Review: ‘Bilal’s Stand’

Some films are meant to make millions of dollars, and some are conceived with other goals in mind.

Some films are meant to make millions of dollars, and some are conceived with other goals in mind. With “Bilal’s Stand,” the story of a black Muslim teenager (Julian Gant) from Detroit and his uphill battle to convince his family that college is the right choice for his future, the project allowed writer-director Sultan Sharrief to empower local high school kids through hands-on filmmaking. If the result looks amateurish, that’s to be expected, though the pic’s success should be measured by the minor miracle of its existence (and subsequent Sundance selection) rather than the unevenness of its execution.

With its melodramatic turns and moralistic tone, “Bilal’s Stand” follows a routine formula while giving voice to a character rarely heard from in Hollywood. Surrounded by naysayers and underachievers, honor student Bilal takes up ice carving, hoping to earn a scholarship — a decision that upsets his family, who depend on him. Gant’s strong perf stands out amid the nonpro cast (to convey the character’s thoughts and dreams, Sharrief superimposes rudimentary cartoons throughout), and though production values are better than the average student film, a certain overall clumsiness gives its origins away.

Bilal's Stand

Production

A Beyond Blue Prod. production. Produced by Sultan Sharrief, Terri Sarris, Claudette Jocelyn Stern, Mark Hickner, Shoshana Hurand. Executive producers, Nadeem Siddiqi, Toshir Livingstron, Claudette Jocelyn Stern, Helmut Stern, Tashra McCreary, Michael McCreary, Bill Phillips, Kevin Barlow, Tom Stulburg, Terri Sarris. Directed, written by Sultan Sharrief.

Crew

Camera (Technicolor), Mike Williamson; editors, Oren Goldenberg, Sharrief, Zack Arnold, Waldo Centeno; music, Kevin DiKimpe; production designer, Dani Davis; art director, Davis. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Next), Jan. 27, 2010. Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Julian Gant, Angela G. King, Nadir Ahmed, Sabrina Quinn, Charles G. Usztics, Chelsea O'Connor, Angela Roberts, Tariq Sharrief, Aleem Madhi, Helki Jackson, Sharron Nelson, Danny Mooney.

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