1 item from 1999
This debut feature scores major points for its stylistic audaciousness alone. Forgoing sex, violence, mayhem and indeed even a defined plot, "A Day in Black and White" explores race relations in America through that rarest of commodities in today's American (even indie) cinema -- conversation.
A sort of "My Dinner With Andre" as influenced by Spike Lee, this uneven but provocative film marks the emergence of a new talent in writer-director Desmond Hall. The feature was recently showcased at the Nantucket (Mass.) Film Festival, where, because of the festival's emphasis on screenwriting, it was a particularly apt selection.
The director's playfulness is most apparent in a well-shot scene in which a black teenager is seen running desperately down a New York City street carrying a bag, with two white teenagers in hot pursuit. The resolution of the situation is not what one would expect, and it garners a delighted reaction from the audience.
The film largely consists of a series of conversations between mostly undefined characters who talk about various aspects of race relations. Setting the talks in motion is an impending speech about race that is to be delivered by a young black man (Harold Perrineau of TV's "Oz") at his schoolteacher girlfriend's high school. He asks a white friend (Anthony DeSando) for advice, and soon the pair are involved in a free-wheeling conversation that touches on, among other things: the lack of black quarterbacks in the NFL, gangster rap, the word "nigger" and, of course, O.J.
As the film progresses, we are introduced to other characters, including a pair of black women Lisa Louise Langford, Jozie Hill) at a cafe who talk about black women who "act white"; a white cabby (Joseph Siravo) who discusses interracial dating with a black female cook (Stephanie Berry) he's attracted to; a black teenager (Sharif Rashed) who visits his white father (Tibor Feldman) at work, interrupting his argument over affirmative action with two colleagues, (Lonette McKee, DeSando); and a militant black man (Ron C. Jones) who debates the speechmaker on what it means to be black.
Ultimately, the film's lack of a narrative deprives it of any momentum, and Hall's dialogue -- though generally believable and well-written -- lacks the true depth or wit that would lift the film to another level.
But "A Day in Black and White" is invigorating for its courage in abandoning formulas and for not condescending to the audience. The acting is fine all around, with the performers more than up to the challenge of delivering the extensive dialogue.
Tech credits for the low-budget exercise are fine, and Spike Lee fans will get a kick out the scene spoofing that director's distinctive camera movements.
A DAY IN BLACK AND WHITE
Director-screenplay: Desmond Hall
Producer: Jon Gold
Director of photography: Peter Konczal
Editor: John Laskas, Colby Parker Jr.
Music: Loris Holland
Production designer: Catherine Wint
Afro-Centric Man: Ron C. Jones
Black Man: Harold Perrineau
White Man: Anthony DeSando
Black Woman No. 1: Lisa Louise Langford
Black Woman No. 2: Jozie Hill
White Cabby: Joseph Siravo
Black Cook: Stephanie Berry
Black Woman in Office: Lonette McKee
Running time -- 86 minutes
No MPAA rating
1 item from 1999
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