Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, CompuServe Film d-based on Rotten Tomatoes
Director: Amman Abbasi
Written by: Amman Abbasi, Steven Reneau
Cast: Davin Blackmon, Dontrell Bright, Kordell “KD” Johnson, Chasity Moore, Lachion Buckingham, Marquell Manning
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 8/26/17
Opens: September 13, 2017
A recent issue of the leftist online magazine Counterpunch advises that we are not living in a post-racial society. Never mind that white people alleviate their guilt by seeing African-Americans in top positions; Obama, Oprah, Beyoncé, and all those newscasters, white and black getting along famously, and act as though we are well beyond the days of white-only water fountains, hotels, restaurants. Black earnings are well behind those of whites on average, and perhaps the most depressing cases are African-Americans still living in the rural South, having never given up the ghost to move north into the cities The folks in Amman Abbasi’s freshman feature are young blacks without jobs, who spend their time in the summer just chilling out, hanging, and living under the protection of gangs like the Bloods. In Abbasi’s particular focus is the title character, Dayveon Buckingham(Devin Blackmon), coming of age with some characteristics of rural people who despite their lack of urban, so-called elite membership would hardly vote for Trump—even they even knew the names of the president and vice-president in their inward society.
Dayveon appears destined to wind up in jail, of at least the probation system, through a series of actions that are partly his own doing, but mostly a fault of his environment. Even at this young age, he understands that there is something wrong with the way he is living, as in the opening scenes in which the boy rides his bike furiously through the tree-lined, rough roads, now and then chasing way the bees, and entertaining himself with a monologue about how stupid he finds everything in the town. What’s more he has not gotten over his grief over the shooting death of his brother, often standing before a large colorful poster of the unfortunate victim of what is undoubtedly a senseless crime. When he passes by members of the local Bloods, he is initiated into the membership by being beaten, showing his begrudging acceptance of the violence as it allows him to become one of them. There are people who care for him in his own family, which is bereft of a mother,who apparently had a breakdown after the death of her son. His sister Kim (Chasity Moore) takes care of meal preparation, and her boyfriend Bryan (Dontrell Bright) with whom he plays computer games, wants the boy to confide in him, though the relationship is mixed with some hostility by Dayveon, who considers the large man an interloper.
While there are a few melodramatic moments, such as a robbery of a convenience store in which Dayveon remains in the getaway car, this is a meditative drama which occasionally crosses the line into documentary. The audience is presumably the small group that would go for David Gordon Green’s “George Washington,” in which George is part of a group of working class youths in North Carolina who, through a mistake, seek redemption. Like Green’s year 2000 movie, this is a slow-mover which captures the rural south dialogue (subtitles would have been most helpful) and whose major feature is that the performers are non-professionals who, like many groups of young people seem to be all talking at the same time.
Unrated. 75 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
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