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I was lucky enough to be one of the first people to see Night Catches Us, a new film starring Kerry Washington and Anthony Mackie, at the opening night of the 14th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival. The film, which is set in Philadelphia,PA in the mid 1970s, takes a look at the aftermath of the Black Panther movement. It is extremely well acted, with Kerry Washington, Anthony Mackie and Jamie Hector (a.k.a. Marlo from The Wire) turning in great performances. In addition  to the excellent acting and cinematography, the film boasts an incredible 70s-soul soundtrack (featuring gems like Syl Johnson’s epic ‘Is It Because I’m Black?’ and throwback-style covers of a few Wu-Tang songs), and an original score by The Roots.

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What I found most compelling about Night Catches Us was the fact that writer/director Tanya Hamilton went for subtlety with a subject matter/time period that would be so easy to go into caricature-mode. The black power/black arts/panther movements have been covered before, but never with this much attention to the small things, and the people behind the movement . By setting the in the aftermath of the fall of the movement – post-Huey but pre-Crack – the film is a fascinating look at that limbo period where people were just trying to pick up the pieces  and rebuild after suffering a massive defeat. Night Catches Us takes potentially ‘controversial’ subject matter and gives us the human element. Theses aren’t cartoon panthers talking about ‘jive turkeys, pigs, and crackers,’ these are  real people. This film humanizes supposed ‘radicals’ and shows that many of the issues they were facing then (how to move on from traumas of the past, etc.) are still present within the community today.

Night Catches Us is an excellent film.This isn’t just about black cinema  – it’s about good cinema. Support Night Catches Us when it hits theaters and show the people in charge that these stories are well worth telling.

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