By Dwight Hobbes
A problem with living in a small market, especially if you happen to be a movie nut, is that many flicks, even those with major stars, don’t make it here to the Twin Cities. There just aren’t enough theaters, not even with the multiplex venues. And, of course, there are only a few of the art houses that specialize in independent films.
Considering these factors, when it comes to Black cinema, it’s all the harder to so much as know when any but the most highly visible offerings are released. If it doesn’t have a Denzel Washington or a Halle Berry in it, or if it’s not a big-ticket comedy, it languishes so far below the media radar we rarely realize the film exists.
This is why it pays well to keep an eagle eye out when browsing cutout bins, perusing racks at the pawn shop or stopping at the library for DVDs. Like, for instance, I Will Follow. It’s written and directed by Ava DuVernay. Ana who? The first Black woman to win for best director at the Sundance Film Festival, in 2012 for her drama Middle of Nowhere. That’s who.
DuVernay’s credentials as a director are not what the layperson would expect. She spent years as consultant to and doing promotion for films like Madagascar, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Are We There Yet? and a list of other highly successful projects.
I Will Follow gets a little too artsy in places, but does hold together well with a strong cast. Salli Richardson-Whitfield (I Am Legend, Antwone Fisher) shows interesting range as the embattled Maye, grieving for a family member, trying to get on with her life and confront the tragic shambles she has made of it at the same time.
As the men in her life (who aren’t actually in it), heartthrobs Blair Underwood (Set It Off, Posse) and Omari Hardwick (Next Day Air) fill the bill nicely. It’s great to see Tracie Thoms (Deathproof, The Devil Wears Prada) work in anything at all, and she brings her spirited humor to the role of Maye’s running buddy Tiffany.
A surprise is Michole Briana White (Courage Under Fire) in the plum role of Fran, Maye’s bitterly heartbroken cousin who, also grieving, is enraged at Maye for having stolen her mother’s love. It’s a brief but winning showcase to which the talented actor brings seething strength.
Ana DuVernay’s I Will Follow is a find. One of the best uses you’re apt to find for your library card.
For more information about this film, go to www.iwillfollowfilm.com.