While Hollywood continues to churn out African American films that usually tend to work to the lowest common denominator (i.e. comedies and works of no significant weight or importance), I'm extrememly pleased to bring to your attention an outstanding feature film written and directed by a talented young man by the name of Sheldon Candis. The movie in question, only his second feature is a gem simply called 'LUV'. This wonderful motion picture gets a nationwide release in the US on 18th January 2013.
I was fortunate enough to catch a screening of this film (which had Candis personally on hand to introduce to us) at actor/director Robert Redford's world renowned Sundance Film Festival in London back in April 2012. This little independent effort is a semi autobiographical piece with it's story set in one day and told through the eyes of an 11 year old boy. Sounds simple enough, but through this tale it sets up the powerful concept of young black boys, how they see themselves, how they can choose either the wrong or right path, how they can be influenced to become the men they eventually become, the questions are endless. In all of this the most potent element in the mix is love, or how Candis spells it, (in hip hop terms) LUV.
The story follows an 11 year old boy (Woody) who spends the day with his newly paroled uncle (Vincent) on the streets of urban Baltimore. Fans of the cult HBO TV show 'The Wire' will be very familiar with this landscape. And yes, crime does rear it's ugly head, however, that's not what this tale is really about. It hinges on relationships. All kinds of relationships. This is what makes this story so touching and special. Events occur that are truly life changing.
'LUV' boasts an impressive African American cast headed up by the hip hop star Common, who plays the just out of jail Vincent. Also on screen is Danny Glover, Dennis Haysbert (before Obama, he was America's first black President on TV's '24') and Michael Kenneth Williams (the infamous Omar on 'The Wire'). Special mention must go out to Michael Rainey Jr. who plays the 11 year old Woody. What can I say about this kid?!!! The whole film hangs on his performance. If he doesn't suck you in, the film's going nowhere. Baby, let me tell you, he delivers in spades! What's even more astounding is this young man had only ever appeared in another film before this, and that was an Italian film! Go figure!! Something must be in the air as in 2012 I saw 2 very young African Americans display acting chops that blew me away. He was one and the other came from 9 year old actress Quvenzhane Wallis in 'Beasts Of The Southern Wild'.
The chemistry that is shown between Common and Michael Rainey Jr. throughout the film displays an emotional connection that transcends the screen and easily displays Common's best movie performance to date. There's an outstanding heart wrenching scene when the two of them clash in a car which has stayed with me constantly.
Sheldon Candis has produced a thought provoking journey which needs to be seen. I loved and was moved by it.
I've also included a 13 minute featurette on the making of 'LUV' which is worth checking out.