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"Night Catches Us" Is Unadulterated And Bold

Ken Van der Meeren |
October 31, 2010 | 6:16 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Night Catches Us (Magnolia Pictures)
Night Catches Us (Magnolia Pictures)
"Night Catches Us" is a truly original film written and directed by Tanya Hamilton.

The film explores a racially divided city suffering from the aftermath of the black power movement from the 1960s.

The film centers on the return of former Black Panther Marcus Washington (Anthony Mackie) to his Philadelphia neighborhood after a 10-year-long exile. Few have forgotten the man who "snitched" out his friend, a police killer who was shot dead in a raid.

The black power movement has long fizzled out but his dead friend's wife,  Patricia (Kerry Washington), and daughter remain stuck in the past at the same house his betrayed friend was killed in.

There she passes time reminiscing. She also looks after local orphans, in particular one troublemaker and disillusioned youth, Jimmy Dixon (Amari Cheatom).

Marcus and Patricia soon reconnect and fall in love. Marcus wants to fix the past and move on with his life, while Patricia wants him to stay in the neighborhood.

Marcus is wisely weary of Jimmy and his irrational actions. Jimmy's provocations to the police are a prelude to a more serious crime he is soon to undertake. He has become brainwashed by the Black Panther movement, and is dissatisfied with being little more than a bottle collector.

Jimmy's actions will once again rock this tense neighborhood and put everyone's life in danger.

Hamilton said: "There's a distinct lack of content specific to what it is to be a black American, the variations in that experience, what life is like for people who are ordinary. Those are the stories I want to tell."

"Night Catches Us" is not a film about drugs, gangs and guns, it's a film about forgiveness and love. It takes an unadulterated look at Black Power without the need to sensationalize it for a Hollywood saturated audience.

The best part of the movie comes from neither the acting nor the storyline, but rather the music. Music from The Roots sets the film's tone and places the viewer in the 1960s era. The stand out song is Syl Johnson's "Is It Because I'm Black?"

Interestingly, Magnolia Pictures has taken the unusual step to show the full movie online. It's a clever ploy to raise awareness by word of mouth before the film goes into theatrical release early December.

"Night Catches Us" is a solid movie that will garner some Oscar buzz come the new year.

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