The first film of the day was a catch up for me, THE SPARKS BROTHERS by Edgar Wright. The Sparks are a group I knew absolutely nothing about going in so it was really informative film. I've been a fan of Edgar Wright as a director for awhile and it's really fun to see a lot of his dynamic and signature editing come through in this documentary format whether it be through little animated or stop motion segments. I believe this is definitely a documentary for people who are into the history of pop in the 70s and 80s just to see how big The Sparks's influence actually goes. There were some pretty big names in the interview segments and that's saying a lot because I grew up on R&B in the early 2000s so there were a *lot* of people in this I did not recognize, but the ones I did must be really huge. With or without a knowledge of The Sparks or an affinity for that era of music, the love Wright has for the group and the genre is infectious enough that you can get a lot from this film.
The second film was Rebecca Hall's adaptation of the novel PASSING, which I will admit to not having a lot of experience with prior to this movie. The movie and the novel concern themselves with the notion of "passing" as white and the novel was the origin of the "tragic mulatto" archetype in fiction tied to race. This film is a bit difficult to parse, and it's harder still as Rebecca Hall is, as far as I know, not a person of color. It's difficult to say overtly what this film has to say ultimately about race or colorism, particularly in conversation with the novel. The most tangible thing for me was the homoerotic relationship between Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga's characters. This was a theme in the novel (from what I read on Wikipedia) but comes across more overtly in the film. The film as a story was a bit slow for me and remained so dedicated to the period it's set in that my 2021 film going brain is a bit unused to the extremely period accurate dialogue and type of speech and it kept me from really getting invested. This is a film I'm definitely looking forward to the discussion on. There are going to be a lot of people smarter than me doing analysis on it and I can't wait to read it.
The last movie of the night was a huge release for me and one I'm so excited is releasing to the public so soon. JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH, directed by Shaka King, looks at the events leading to the assassination of Black Panther Fred Hampton by the FBI. This movie lived up to and exceeded my expectations not just in terms of storytelling and as a good film, but as a history lesson and a revolutionary text. Throughout the film I just kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and for the film to say "The Black Panther's were bad actually" or "The FBI is not all bad" like so much media has done before, but it never came. This film doesn't shy away from the radical tactics of the party but maintains that the militancy was born from compassion and love of the Black community and providing a support that the government wouldn't. Language of the revolution is used, and Fanon is name dropped, and the FBI and white centrism is unquestionably the enemy. On top of all of this, the story of Bill O'Neil is incredibly engaging and this movie succeeds as not only a fresh look at this history but also an excellent thriller. I am extremely excited for people to see this film when it drops next Friday.
Without a doubt JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH was the pick of the day for me.