“Things are getting way better. Very fast.” I heard these words as I ran past two people along the Brooklyn Bridge Park promenade yesterday. I have no idea what they were talking about, but — like many snippets of conversations I overhear in passing — the words had an uncanny resonance to things going on in my own life. Or in this case, all our lives.
With news of re-openings and re-entries, things are getting way better. Very fast. I have my first invite to a press film screening taking place next week. Since I’m vaccinated, I feel okay to step inside a cinema with other people for the first time since March 2020. I’ve also booked a whole bunch of tickets for outdoor events that are part of this year’s TriBeCa Film Festival (the 20th edition) and I have two friend birthday get-togethers this weekend to look forward to. But I don’t plan on being at this year’s Cannes Film Festival in July. I’m taking things slowly, baby steps, and trying to negotiate my way through this opening-back-up in my own way.
But there is a lot of excitement in the air. Much of that is thanks to the weather in New York; the sun gracing us with its glorious rays and the trees looking resplendent in all their greenery. But there’s also a feeling that we’ve all lived through something. If you stayed in New York this entire time, there’s a knowingness we carry — remembering those we’ve lost, the sirens, the fridge trucks, the 7pm clapping. Remembering what we’ve been through makes what comes next all the more poignant — and welcome.
Things To Look Forward To:
The Underground Railroad releases on Amazon Prime from Friday. I am supremely excited about this — since once it does release, the whole world will know what an extraordinary talent South African actress Thuso Mbedu is. I profiled her for The Hollywood Reporter, under their Next Big Thing banner, but I’ve been following her career closely since interviewing her in New York in 2017 when she was nominated for her first International Emmy.
I've never been prouder of a South African actor than I've been of Thuso for this — from the moment in the first episode when I had to press pause and take in what I was seeing her do, seeing what director Barry Jenkins allows her to do. This is not to discount any of the other South African actors I've been proud of over the years — from Presley Chweneyagae & Terry Pheto (in Tsotsi) to Khomotso Manyaka, Harriet Manamela & Lerato Mvelase (Life, Above All) to Nakhane (The Wound), Sharlto Copley & "onse Charlize."
It's the way Thuso walks — and runs — through Cora's story that makes this such a standout for me. When a South African actor can take center stage, supported by an incredible director and cast, on a world stage, it's truly revelatory. Thuso is walking a path that's been laid down by the South Africans who've come before her, and she's — to carry on with the metaphor — running with it.
The series uses film and sound elements in ways that elevate Colson Whitehead’s story, bringing that tender lens Barry Jenkins is known for into play; the one he introduced us to in Moonlight, as seen in a sneak peek video he released earlier this week, titled The Gaze.
All ten episodes are being released at once, but this is a series you’re going to want to spend some time with, so pace yourself. The images, the story itself, can, at times, be hard to take in, but it’s part of a reckoning of the past that needs to happen. Jenkins shows us what we need to see, and it’s the Oscar-winning director’s best work to date.
It feels like it was long time ago that the Oscars were held — instead of just at the end of last month — where Chloé Zhao made history as the first woman of Asian descent to win best director and best picture, but I wrote about the disparity that still exists within another category for CNN. Women composers need their chance to shine too — and not just because they’re women, as some men commentators will say, but because they’re just as deserving of the opportunities.
Thank you for reading. I’ll leave you with a new single from Sons of Kemet’s latest album, Black to the Future. The band’s music was featured in I May Destroy You, last year, and they recorded the new work just as the pandemic was starting to ripple through the world.
Stay safe, stay sane.