×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

America’s Dream

Beautifully photographed and superbly acted, "America's Dream" traces an arc -- in 10-year increments -- of pre-'60s black life, beginning with a farmer in 1938 Alabama who must bury his pride and dignity in his dealings with whites, to a Chicago jazz club in 1958, where the nitery's pianist powerfully regains her dignity by confronting a former white tormentor. And although these vignettes center on blacks, the poignant dreams and themes transcend color lines.

With:
Long Black Song - Cast: Danny Glover, Tina Lifford, Tate Donovan, Daniel Tucker Kamin. The Boy Who Painted Christ Black - Cast: Wesley Snipes, Jasmine Guy, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Yolanda King, Timothy Carhart, Norman D. Golden II, Rae'ven A'lyia Kelly, Kevin Jamal Woods, Ruth Beckford. The Reunion - Cast: Lorraine Toussaint, Susanna Thompson, Carl Lumbly, Phyllis Cicero , Bennet Guillory, Summer Ross Jefferson, Winter Elaine Jefferson, Amanda Addison.

Beautifully photographed and superbly acted, “America’s Dream” traces an arc — in 10-year increments — of pre-’60s black life, beginning with a farmer in 1938 Alabama who must bury his pride and dignity in his dealings with whites, to a Chicago jazz club in 1958, where the nitery’s pianist powerfully regains her dignity by confronting a former white tormentor. And although these vignettes center on blacks, the poignant dreams and themes transcend color lines.

First of three 30-minute films, “Long Black Song,” features Silas (Danny Glover) and Sarah (Tina Lifford) as struggling Alabama farmers. “Song” opens on Silas joyously playing with his infant daughter, establishing his role in the family. But in town, Silas subdues his strong individuality in order to do business with the white Mr. Harper (Daniel Tucker Kamin), who calls Silas “Boy.”

Meanwhile, a young, handsome, white traveling salesman stops at the homestead; while Sarah is at first suspicious, the open-minded David (Tate Donovan) falls for the lonely young wife. He wins her over, and they share a night of passion kindled by David’s gramophone and its music. David wants to run off with Sarah, but she knows where her home is. He leaves.

When Silas returns, he figures out what happened, crying, “We give ’em enough , why’s you have to give ’em everything?” It is a wrenching, defining moment.

The second seg, set in 1948 Georgia, introduces more prosperous, educated people: George Du Vaul (Wesley Snipes) is the principal of a “colored-only” school. He and wife Elna (Jasmine Guy) are ambitious — socially and intellectually. George has a shot at a state job supervising all the “colored-only” schools in Georgia. To secure the new post, George must pull off the annual “Pride Day” art competition without a hitch.

Meantime, little Aaron (Norman D. Golden II) has painted a portrait of Christ as a black man for his teacher, Miss Williams (Vanessa Bell Calloway), as a birthday gift. Miss Williams, who’s grounded in self-respect, submits the portrait for Pride Day, but the white school superintendent becomes apoplectic over the painting, and warns George to get rid of it.

George must wrestle with who he is: a successful black man on his own terms or an ugly “Uncle Tom” stereotype, which the whites in charge prefer.

Young Aaron provides the light for the conflicted George to find his way, and this segment is the most uplifting and traditionally narrative of the three.

Philomena (Lorraine Toussaint) is the focus of “The Reunion,” the most poetic of the three short films. Seg is mostly a meditation on a black women’s meeting. Beth Ann (Susanna Thompson), the daughter of the white family that employed Philomena’s family as servants, triggers heartbreaking childhood memories for Philomena, a jazz pianist: Beth Ann and her mother denied the little Philomena the gift of music by forbidding her to play — or touch — their family piano.

Although she fantasizes about publicly humiliating Beth Ann, when Philomena finally does act, in the form of a stirring monologue, it is with dignity and grace; after her speech, she returns to the bandstand, free to indulge in her jazz, a metaphor for black pride and strength.

What the characters strive for is no different than what any American wants: to be rewarded for hard work and not suffer indignities at the hands of others.

The films’ use of detail — sometimes subtle, sometimes not — adds haunting subtext to the stories: the dichotomy of the light-skinned Guy and darker Calloway representing two paths for the conflicted character played by Snipes; the films’scores, which incorporate jazz, a musical form that blacks invented; and the tones in which the races speak with each other.

All three segs feature excellent perfs, but standouts include Williams, who speaks with her eyes; Golden, as the stoic young artist; and Toussaint, who must manage a broad range of emotions, finally conveying exhilarating depth and self-respect.

Ron Stacker Thompson and Ashley Tyler have adapted the stories well, preserving each author’s voice; one can hear Maya Angelou’s speaking through “The Reunion’s” narrative.

Tech credits are feature-film sharp.

America's Dream

Sat. (17), 10:15-11:45 p.m., HBO

Production: Filmed in Dallas and rural Texas by HBO in association with Carrie Prods. Executive producers, Danny Glover, Carolyn McDonald. Producer, David Knoller; co-producers/writers, Ron Stacker Thompson, Ashley Tyler. THE BOY WHO PAINTED CHRIST BLACK Director, Bill Duke; based on the story by John Henrick Clarke; editor, Monty DeGraff. LONG BLACK SONG Director, Kevin Rodney Sullivan; based on the short story by Richard Wright; editor, Angelo Carrao. THE REUNION Director, Paris Barclay; based on the story by Maya Angelou; editor, Michael Schultz.

Crew: Camera, Karl Herrmann; production design, Anthony Cowley; sound, Veda Campbell; music, Patrice Rushen.

With: Long Black Song - Cast: Danny Glover, Tina Lifford, Tate Donovan, Daniel Tucker Kamin. The Boy Who Painted Christ Black - Cast: Wesley Snipes, Jasmine Guy, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Yolanda King, Timothy Carhart, Norman D. Golden II, Rae'ven A'lyia Kelly, Kevin Jamal Woods, Ruth Beckford. The Reunion - Cast: Lorraine Toussaint, Susanna Thompson, Carl Lumbly, Phyllis Cicero , Bennet Guillory, Summer Ross Jefferson, Winter Elaine Jefferson, Amanda Addison.

More Film

  • Bruce Springsteen on Broadway

    Film Review: 'Springsteen on Broadway'

    Hope you like the 69-year-old version of Bruce Springsteen’s face, because it’s virtually all you’re going to see for the two hours and 40 minutes of the filmed “Springsteen on Broadway” — other than the bare brick wall of the theater casting a dim glow in the background beyond those gray sideburns, and two songs’ [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'A Star Is Born,' 'Vice' Lead 2018 Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Nominees

    The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) announced their nominees for the 8th annual AACTA International Awards on Tuesday. “A Star Is Born” and “Vice” lead the pack, with five and four nominations respectively. The two leading films compete with “BlacKkKlansman,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “Roma” for best film, while Nicole Kidman becomes the [...]

  • China's Government Orders Talent Home to

    After Golden Horse Awards Embarrassment, China Orders Talent Home for Huabiao Ceremony

    China’s government quietly ordered top Chinese talent back to the mainland from abroad this past weekend to attend a Beijing ceremony for its highest film industry honors, the loosely bi-annual Huabiao Awards. The move came just weeks after it directed mainland film executives and talent to snub after-parties and return home as quickly as possible [...]

  • Fotosintesis Readies Mexico-U.S. Immigration Animated Feature

    Fotosintesis Readies Immigration Animated Feature ‘Beast’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — Mexico City-based Fotosintesis Media, a joint initiative of Mexico’s Mantarraya Group and writer-director Miguel Angel Uriegas, is moving into pre-production this January on “Beast,” the third Mexican animated feature from the cause-driven entertainment label. News of the move comes as Uriegas presents at Ventana Sur’s Animation! forum 15 minutes of work in [...]

  • Scott Derrickson

    'Doctor Strange' Director Scott Derrickson to Return for Sequel

    “Doctor Strange” director Scott Derrickson has signed up for Disney-Marvel’s sequel. The studio, which had no comment, is about to start searching for a writer. Derrickson co-wrote the 2016 original with C. Robert Cargill and Jon Spaihts. Benedict Cumberbatch is expected to reprise his role as Stephen Strange, along with co-stars Benedict Wong and Rachel McAdams. [...]

  • Roma

    'Roma' Keeps Adding Theaters in Mexico

    “Roma,” Alfonso Cuaron’s deeply personal coming-of-age drama, is also a love letter to Mexico City. The sprawling metropolis — its cobblestoned streets, fading movie palaces, and lush parks — is practically a central character in the story of a family grappling with love and loss. Perhaps that’s the reason that “Roma” has been passionately embraced [...]

  • The Favourite

    Breaking Down 'The Favourite's' Insane, Royal Dance Battle (Watch)

    We’ll go out on a limb and say no scene in this year’s crop of awards films was more WTF? than the absurd and delightful royal dance moment in “The Favourite.” Debuting early on in Yorgos Lanthimos’ female love-triangle drama, the dance serves as wonderful reminder that, even when dressed like Merchant Ivory and full [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content