Female Filmmaker Friday: Night Catches Us, 2010 (dir. Tanya Hamilton)
I had been meaning to watch this movie since it first came out because after The Hurt Locker, I had fallen irrevocably in love with Anthony Mackie, yet somehow I didn’t see this movie til a few months ago. It’s still on Netflix, for those who also have been meaning to watch it and haven’t done so yet.
Apparently director Tanya Hamilton had worked on the story for ten years before she was happy enough with it to make it into a film. So far, this is Hamilton’s only feature film.
Hamilton weave’s history with her fictional ideas, including using historic footage and photographs of Black Panther members. I love artistic touches like this. They allow you to feel like you are watching a piece of art, which a lot of films try desperately to get you to forget, which can often be super boring. It’s art!
I love Anthony Mackie so much. He’s in everything. I read an interview with him once where he said he takes so many part – big and small – because he wants to play as many different types of characters as he possible can. It’s very Christopher Walken of him and I love it. I hope he’ll get even bigger parts now that he’s part of the Marvel-verse, but I guess we shall see. In this film, Mackie plays Marcus who has come back to Philadelphia for his father’s funeral. He’s been gone for years, partially in prison for running guns and partially wandering the country. I don’t want to spoil the third act of the film, so all I will say is that the way in which Hamilton slowly reveals Hamilton’s story is perfect. You get bits and pieces of what really happened in the past from so many people that you’re never 100% sure what happened until the very end.
Kerry Washington is amazing in this film. Obviously, now she is on one of the most popular shows on television, so she’s clearly made it. In this film she plays Patricia, the widow of a Black Panther who was killed just before Marcus went to prison. The story goes that Marcus told the police where he was hiding in order to protect her, which is why so many of the people from Marcus’s past are unhappy to see him. Patricia is now a single mom and a lawyer who helps underprivileged people. She’s a strong woman who has done everything she can to build her life back up, although she’s clearly lingering in the past a little – she still lives in the house where he husband was killed by the police. There’s a lot of racial tension in this film and it’s probably a more relevant look back at the past now than it was four years ago. There are many parallels between what happens to some of the characters (Patricia has a nephew who is being harassed by a police officer) in this film and what is happening in America right now.
Patricia’s daughter Iris (Jamara Griffin) is just old enough to start asking questions about what happened to her father. She gets different stories from Marcus and from Patricia – they both have their own versions of what happened and they both have their own reasons for telling Iris these versions. The one thing that is in common with both stories is that everyone was thinking of Iris’s well being. The main reason what happened happened was in order to keep Iris out of the foster care system. I imagine a mother would do practically anything to keep that from happening.
Lastly, I just wanted to talk about the chemistry between the two leads, because it is sizzling. There’s really not that much physical actual between them throughout the movie (sorry!), but that just adds to the tension and makes the few scenes where they do get together all the more sizzling hot. I am a big fan of hot people making out in movies, but I also love it when said making out adds to the tension of the plot and helps move the story forward, rather than just there for titillation’s sake. Hamilton clearly feels this way too and makes sure there is distinct politics and repercussions for the two characters and their feelings for each other. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take Hamilton another ten years to make her second movie!