Review: "Night Catches Us"

Last week was the Twin Cities Film Fest, and I caught a  showing of Night Catches Us, which was playing in the film festival.  I was briefly aware of this film, thanks to a blog, so I decided to check it out. The synopsis:

In 1976, after years of mysterious absence, Marcus (Anthony Mackie, “The Hurt Locker”) returns to the Philadelphia neighborhood where he came of age in the midst of the Black Power movement. While his arrival raises suspicion among his family and former neighbors, he finds acceptance from his old friend Patricia (Kerry Washington, “Ray,” “Lift”) and her daughter. However, Marcus quickly finds himself at odds with the organization he once embraced, whose members suspect he orchestrated the slaying of their former comrade-in-arms. In a startling sequence of events, Marcus must protect a secret that could shatter everyone's beliefs as he rediscovers his forbidden passion for Patricia.

I'm going to start this review by saying "Wow"!  This was a great film.  From the opening credits the viewer is drawn in.  You get engulfed & enveloped in the story & also the historical context.  One thing I loved was the inclusion of historical footage of the Black Panthers & the work they did in the community.  The synopsis above doesn't mention this, but Marcus & Patricia are former Black Panthers, and that is a huge part of the plot of the film.

Anthony Mackie & Kerry Washington starred together in Spike Lee's She Hate Me, and the same chemistry they had in that film is still very apparent in this one.  They are both great actors & really show their skills & range in this movie.  Jamie Hector (aka Marlo from "The Wire") has a supporting role in this film, as does Wendell Pierce (aka Bunk from "The Wire").

Beyond the acting, other elements of the film were amazing as well.  The score was done by The Roots, and from the opening credits I was in love with the music.  Because the film is set in 1976, the music has an old-school, protest music feel, even though much of it was new.  Overall I found Night Catches Us to be both entertaining & thought-provoking.  I found myself lost in the story that unfolded on the screen & when the film ended, I wanted the story to continue.

After the showing, there was a Q&A session with the writer/director, Tanya Hamilton.  I learned a lot of great information about the making of this film.  Apparently it was 10 years in the making, and for many years Mos Def was attached to the project.  Ms. Hamilton spoke about why she wrote the story, working with Anthony Mackie & Kerry Washington, and what her vision for the film was.  I really enjoyed getting to hear her thoughts about her work and to get additional information about how the film came to be.

Night Catches Us is an indie film, so it doesn't have a huge release planned.  But if you get the opportunity, I highly recommend you see this film.  For more info on the film, check out the official website.