Jesse’s Closet

"Jesse's Closet" feels like a church-basement stageplay transferred to video. Austin-based writer/helmer Ken Johnson's goal seems to be providing a message of faith and tolerance, especially to African-American communities that might need help getting past the denial of being at risk in the AIDS epidemic.

With:
With: Marc Pouhe, Gay Gaughan-Hurst, Ken Dresen, Brionne Davis, Frank Curcio, Brea Cola.

Well-intentioned but laughable, amateurish drama “Jesse’s Closet” feels like a church-basement stageplay perilously transferred to video. Austin-based writer/helmer Ken Johnson’s goal seems to be providing an instructive message of faith and tolerance, especially to African-American communities that might need help getting past the denial of being at risk in the AIDS epidemic. Typical of pic’s clumsy gap between intention and execution: The only HIV-positive character here is a gay white man. Prayer reps misbegotten indie’s best hope for public exposure.

Upright young black physician Brad (co-producer Marc Pouhe) is stunned when an attempt to donate blood after his heart-attack-stricken father reveals they’re not related — he was secretly adopted. Protag gets another shock upon locating his biological father Jesse (Ken Dresen), who’s white. (Unfortunately for plot credence, thesp Pouhe doesn’t look mixed-race.) Dying of AIDS, Jesse confesses having had sole hetero fling long ago with a now-deceased black female pal. After Jesse expires, his cartoonishly snotty mother (Gay Gaughan-Hurst) and drunken, abusive stepdad (Frank Curcio) show up, prompting flashbacks, arguments and florid monologues. Some hysterically hammy perfs provide amusement in a package with more than its share of Ed Wood-like qualities.

Jesse's Closet

Production: A Kayo Prods. presentation. Produced by Kenneth O. Johnson. Co-producer, Marc Pouhe. Directed, written by Kenneth O. Johnson.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Johnson; editors, Johnson, Elizabeth Spear; music, Carlton R. Cullins. Reviewed at San Francisco Black Film Festival, June 10, 2004. Running time: 90 MIN.

With: With: Marc Pouhe, Gay Gaughan-Hurst, Ken Dresen, Brionne Davis, Frank Curcio, Brea Cola.

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