Thursday, August 20, 2015
In the Morning 
Shadow & Act (N. Mumin) review
In the Morning  (written and directed by Nefertite Nguvu) is a thoughtful African American romantic drama about nine educated late-20-something through 30-something African American New Yorkers, most living in Brooklyn, coming together "one morning" (or at least during that day) to bid farewell to a friend about to leave New York to begin a new chapter in her life in Brazil (presumably in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador or São Paulo). The conversation leads to relationships, goals and expectations in life.
The film played recently at the 2015 (21st annual) Black Harvest Film Festival held here in Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Center.
Though all the characters / actors in the film were African American, virtually all urban, educated Americans / Westerners would understand the characters' interests / concerns:
Harper (played by Kim Hill) the one leaving for Brazil is willing to go to the ends of the earth to find fulfillment / happiness (On the flip side, she's unwilling to "just sit there" and wait for life to unfold around her). She's had a nice but ultimately disappointing relationship with Ravi (played by Hoji Fortuna) who's actually there at the brunch (so they parted on more-or-less good terms).
Among the others at the brunch is Amara (played by JoNell Kennedy) at whose home the "Harper's farewell" will come to an end later in the evening. Amara plays the other book-end in the spectrum of attitudes expressed with regards to personal fulfillment / relationships: She's married. Yes, she knows that her husband Malik (played by Jacky Ido) has been cheating on her. She even knows with whom, Cadence (played by Emayatzy Corinealdi), not present at the brunch, but who is even shown meeting (unrelated to this gathering) with Malik, Amara's husband, to break-up with him. But despite Malik's infidelity and indeed rather hard-core unrepentant infidelity (if Cadence wasn't breaking-up with him, he appeared to be quite happy to continue with his two relationships, and one gets the sense that he'll probably find another girlfriend-on-the-side soon to replace Cadence), Amara's decided to stay in her marriage, something that Harper (and many in the audience), of course, does not / would not understand at all.
Two others, invited to the gathering, late 20 / early 30-something Zuri (played by De'Adre Aziza) and her adjunct professor at some local college also 30-something boyfriend Leal (played by C.J. Lindsey), are not attending because they have a situation at home: Zuri's found that she's pregnant and yet she also knows that Leal has not been faithful to her. What to do?
So these are the various stories that play-out in the course of this "day in the life" of these characters in the film. And it certainly would make for some good young adult discussion.
As I wrote above, despite Amara's husband's cheating, Amara's made the decision that she wasn't going to leave her marriage, and it appears that she's doing so not merely "for the sake of her marriage" but "for the sake of Marriage [TM], period." Perhaps by naming her character "Amara" (which suggests "bitter" or "bitterness") the filmmaker herself is underlining her inability to understand completely why Amara would be doing so (except perhaps out of a spirit of martyrdom). But Amara's in the story, there, along with Harper who at the other side of the relationship-fulfillment spectrum is willing to sacrifice all, including her friends / relationships, for personal happiness / fulfillment.
So it makes for quite an interesting reflection / discussion piece.
Here I would add, from my perspective, as a Catholic priest after all ... ;-) ... that the Bible is full of people who "meet God" at almost laughably late / odd stages in life: Abraham was 75 when "God called him" [Gen 12:1-4], Moses (by tradition 80!) when he saw the burning bush [Ex 3:1ff]. It seems to be a very odd question to ask: Were either of these two men, or Abraham's wife Sarah (or Moses' wife Ziporrah [Ex 2:21]), "fulfilled" when they were in their twenties! ;-)
And yet, it is an interesting question! ;-)
Fulfillment is certainly important in life (and if we don't feel at least part "fulfilled" then arguably we're not following what God would hope for us [Matt 19:29]) but _just_ looking for "self-fulfillment" does seem, to me, to be rather selfish and against the Spirit of the Christian life.
That said, what an interesting / thought-provoking film! Good job!
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