovely conversation. But as soon as I walked away, I told myself I had to make a film about it because it really threw into relief how bizarre that term, that relationship is. And I knew I wanted to call it ‘Master’ because of the multiple layers of meaning.”
In “Master,” Gail thinks of herself as an approachable, qualified and inspirational leader. At her first meeting with the students living in Belleville House, she reminds them how privileged they are to be Ancaster College students: “Two U.S. presidents and an army of senators count this school as their alma mater,” she declares proudly. She adds, “I am more than a professor. I am a confidante, an ally, a friend.”
She also makes a statement where she might be psychologically projecting how she feels about Ancaster College: “My last fact: You will never go back home again. When you head to your hometowns over break, it will be as visitors … All I can say to you now is, ‘Welcome home.'” Gail’s comment assumes that everyone will feel at home on the Ancaster College campus—or at least at Belleville House, which she’s been tasked to lead. Gail will soon find out how wrong she was with this assumption.
The movie makes a point of showing that Gail’s life revolves around her work. There are clues that even though she’s been given this “master” position, things won’t go smoothly for her. She’s had to move into the “master” living quarters near Belleville. She lives alone and doesn’t have much of a personal life.
Gail is not particularly close to anyone at work, she doesn’t seem to have any friends outside of work, and she doesn’t mention having any love interests. Gail is an only child, and her only family appears to be her mother, who lives far away. This lack of a nearby support system adds to the isolation Gail feels when things start to go wrong.
In an early scene in the movie, Gail tries to open the door to the house where she’s recently moved, but the lock is jammed. As she walks away in frustration, the door mysteriously opens on its own. It can be interpreted as a sign of a ghostly presence. However, if viewers look at “Master” as a way of showing how institutions and people can be haunted by racism (which is Diallo’s overall message of this movie), the eerie incident with the locked door is a symbolic way of showing Gail might have been invited into the elite echelon of house masters, but she’s still going to face some barriers.
One of the best things about “Master” is the way it accurately shows racism in its many forms. People who are racist or have unconscious racist biases often don’t think they are racists. But their racism comes out in subtle ways, such as when they immediately ask a black person why they are in a place that happens to be populated with mostly white people—as if the black person has to justify a reason to exist in that place. Meanwhile, white people in the same place aren’t given the same type of scrutiny.
Another form of racism is automatically assuming that a black student at a prestigious university got there because of an athletic scholarship, Affirmative Action/tokenism, or because they’re related to a celebrity. People who have this type of racism find it hard to believe that a black person can get into a prestigious university based on intellectual merit, such as excellent academics and being a well-rounded student—the same reasons why many people automatically assume white students are at prestigious universities.
Jasmine experiences some of this subtle racism when she interacts with Amelia and Amelia’s campus friends, who are all white. Amelia and her friends don’t really exclude Jasmine, but they make it clear that they don’t want Jasmine to be their close friend without even getting to know her first. On the first night that Jasmine and Amelia hang out with some other first-year female students at Ancaster College, Jasmine finds out that Amelia already knows some of these students because they were in the same network of elite high schools. By contrast, Jasmine (who is quiet and reserved) doesn’t know anyone at Ancaster College when she arrives there.
The teens play the drinking game Never Have I Ever. And it soon becomes obvious to Jasmine that Amelia and her friends are more sexually experienced than Jasmine is, since one of the challenges in this drinking game is “Never have I ever been part of the Mile High Club.” As Amelia and her friends brag about their partying antics during high-priced vacations, Jasmine looks a little uncomfortable. She gives the impression that she’s the bookish type.
And so, when the drinking challenge is “Never have I ever pissed on myself,” Jasmine seems relieved that she has a “wild” story to share too. She’s the only one in the group who admits that she’s urinated on herself. Jasmine explains it happened once when she was sleepwalking. The other teens look horrified and a little disgusted with Jasmine’s story, even though it’s hard to believe (considering all their drunken partying) that no one else in the group ever urinated on themselves.
Jasmine experiences racism one evening when she goes back to her dorm room and finds Amelia hanging out with some of Amelia’s male and female friends. Jasmine is the only person of color in the room. The other people look at Jasmine as if she’s intruding (even though it’s her room too), and they invite her to join the conversation, with a hint of reluctance. A guy named Tyler (played by Will Hochman) immediately zeroes in on Jasmine to question what she’s doing at Ancaster College.
Tyler asks sarcastically, “Who are you? Beyoncé?” He then rattles off some names of other famous black female entertainers, such as Nicki Minaj and Lizzo. Even though he says it in a joking manner, his racist condescension is obvious. Jasmine tries to laugh off Tyler’s backhanded insult disguised as a joke, but viewers can see that it bothers Jasmine, and she’s hurt.
There are three main reasons why Tyler’s “joking around” is racially offensive. First, Tyler doesn’t see Jasmine as being intellectually worthy of being at Ancaster College, so he questions why she’s there, and then compares her to entertainers as a reason for why she’s at this elite college. He doesn’t question why the white students are there. Second, Tyler lists only black female entertainers who use sexuality to sell their images, so he immediately tries to put Jasmine in a sexual context, which is a racial stereotype that many people have of black women. Third, even though Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj and Lizzo look nothing alike, racists often think people of another race all look alike.
It’s at this get-together that Jasmine first hears about why the Belleville House dorm room she’s living in is reportedly haunted: A female student died there in the 1960s. Somehow, the legend of Margaret Millett got entangled in the story of this death, because there’s a story that Room 302 is cursed by this suspected witch. According to the story, the witch will show herself to a freshman student at 3:33 a.m. and take that student to hell.
Jasmine then starts to have nightmares, and she senses that a shadowy figure is following her on campus. It should come as no surprise that Jasmine goes to a library to do research about the student who died in the room. Jasmine finds out that the student who died in the room was an 18-year-old named Louisa Weeks, who was found dead of suicide by hanging in the room on December 4, 1965. Louisa was also the first black student at Ancaster College.
Gail starts to experience some strange things too. As a tradition, house masters get their portrait painted, and the painting is hung with the portraits of the other past and present house masters at Ancaster College. After she gets her portrait painted, Gail finds maggots and flies coming out of the painting. The movie’s jump scares aren’t very original, but “Master” keeps people in suspense about what will happen next.
Gail also experiences how race and racism affect the power structure and barriers in her own career at Ancaster College. At a faculty party, two white colleagues—Diandra (played by Talia Balsam) and Brian (played by Bruce Altman)—congratulate Gail on being named Ancaster College’s first black person to become a house master. Diandra’s and Brian’s titles aren’t mentioned in the movie, but they have more seniority and more power than Gail at Ancaster College.
In a racially insensitive remark, Diandra and Brian compare Gail to Barack Obama and laugh because they think it’s a clever joke. The way that Diandra and Brian go on and on about Gail breaking this racial barrier at Ancaster College, it’s clear that Brian and Diandra think it’s more important to congratulate themselves for looking “progressive” in being among the decision makers for Gail to get the house master job, instead of giving validation to Gail that she earned this position on her own merits, not because she was a “token” black hire.
In another scene, Diandra dictates over the phone to Gail about how Gail should write a speech for an upcoming event attended by numerous Ancaster College donors. It will be the first big event where Gail is formally introduced to donors as the college’s latest house master. Diandra wants the speech to be worded in such a way where Gail will sound like a subservient black employee who’s grateful to the Ancaster College “powers that be” for appointing her as the first black person in this position. Gail has to tactfully steer Diandra away from that verbiage and let Gail write a speech where Gail’s accomplishments and goals are the focus, not her race.
“Get Out” brilliantly lampoons this type of racial condescension from white people who want to project a “progressive liberal” image, but who secretly think people who aren’t white are inferior. “Master” doesn’t blend these issues with horror as well as “Get Out” does, but “Master” does show a black female perspective that was lacking in “Get Out.” Because women of color have to deal with racism and sexism, “Master” adeptly depicts how this double-edged sword of bigotry can be used against accomplished black women whose capabilities and intelligence are constantly questioned or underestimated.
Gail and Jasmine both experience racist micro-aggressions throughout the movie. When Jasmine goes to an on-campus party by herself, a white guy at the front door won’t let her in, and he says that the party is “at capacity.” Meanwhile, white students are seen going into the party with no one stopping them. Jasmine is allowed entry into the party only after one of Amelia’s friends named Katie (played by Noa Fisher) sees Jasmine and tells the racist at the door that Jasmine is with her.
After getting racist comments from Tyler, Jasmine changes her hairstyle from natural curls to straightened hair. She also stops dressing in casual street wear and starts to dress more like a preppy student, as if she wants to assimilate more into the so-called white elitist culture at Ancaster College. Observant viewers will also notice how Jasmine goes back to her original way of dressing and wearing her hair as she grows more disillusioned with Ancaster College.
“Master” also effectively shows that even among black people, allyship isn’t always guaranteed. A “blink and you’ll miss it” moment comes early on in the movie, when Jasmine is in a school cafeteria, and a black female cafeteria worker (played by Angela Grovey) gives Jasmine a very dirty look without saying a word to Jasmine. It’s indicative of the resentment that some working-class black people might have of other black people they assume are too “uppity” and “trying to be white” if they’re accepted into a predominantly white and elite institution.
And there’s an outspoken Ancaster College professor named Liv Beckman (played by Amber Gray), who wears her hair in African-styled braids. Liv constantly talks about race and considers herself to be a progressive social justice warrior. Liv has very different relationships with Gail (who is a colleague/peer) and Jasmine (who is a student) because of the power structure involved.
At the faculty party shown early on in the movie, Gail and and Liv have a private conversation outside, where Liv comments to Gail about how there are very few black women who are part of Ancaster College’s faculty: “Us sisters are an endangered species.” Liv invites Gail to go on a weekend getaway trip with her to Boston. Gail politely declines the offer. But eventually, Liv and Gail start to become friends and go on a short getaway trip together.
This friendship might cloud Gail’s judgment when she’s part of a committee evaluating whether or not Liv will get tenure at Ancaster College. Diandra, who is also on the committee, is skeptical that Liv is qualified for tenure, while Gail seems to vacillate over whether or not to support Liv in these committee discussions. This subplot of “will Liv get tenure or not” makes the movie a little clunky and distracting from the main plot.
Liv is extremely friendly to Gail, but the same can’t be said of how Liv treats Jasmine, who is one of Liv’s students in an English literature class. Liv gives the class an assignment to do a critical race analysis of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novel “The Scarlet Letter,” which is about a woman who is publicly shamed for committing adultery. The challenge of this assignment is that all the characters in “The Scarlet Letter” are white; therefore, the book isn’t really about relations between different races.
In a classroom discussion of this assignment, Liv dismisses Jasmine’s ideas. But then, when a white British student named Cressida (played by Ella Hunt) essentially says the same things that Jasmine said just a few minutes earlier, Liv profusely praises Cressida for her comments. In a private student-teacher meeting between Liv and Jasmine, Liv tells Jasmine that she thinks Jasmine has trouble adjusting to the demanding nature of the class because Jasmine might be overwhelmed at being in a predominantly white environment.
Liv then continues to be dismissive of Jasmine, by assuming that Jasmine grew up in a predominantly black and poor area. In other words, Liv thinks that Jasmine is a “charity case” student. But then, when Jasmine tells her that she actually grew up in the (predominantly white) city of Tacoma, Washington, and Jasmine was president of her school class, Liv seems shocked and a little embarrassed that she made racist assumptions about Jasmine.
It doesn’t improve the relationship between Jasmine and Liv though. In fact, it seems to make to things worse. Jasmine confides in Gail about it, but Gail tries to stay neutral, since Liv has become Gail’s friend. However, Jasmine really begins to suspect that Liv is unfairly targeting her when Liv gives Jasmine the failing grade of “F” on her “Scarlet Letter” assignment, while Cressida gets a “B+” grade. Jasmine is so upset about it, that she files a formal dispute with the school’s administration.
Around the same time, Jasmine and Amelia start having conflicts with each other. Their relationship started off as cordial, but things eventually go downhill. There’s somewhat of a love triangle introduced in the story when Amelia tells Jasmine that she’s attracted to Tyler, but Amelia and Tyler are just “hanging out” and not officially dating. But then, something happens to reveal that Jasmine is attracted to Tyler too. Even though Tyler racially insulted Jasmine when they first met, her attraction to him is an indication that a part of her wants to fit in with this clique, even if the guy she wants to date probably sees her as inferior to him because of her race.
“Master” puts these types of subplots into the story in ways that make the movie a little cluttered. But there are some mystery elements that will keep people intrigued, including a couple of scenes where someone named Esther Bickert (played by Mary Catherine Wright) calls Gail on the phone to try to talk to Gail about her daughter Liz, who is at Ancaster College. Gail doesn’t know anyone named Liz Bickert, so she tells this mystery caller to contact the school’s directory department.
Meanwhile, Jasmine continues to have nightmares and appears to be sleepwalking. On more than one occasion, Jasmine wakes up from these nightmares in her room, with an alarmed Amelia telling Jasmine how Jasmine was acting strangely before Jasmine woke up. The nightmares get worse, of course. And so does the tension between Jasmine and Amelia, who starts to think that Jasmine is mentally ill.
One of the more surprising elements to “Master” is a plot twist that’s intriguingly dropped in the movie and then left to dangle unresolved. This plot twist was clearly inspired by a real-life controversial former professor. It’s a sudden turn in the movie’s story that could have been handled better, in terms of how certain characters react to this plot twist. Considering what the consequences would be if this shocking revelation happened in real life (and it has happened in real life), this plot twist just opens up more questions that the movie never answers.
Despite some of the clumsily plotted aspects of “Master,” the movie never gets too boring. “Master” seems a little torn in how much to focus on Gail and how much to focus on Jasmine. In the end, Gail is really the main protagonist, because she’s the title character. Gail has stronger and more emotional ties to Ancaster College than Jasmine does. It’s why Gail’s journey in this story is more fascinating than Jasmine’s journey. Gail has to rethink her longtime loyalty to a college that isn’t exactly the “safe space” that she thought it was.
All of the cast members give admirable but not outstanding performances. Hall (who is an executive producer of “Master”), Renee and Gray bring emotional authenticity to their roles that give “Master” the credibility that it has in depicting how life can be for black women at predominantly white academic institutions. The movie might help viewers better understand how racism can still be condoned and perpetuated, even by well-meaning white people who politically identify as liberals.
Most of the movie’s best scenes aren’t with the jump scares but in moments that show the similarities between racism and a horror story. There’s a scene where Gail is comforting Jasmine, who has become convinced that she’s being tormented by a ghost. “You can’t get away from it, Jasmine,” Gail says, “Believe me, I know.” Jasmine might be talking about a ghost, but Gail is talking about racism. Viewers might like or dislike the story in “Master,” but the main takeaway from the film is that racism is like a hateful ghost that haunts everyone, whether people want to admit or not.
Amazon Studios will release “Master” in select U.S. cinemas and on Prime Video on March 18, 2022.
Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional U.S. Southern city of Stanlow, the dark comedy “Breaking News in Yuba County” features a predominantly white cast (with some African Americans, Asians and Latinos) representing the middle-class, working-class and criminal underground.
Culture Clash: A lonely, middle-aged woman pretends that her philandering criminal husband has been kidnapped (even though he really died of a heart attack), so that she can get sympathy and attention.
Culture Audience: “Breaking News in Yuba County” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Allison Janney and to people who don’t mind watching incoherent movies about people behaving badly.
Oscar-winning actress Allison Janney has worked with director Tate Taylor in all of his feature films so far, and she usually plays supporting or minor characters in these movies. The dark and violent comedy “Breaking News in Yuba County” is the first Taylor-directed film where Janney is front and center as the movie’s lead character. And it’s a dreadful misstep not only for Taylor and Janney but also for everyone involved in this embarrassing mess. “Breaking News in Yuba County” (whose producers include Taylor and Jake Gyllenhaal) is proof that having a talented cast doesn’t automatically equal a good movie.
In “Breaking News in Yuba County” (whose horrendous screenplay was written by Amanda Idoko), Janney portrays Sue Buttons, a lonely woman who feels neglected and under-appreciated and goes to extreme lengths to get attention. The movie shows obvious signs that Sue doesn’t get the respect that she thinks she deserves, to try and make her look sympathetic. But her personality and actions are so off-putting (and so are almost all of the characters in this stinker film) that the movie’s attempts to be comedic are pathetic and monotonous.
“Breaking News in Yuba County” takes place in an unnamed U.S. state in the South, in a fictional city called Stanlow, located in Yuba County. In the movie’s opening scene, viewers see Sue listening to motivational affirmations on her iPod as she goes to a supermarket. She repeats these mantras several times throughout the movie: “My story matters. I am enough. I am confident.” Sue’s self-directed pep talks do little to change the way that the outside world treats her. And something happens on her birthday that causes her to snap and go from being a mild-mannered, law-abiding citizen to being a stone-cold, heartless fraudster.
She arrives at the grocery store to pick up her small birthday cake, which is inscribed with the words “Happy Birthday, Sue.” But Sue notices that the “e” looks more like a “c.” She points out this mistake to the pastry worker behind the counter, with a tone of voice implying that she wants the error corrected. But the worker just ignores Sue’s attempt to assert herself and asks if Sue is paying by cash or credit.
Sue is married to a corrupt banker named Karl (played by Matthew Modine), who’s first seen at their home talking dirty to a woman whom he plans to meet later for a sexual tryst. Sue doesn’t know about this affair but she’ll soon find out on her birthday. She’ll also find out later about her husband’s illegal activities. In the meantime, Sue has made plans for her and Karl to have a romantic dinner at a restaurant on her birthday.
But as soon as she arrives home, Karl is out the door to go meet up with his mistress. Meanwhile, Sue takes her birthday cake and makes the correction on the letter “e” herself. She then goes to her job, a place called Sidewinder Safety Tubs, where she works in customer service at a call center. The only work on the job that the movie shows her doing is taking one phone call from a rude customer who curses at her.
Considering all the ludicrous shenanigans that Sue gets up to later that take up all of her time, the movie shouldn’t have bothered showing her having a job at all. This movie is so badly written that it’s never explained how Sue took all the time off from work that she takes to try to cover up her web of lies. But the filmmakers seem to assume that everyone who’s watching this movie is as idiotic as the characters.
Sue just happens to be driving near a motel when she sees Karl’s car parked outside. She gets out and sees him holding some flowers and going into a motel room while calling a woman inside “honey” before he shuts the door. An alarmed Sue goes to the motel’s front desk and correctly assumes that the room is reserved in Karl’s name. Sue tells the front desk clerk that she’s his wife and pretends to have accidentally locked herself out of that room, so she asks for a spare key.
Sure enough, when Sue lets herself into the motel room, Karl is having sex with another woman, whose name is Leah Norton (played by Bridget Everett), whom Sue has never met before. Sue gets angry, while Karl and Leah are naturally startled and horrified at being caught. Karl is so surprised that he falls off the bed, has a heart attack, and dies.
While Leah is freaking out and babbling, Sue finds out that Leah is also married. She slaps Leah and tells her that she will inform Leah’s husband about Leah’s cheating if Leah doesn’t leave the motel immediately. Sue also tells Leah that Sue will take care of the problem of Karl’s dead body. Leah doesn’t hesitate to quickly leave the motel.
Instead of being upset that Karl is dead, Sue forlornly says out loud as she sits on the bed, “You forgot my birthday.” Sue then hatches a plan to bury the body in a lot near the motel. This movie is so stupid, that it shows Sue digging the grave in plain view where anyone could have easily seen her. But there would be no “Breaking News in Yuba County” if she were caught that quickly and easily.
Meanwhile, Sue doesn’t find out until after Karl dies that he was involved in a money-laundering scheme with some local criminals, who used Karl to launder millions of dollars. The people in this illegal enterprise are a ruthless crime boss named Mr. Kim (played by Keong Sim); his sometimes-bungling daughter Mina (played by Awkafina), who tries to be as tough as her father; a menacing, trigger-happy thug named Ray (played by Clifton Collins Jr.); and Karl’s younger brother Petey (played by Jimmi Simpson), who’s been trying to leave his criminal life behind.
Petey works as a salesperson at a furniture store named Rita’s, owned by a sassy lesbian named Rita (played by Wanda Sykes), who manages the store with her equally feisty live-in girlfriend Debbie (played by Ellen Barkin). Rita and Debbie know that Petey has a criminal background, but he’s told them that he’s trying to “go straight” and stay out of trouble. Debbie is often suspicious of Petey and sometimes accuses him of stealing from the store. Meanwhile, Rita has a friendly rapport with Petey, and she strangely tells Petey that she wouldn’t mind too much if he was caught stealing because she would understand that he would be stealing out of desperation.
Sue is fixated on a local news/public affairs TV program called “The Gloria Michaels Show,” which has been doing constant coverage of a missing 13-year-old girl named Emma Rose. After Sue has buried Karl’s body, she goes home and watches the show. She has a silent “a-ha” moment when she sees Emma Rose’s parents Jonathan and Robin (played by Michael A. Newcomer and Liz Elkins Newcomer) being interviewed by host Gloria Michaels (played by Juliette Lewis), who tells the distraught parents that they have the unwavering support of the community in finding Emma Rose. Gloria is a TV personality who’s a mix of Nancy Grace and Deborah Norville, even down to having the same type of blonde bob hairstyle and Southern accent.
Sue decides that she can get the public’s sympathy and attention if she pretends that Karl is missing. Sue calls the restaurant to cancel the dinner reservation by saying that her husband isn’t feeling well. It’s a discrepancy (and plot hole) that a good investigation team would be able to uncover when Sue later reports that Karl is missing. She foolishly claimed that Karl disappeared during the time she said that he was too “sick” to go to the restaurant. Another big plot hole is that Sue never bothers to contact anyone to try to look for Karl. But, of course, this movie has incompetent cops who investigate and overlook many of these things that would expose her lies.
Sue goes to the local police station to report Karl’s disappearance, but the officer on duty, Detective Cam Harris (played by Regina Hall), is impatient and dismissive, especially when Sue tells her that Karl has been missing for less than 48 hours. Detective Harris doesn’t file a report and instead advises Sue to ask Karl’s friends and relatives if they know where he is, because many missing spouses usually have just gone somewhere without telling their spouses. Once again, Sue feels ignored and disrespected.
The gravity of what Sue has done begins to sink in with her. When she goes home, she has a meltdown and starts trashing her house. She picks up the birthday cake, as if she’s going to destroy it too, but she can’t bring herself to do it. It’s symbolic of how she’ll take extreme measures later in the story to save herself and destroy others, just so she won’t be exposed for committing the crimes of illegal disposal of a corpse and lying to the police.
Sue has a younger half-sister named Nancy (played by Mila Kunis), who comes over to visit shortly after Sue has her meltdown. The house looks like it’s been ransacked, so Sue pretends to be distraught that Karl is missing. Sue also plays along with Nancy’s assumption that Karl was probably kidnapped during a home invasion.
It just so happens that Nancy is a highly ambitious and competitive TV reporter who works for a local station that’s a rival to the station that has “The Gloria Michaels Show.” Sue and Nancy see Karl’s “disappearance” as an opportunity to get media attention for themselves. Predictably, Nancy offers to interview Sue on TV about the “disappearance.” Nancy doesn’t really care that Karl could be missing; she just wants to get a “news scoop” over the competition.
This TV interview is the first time that Petey finds out that his older brother Karl is missing. And that’s a problem because Karl had $3 million that he was supposed to launder, so now that money is missing too. In a panic, Petey tells Mina and Ray that he doesn’t know where Karl or the money is. And inexplicably, Mina decides to tell Petey that she and Ray have kidnapped Karl, so that they can extort $20,000 in ransom money from Petey. It’s a dumb decision by any standard, but it’s an example of how bad this movie is.
What follows is a convoluted and messy farce, with betrayals, more lies, and people inevitably getting killed in brutal ways. Detective Harris is the only cop on the case who gets suspicious of Sue. But Detective Harris is stonewalled by her dimwitted junior cop partner Officer Jones (played by T.C. Matherne) and their boss Captain Riggins (played by Dominic Burgess), who both think that Sue doesn’t seem like the type who could be a criminal mastermind. It’s a subtle commentary on how certain people, because of their physical appearance, are given a “privileged pass” with law enforcement.
The movie has a few supporting characters that don’t have much to do except be possible targets of violence. Petey has a pregnant girlfriend named Jonelle (played by Samira Wiley), who grows concerned at how strange he’s been acting lately. Her pregnancy only seems to be in the movie so there’s an inevitable scene of a pregnant woman in a vicious fight. And then there’s one of Karl’s bank colleagues named Steve (played by Chris Lowell), who doesn’t do much but act frightened when Mina and Ray predictably show up at the bank to look for Karl.
This type of low-quality movie usually has a cast of unknown actors. But it’s very disappointing to see how many talented and famous actors (who are all known for doing much better work elsewhere) are in this atrocious movie. Not even the action stunts are interesting to watch.
And the tone of the film is horribly uneven, as the actors do their performances as if they’re in very different films. Awkwafina, Barkin, Sykes, Kunis, Hall and Simpson act as if they’re in a goofy slapstick comedy. Matherene, Burgess, Wiley and Lowell act as if they’re in a serious drama. Janney, Lewis, Collins, Sim and Everett come closest to capturing the movie’s intended dark satire. Modine isn’t in the movie long enough for most viewers to care about his Karl character, who seems to be despicable anyway.
Almost as annoying as this movie’s characters is the music score by Jeff Beal, because it’s the epitome of sitcom smarm. Given how violent this movie is, the music is completely out-of-place and awkward, because it sounds like something that should be for an outdated family comedy series on TV. The overall direction of the movie is lazy, as if Taylor just let the actors do their own thing instead of having a cohesive tone for the film. And clearly, the filmmakers didn’t do enough to fix the many problems in the screenplay.
It seems as if “Breaking News in Yuba County” tried and failed to be like a Guy Ritchie crime film, by having a story where lawbreakers comically try to outdo each other in absurd ways, while they attempt to cover up everything and blame their misdeeds on other people. There are plenty of female-centric dark comedy satires that get all the elements right, including 2017’s “I, Tonya,” the movie that garnered Janney her Academy Award. Sometimes bad movies are fun to watch, but “Breaking News in Yuba County” is the type of irritating movie where viewers can’t wait for it to be over and won’t care what happens to the characters in the end.
MGM’s American International Pictures released “Breaking News in Yuba County” in select U.S. cinemas and on digital and VOD on February 12, 2021.
Culture Representation: Taking place in Florida and filmed in “mockumentary” style, the comedic film “Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison” has a predominantly African American cast (with some white people and one Asian) representing the working-class, the middle-class and prison inmates.
Culture Clash: A boastful ex-convict tries to become a famous life coach/motivational speaker and comes up against many obstacles.
Culture Audience: “Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison” will appeal primarily to people who like comedies that have a lot of crude and vulgar humor but also an underlying positive message.
Would you want an ex-convict to be your life coach? That’s a question posed in “Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison,” a mockumentary-style comedy film starring Romany Malco as Tijuana “T.J.” Jackson, an egotistical ex-con character he created for YouTube videos that became so popular that Malco decided to make a movie about the character. Malco wrote, directed and edited “Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison,” which mostly succeeds in showing laugh-out-loud moments while making some underlying social commentary about the prison system and obstacles faced by ex-cons who try to turn their lives around after they’re released from prison.
Instead of taking the predictable route of being a slapstick-heavy film, “Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison” (which takes place in Florida) does something a little different: It’s filmed as a mockumentary directed by a privileged film student named Rachel “Rach” Cho (played by Shannon Dang), who’s about to graduate from college. Rachel is worried about finding a job and paying for her student loans, while knowing that a college degree is no guarantee of success.
Rachel comments, “What’s even more depressing? Reading the blog of a felon who’s even more optimistic about his future that I am of mine … I had to meet this man face-to-face.”
Who is this prison inmate? Tijuana Jackson, who is about to be released from prison again after being locked up for longer than Rachel has been alive. (The movie doesn’t go into details about Tijuana’s arrest record, but it’s mentioned that he’s been arrested multiple times for various offenses.) Rachel also decides that her last assignment for her film-school class is going to be a 10-minute documentary about Tijuana’s prison release and his life after prison.
Accompanied by fellow student cameraman Tyler Cassidy (played by Tyler Cassidy), Rachel heads to the fictional Miami-Daye Corrections facility to interview Tijuana before he’s released from prison. Tijuana is an arrogant blowhard who thinks he’s going to be the greatest and most famous motivational speaker of all time. That’s his goal when he gets out of prison. And he’s been practicing on his fellow inmates, who mostly ignore him while he gives his foul-mouthed and simple-minded lectures.
Tijuana’s heart is somewhat in the right place, since he seems to genuinely want to help and uplift people. But his main priority is to get very rich from giving people life advice that can help them. And he places a high value on loyalty. The only person who seems to believe that Tijuana will succeed in this goal is a fellow inmate named Upgrade (played by Bunji Garlin), a childhood friend of Tijuana’s.
While Rachel is interviewing Tijuana, as two prison guards stand nearby, a disturbing incident of brutality is caught on camera. During his enthusiastic self-promotion, Tijuana stands up, and one of the prison guards tells Tijuana that he has to sit down and remain seated during the interview. But apparently, Tijuana didn’t sit down fast enough, because the guard then tackles and assaults Tijuana, while the other guard helps restrain Tijuana.
There are racial overtones to this scene, since the prison guard who was the aggressor is white. Rachel is appalled by this assault, and she later asks Tijuana if he’s going to file a complaint for this unjustified brutality. Tijuana tells her that filing a complaint will just delay his release from prison. He says, “Do I want justice or do I want freedom?”
Meanwhile, two prison officials are interviewed for the documentary: Judy McClusky, also known as Ms. Judy (played by Kiva Jump), who is empathetic to Tijuana, but also frustrated by his reluctance to follow prison rules and his apparent self-delusion. She says on camera that although Tijuana presents himself as a very popular inmate with people outside the prison, in reality he’s had no visitors, no one calling him and maybe one letter the entire time he’s been incarcerated there. And she also reveals that when Tijuana was given the option to spend some of his prison sentence in a halfway house environment, he opted to stay in prison.
Another prison employee interviewed is Robert Knisel (played by Ryan O’Quinn), who is the prison’s communications/linguistics expert. His job is to translate a prisoner’ street lingo when they are talking to people who are unfamiliar with the slang terms. There’s a somewhat hilarious scene that shows him doing his job, which also has racial overtones since Robert is very straight-laced looking and it’s supposed to be amusing to see someone who looks like him know all the street lingo of tough criminals.
Tijuana is involved in the Prison Pet Rescue Program (PPRP), where inmates help train dogs provided by a local animal shelter. Tijuana has become very attached to a female mutt named Chance (“She’s smarter than my ex-girlfriend,” he quips), and wants to adopt her when he gets out of prison, but the PPRP’s policy is that the dogs are not available for adoption to civilians. Sometimes the lines of dialogue in this movie are a bit cringeworthy, such as when Judy says about this “no adoption” policy: “Prison is a bitch, but they won’t let you take that bitch with you.”
When the day comes for Tijuana’s release, he puts on a big show about how people he knows couldn’t wait for this day and are ready to throw a party for him. In reality, no one shows up to greet Tijuana after his release, and he’s left waiting outside like a sad and lonely kid who’s forgotten to be picked up from school. Tijuana is forced to ask Rachel and Tyler for a ride to his mother’s house in Hollywood, Florida.
When they arrive at the house of his religious mother (played by Lyne Odoms), who just goes by the name Momma in the movie, Tijuana is shocked and disappointed to find out that his sassy younger sister Sharea Jackson (played by Tami Roman) is now living in his old bedroom. Sharea is a single mother to a son named Eric, nicknamed Lil’ Eric (played by Alkoya Brunson), who’s about 12 or 13 years old. (Eric has a deadbeat dad who’s not involved in raising him and is not seen or heard in the movie.)
Tijuana and Sharea immediately start bickering, while their mother tries to keep the peace. Meanwhile, Rachel and Tyler grow uncomfortable with witnessing all this family drama, so they make an excuse to leave as soon as possible. Rachel says that she has all she needs for her short documentary film. But Tijuana scolds her by telling her that they haven’t even gotten to the best parts of the film, when he begins his journey to become a rich and famous life coach/motivational speaker.
What started out as a film project that Rachel probably thought would take a day or two to film ends up taking several days, as she and cameraman Tyler get pulled into chronicling Tijuana’s hijinks (including scamming random people he meets in a park), with Eric usually along for the ride. It turns out that the blog that Tijuana had while he was in prison was actually maintained by Eric, since prisoners at the correctional facility don’t have access to computers. Eric (who is a smart, polite and likable kid) also has several marketing ideas for Tijuana that Tijuana ends up using, and then Tijuana selfishly takes credit for Eric’s ideas.
Complicating matters, the sibling rivalry between Tijuana and Sharea has festered into a lot of animosity between them. Sharea thinks that Tijuana is a loser and that his ambition to be a life coach is a joke. She has a college degree, and it’s implied that Tijuana paid for her tuition with money he made from crimes, but he has a lot of resentment that Sharea doesn’t seem grateful for how he contributed to her education.
There’s another woman in Tijuana’s life with whom he has a tense relationship. Cheryl Wagner (played by Regina Hall) is Tijuana’s parole officer, who is constantly pushing Tijuana to get a “real” job, even to the point where she fills out job application forms for him. Cheryl also happens to be Tijuana’s ex-girlfriend. Cheryl tells the documentarians that Tijuana has “a lot of potential,” but he tends to screw things up in his life. And she’s very skeptical that Tijuana has what it takes to become a life coach/motivational speaker, considering that his life is still chaotic and financially unstable.
One of the application forms that Cheryl fills out for Tijuana is to be a barista at Starbucks, which gives you an idea of the type of job that Cheryl thinks is in Tijuana’s range of qualifications. But Tijuana says he’s more qualified for higher-paying jobs than the ones Cheryl thinks he has the best chance of getting. Tijuana brags to Cheryl that he’s worked in a variety of jobs, including communications and waste management. The only problem? They were all jobs he had when he was a prisoner.
Meanwhile, Tijuana gets invited to go to Orlando to for a Toastmaster contest, which is described as “Shark Tank” for motivational speakers. The grand prize is up to $50,000 to start a business and the chance of doing a world tour of speaking engagements. The only problem? As a felon parolee, Tijuana has a limited area where he’s allowed to travel. Orlando is outside that area, and Cheryl won’t sign on off on letting him go.
“Tijuana Jackson” is by no means an intellectual film. The humor is very lowbrow and vulgar (which is expected from a street criminal like Tijuana Jackson), but his relentless ambition, constant bragging, and his refusal to acknowledge his flaws and limitations make him amusing to watch for the most part. (However, some scenes in the movie do tend to get repetitive.)
The movie’s mockumentary style elevates the material, because there are some conversations that Tijuana has that are “caught on camera” when he wasn’t aware was being recorded, or he was aware of the cameras and trying to be “shady” about what he was doing. Some of the dialogue looks improvised (which is the best way to film a mockumentary), and there are some poignant family moments (especially between Tijuana and his nephew Eric) that show the movie has some heart beyond the crudeness.
Malco (who is one of the film’s producers) shows that he has comedic talent in front of and behind the camera, while the other members of the cast do a good job with their roles too. Despite Tijuana’s often-misguided methods and “get rich quick” greed, his “fake it till you make it” attitude speaks to a larger culture of what many people (especially those with limited resources) feel they have to do to achieve the American Dream. Underneath the foul-mouthed jokes, “Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison” also has a hopeful message about ex-cons deserving a chance to turn their lives around if they have the motivation to do it.
Cranked Up Films released “Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison” in select U.S. cinemas on July 24, 2020. The movie’s VOD/digital release date is July 31, 2020.
BET announces an array of high impact initiatives to support communities of color impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Black Americans are being disproportionately harmed by the health and financial devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. BET, in partnership with the NAACP, United Way Worldwide, leaders in the African American creative, civil rights and business communities will provide critical financial, educational and community support directly to the African Americans hardest hit by this crisis.
These initiatives include the “Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort” broadcast special; the creation of a relief fund in partnership with United Way Worldwide to assist people of color most impacted by this health and financial crisis, and our support of the NAACP’s Town Hall Series.
For 40 years, BET has been rooted in a legacy of helping afflicted communities of color, raising $12 million for Katrina victims and millions more for Haiti earthquake victims. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, BET will use their global platform to provide critical educational and financial resources directly related to the African American community.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is savagely compounding the profound health and financial vulnerabilities many Black Americans face. Every day, there are new reports of how this pandemic is killing African Americans at much higher rates than other communities.” said Scott Mills, President of BET. “BET is using all of our resources – our capital, our media platforms, our relationships with the creative community, sponsors, businesses and charitable organizations to support our community in this time of crisis.”
The “Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort” broadcast special, will air on Wednesday, April 22nd at 8 pm EST. The special, co-hosted by Grammy Award-Winning singer and actress Kelly Rowland, TV personality Terrence J, and actress Regina Hall; will feature virtual appearances and musical performances from some of the biggest names in music and entertainment as they share tips on how to manage, cope and help during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Celebrity guest appearances and performances will include DJ Khaled, Charlie Wilson, Chance the Rapper, Kirk Franklin, Fantasia, Melvin Crispell III, and many more. The special will give up-to-date information and drive viewers to needed resources during this unprecedented time. In partnership with United Way, proceeds are being donated to African American communities severely impacted by COVID-19.
“Our goal for this special is to come together in a collective spirit of strength, community and hope. As we unite in harmony and compassion, through the collective healing power of music, comedy and entertainment, we can bring restoration and inspire the world that our brighter days are ahead,” said Connie Orlando, EVP Specials, Music Programming & Music Strategy at BET.
Connie Orlando, EVP Specials, Music Programming & Music Strategy at BET will serve as Executive Producer for the “Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort” broadcast special along with Jesse Collins, CEO of Jesse Collins Entertainment.
To support these initiatives, BET has established a COVID-19 relief fund in partnership with United Way Worldwide to support African Americans that have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. United Way, the largest private funder of human services in the U.S., has a presence in 95% of communities across the country, and has, for more than 130 years, mobilized the caring power of the community to advance the common good. United Way is unparalleled in its power to convene local partners, providers and resources to address the needs of vulnerable communities on the ground.
Financial donations from the joint fund will allow United Way to disburse resources to local organizations under United Ways in New York City, Atlanta, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Detroit and Chicago, regions that have been most impacted by this crisis. There are long-term plans to expand these resources to other markets going forward. In particular, United Way will be supporting families in crisis who are experiencing food insecurity and are in need of emergency assistance.
“United Way is deeply embedded in communities across our country, and our ‘local-ness’ means we know the needs on the ground and how to get the right kind of help to those who need it most,” said Stan Little, Chief Experience Officer of United Way. “We look forward to partnering with BET to bring much-needed relief and long-term recovery to already vulnerable communities that are being hit especially hard because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
BET is also providing resources and content on COVID-19 across multiple digital platforms including a four-part virtual town hall series in partnership with the NAACP. On Wednesday, April 8, at 8 PM ET/ 5 PM PT, “Unmasked: A COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall Series Powered by NAACP & BET” will stream on NAACP.org and focus on how the pandemic is affecting African Americans and what steps the community can take to build an action plan for positive change. The first town hall will focus on the health, emotional, economic toll, congressional response and how activists can apply pressure to ensure legislation is equitable. Additionally, BET.com is reporting daily on what the African American community needs to know about COVID-19, and how it is impacting our lives.
You can donate to the fund beginning Friday, April 10th. More information on BET’s partnership with UWW and additional extensions of our relief efforts are forthcoming. For further details, please visit BET.com.
April 17, 2020 UPDATE
Today BET announces comedian and actor Anthony Anderson as the fourth host of the upcoming “Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort” special. Anderson joins stars Kelly Rowland, Terrence J, and Regina Hall as host for the two-hour special broadcast. “Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort” is set to air on Wednesday, April 22, 2020 at 8 PM EST.
Performances include Alicia Keys with a special tribute to New York City, and a Gospel moment with Kirk Franklin featuring Fantasia, Jonathan McReynolds, Kelly Price, Tasha Cobbs, Le’Andria Johnson, and Melvin Crispell III. Exclusive performances by John Legend, Usher, Jhene Aiko, Chloe X Halle, CeeLo Green, H.E.R., Ella Mai, Jermaine Dupri, Ludacris, Swae Lee, Tyrese Gibson, Buju Banton, DJ D-Nice, SiR, D Smoke, and Charlie Wilson.
Additional celebrity guest appearances will include Tiffany Haddish, Idris Elba, Ciara, Don Cheadle, Mike Epps, Deon Cole, Angela Rye, Dr. Rheeda Walker, Charlamagne Tha God, Symone D. Sanders, DJ Khaled andChance The Rapper.
Expanding the reach of the telecast, BET will simulcast the special across BET and BET Her domestically, as well as their channels internationally bringing awareness to over 90 million homes. Additionally, BET will join forces with Bounce to help expand the audience to include free, over-the-air broadcast viewers with Bounce simulcasting “Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort.”
BET, a subsidiary of ViacomCBS Inc. (NASDAQ: VIACA, VIAC), is the nation’s leading provider of quality entertainment, music, news, and public affairs television programming for the African-American audience. The primary BET channel is in 90 million households and can be seen in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, sub-Saharan Africa, and France. BET is the dominant African-American consumer brand with a diverse group of business extensions including BET.com, a leading Internet destination for Black entertainment, music, culture, and news; BET HER, a 24-hour entertainment network targeting the African-American Woman; BET Music Networks – BET Jams, BET Soul and BET Gospel; BET Home Entertainment; BET Live, BET’s growing festival business; BET Mobile, which provides ringtones, games and video content for wireless devices; and BET International, which operates BET around the globe.
About United Way
United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. Supported by 2.9 million volunteers, 9.8 million donors worldwide and $4.7 billion raised every year, United Way is the world’s largest privately funded nonprofit. We’re engaged in 1,800 communities across more than 40 countries and territories worldwide to create sustainable solutions to the challenges facing our communities. United Way partners include global, national and local businesses, nonprofits, government, civic and faith-based organizations, along with educators, labor leaders, health providers, senior citizens, students and more. For more information about United Way, please visit UnitedWay.org. Follow us on Twitter: @UnitedWay and #LiveUnited.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP’s work and our six “Game Changer” issue areas at naacp.org.
With two prizes each, Cardi B and the late Nipsey Hussle were the top winners at 18th annual BET Awards, which took place at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on June 23, 2019. Regina Hall hosted the show, which BET telecast live in several time zones.
Cardi B’s”Invasion of Privacy” was named Album of the Year, and she also received the award for Best Female Hip-Hop Artist. Nipsey Hussle (who was shot to death on Match 31, 2019) received the Humanitarian Award and the prize for Best Male Hip-Hop Artist.
Performers included Cardi B, DJ Khaled, Migos, H.E.R., Lil Nas X with Billy Ray Cyrus, Lizzo, Mustard, Lil Baby, Yung Miami of City Girls, Lucky Daye and Kiana Ledé. Presenters included Taraji P. Henson, Lena Waithe, Morris Chestnut, Yara Shahidi, Marsai Martin and the five men known as the Central Park Five, who were wrongfully imprisoned for rape and assault and exonerated years later.
Tyler Perry was honored with the Ultimate Icon Award, while Mary J. Blige received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Here is the complete list of winners and nominees for the 2019 BET Awards:
Album of the Year
Travis Scott, “Astroworld”
Meek Mill, “Championships”
Ella Mai, “Ella Mai”
The Carters, “Everything Is Love” Cardi B, “Invasion of Privacy”*
2019 Coca-Cola Viewers’ Choice Award
Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin, “I Like It”
Childish Gambino, “This Is No America”
Drake, “In My Feelings” Ella Mai, “Trip”*
J. Cole, “Middle Child”
Travis Scott featuring Drake, “Sicko Mode”
Best Female R&B/Pop Artist
Best Male R&B/Pop Artist
Anderson .Paak Bruno Mars*
Chloe x Halle
Lil Baby & Gunna Migos*
21 Savage featuring J. Cole, “A Lot”
Cardi B & Bruno Mars, “Please Me”
Cardi B. featuring Bad Bunny & J Balvin, “I Like It”
H.E.R. featuring Bryson Tiller, “Could’ve Been” Travis Scott featuring Drake, “Sicko Mode”*
Tyga featuring Offset, “Taste”
Best Male Hip Hop Artist
Meek Mill Nipsey Hussle*
21 Savage featuring J. Cole, “A Lot”
Cardi B, “Money”
Cardi B & Bruno Mars, “Please Me” Childish Gambino, “This Is America”*
Drake, “Nice for What”
The Carters, “Apes**t”
Video Director of the Year
Hype Williams Karena Evans*
Best New Artist
Juice Wrld Lil Baby*
Dr. Bobby Jones Best Gospel/Inspirational Award
Erica Campbell featuring Warryn Campbell, “All of MY Life”
Fred Hammond, “Tell Me Where It Hurts”
Kirk Franklin, “Love Theory” Snoop Dogg featuring Rance Allen, “Blessing Me Again”*
Tori Kelly featuring Kirk Franklin, “Never Alone”
Best International Act
AKA (South Africa)
Aya Nakamura (France) Burna Boy (Nigeria)*
Mr. Eazi (Nigeria)
BET Networks announces the first group of performers for the 19th annual “BET AWARDS” including Cardi B, DJ Khaled, Migos, H.E.R., Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus, Lizzo, Mustard, Lil Baby, City Girls’ Yung Miami, Lucky Daye and Kiana Ledé. Hosted by Regina Hall, the “BET Awards” 2019 will air LIVE on Sunday, June 23rd at 8 PM ET from the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles, CA on BET.
Additionally, the network announced the first group of presenters who will take the stage including Taraji P. HensonTaraji P. Henson, Lena Waithe, Morris Chestnut, Yara Shahidi, Lena Waithe, Morris Chestnut, Yara Shahidi, and Marsai Martin.
“The BET Awards stage has become synonymous with powerful and groundbreaking performances that are authentic and bold, celebrating the influence and power of black culture,” said Connie Orlando, Executive Vice-President, Head of Programming at BET. “We are thrilled to continue to be the launch pad and home for some of today’s most talented and inspiring voices, as BET continues to showcase the impact of established and up-and-coming artists, providing them a global stage to share their art and creativity.”
As previously announced, Cardi B leads this year’s nominations with a total of seven, including Best Female Hip-Hop Artist, two separate nods in both the Best Collaboration and Video of the Year categories, Album of the Year and the Coca-Cola Viewers’ Choice Award. Drake follows with five nods for Best Male Hip-Hop Artist, Video of the Year, Best Collaboration and the Coca-Cola Viewers’ Choice Award. Other leading nominees include Beyoncé, Travis Scott and J. Cole who received four nominations each, with Bruno Mars, 21 Savage, Childish Gambino, H.E.R. and Ella Mai each scoring three nominations.
The “BET AWARDS” 2019 will simulcast LIVE at 8 pm ET across seven Viacom networks in the U.S. including BET, BET HER, MTV, MTV 2, MTV Classic, VH1, and Logo. Internationally, the show will simulcast for the first-time on BET Africa at 2 am CAT on June 24th, followed by international broadcasts in the UK on June 24th at 9:00 pm BST, South Korea on June 25th at 9 pm KST and in France on June 25th at 9 pm CEST. Internationally, BET will honor Best International Act in-show, along with the fan-voted category Best New International Act and BET International Global Good Award during the live red carpet pre-show.
Connie Orlando, Executive Vice-President, Head of Programming at BET will serve as Executive Producer for the “BET AWARDS” 2019 along with Jesse Collins, CEO of Jesse Collins Entertainment.
BET.com/betawards is the official site for the “BET Awards” and will have all the latest news and updates about this year’s show.
ABOUT BET NETWORKS
BET Networks, a subsidiary of Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIA, VIA.B), is the nation’s leading provider of quality entertainment, music, news and public affairs television programming for the African-American audience. The primary BET channel reaches more than 90 million households and can be seen in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom and sub-Saharan Africa. BET is the dominant African-American consumer brand with a diverse group of business extensions: BET.com, a leading Internet destination for black entertainment, music, culture and news; BET HER, a 24-hour entertainment network targeting the African-American woman; BET Music Networks – BET Jams, BET Soul and BET Gospel; BET Home Entertainment; BET Live, BET’s growing festival business; BET Mobile, which provides ringtones, games and video content for wireless devices; and BET International, which operates BET around the globe.
ABOUT “BET AWARDS”
The “BET Awards” is one of the most watched award shows on cable television according to the Nielsen Company. The “BET Awards” franchise remains as the #1 program in cable TV history among African-Americans, and it is BET’s #1 telecast every year. It recognizes the triumphs and successes of artists, entertainers, and athletes in a variety of categories.
ABOUT JESSE COLLINS ENTERTAINMENT
Jesse Collins Entertainment (JCE) is a full-service television and film production company founded by entertainment industry veteran Jesse Collins. For more than a decade, Collins has played an integral role in producing some of television’s most memorable moments in music entertainment. Collins has produced groundbreaking and award-winning television programming, including “BET Awards,” “Grammy Awards,” “Soul Train Music Awards,” “BET Honors,” “UNCF an Evening of Stars,” “ABFF Awards” and “BET Hip Hop Awards.” Collins was an executive producer of the hit TV series “Real Husbands of Hollywood,” starring Kevin Hart, and the critically acclaimed “The New Edition Story,” a biopic on the boy band that aired as a three-part miniseries on BET in January 2017. He is also the executive producer of VH1 shows “Dear Mama” and “Hip Hop Squares” with Ice Cube. Most recently, JCE executive-produced “The Bobby Brown Story.” The miniseries picked up where “The New Edition Story” miniseries left off and chronicled the talented but troubled singer’s exit from the popular 80s boy band through his solo success. It debuted on BET in September 2018 and was the highest-rated non-tentpole program on the network since “The New Edition Story.” Next for JCE is the second season of “American Soul” on BET and Netflix’s upcoming series “Rhythm and Flow.”