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As others have stated, there is a backstory to Civil Brand that is probably
more dramatic than the film itself. To sum it up in as few words as
possible: Black women directors have a difficult road to travel to see a
feature film made.
The film is definitely not a masterpiece, but the attempt at telling a story about African American women in prison is a great one. The film makes a point of comparing prison labor to US Slavery--and for good reason, it is certainly free labor, with poor working conditions.
The narration by Da Brat is overkill, but because many scenes were never filmed, I'm sure it was an attempt to make the story cohesive. Lisa Raye was surprisingly decent and Monica Calhoun and Lark Voorhies did what they could with their supporting roles, but N'Bushe Wright was one of the most interesting characters to watch. She has great screen presence and excellent delivery. Hopefully we're able to see more of her.
Civil Brand is not a great movie. It's filled with stereotypes and cliches--but it does bring a new and interesting point of view on women in prison. It's definitely worth renting or catching on television.
wow some people really chewed this one up and spit it out. but come on there are independent movies out there that are so bad you'd like to ask for your money back. i think this film was better than some and the fact that all the actors did a good job made it even better. that whole all star cast thing is usually a disappointment. but gee must we nit pick so much. the plot and the script were good. to say our people are putting out doo doo in plastic cases that you can rent from the video store and suggesting that this film is one of them is crazy. i mean sankofa was cheezy but it got a point across. we need to stop looking for things to stick to a formula for it to get our approval. let art be art. its late and i just finished watching this film. there's a dope line at the end by n'bushe wright. and monica calhoun is coming up. i think people should see this film for the issue behind the story. and because someone took the time to make it. it is an independent film for a reason. i'm out rent the movie post a comment. everyone is able to have their opinion. peace
CIVIL BRAND is a story which tells of a women's prison in which the
are forced to work as slaves, and are exploited as little more than
True, we've all seen this in SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, where convicts are put
physical labor, but it's always been presented as an acceptable
man robs a store and kills the clerk, so why not have him pound out
plates and working on road construction crews?
CIVIL BRAND offers a fresh look at the Prison-Industrial Complex, attacking the issue from several different angles. For one thing, the inmates aren't working on roads or some kind of community service- they're making clothes for department stores. A more provocative approach, though, is the fact that these slaves are female, a scenario that folks are not used to considering. Outstanding performances by LisaRaye, Mos Def, Clifton Powell, MC Lyte, Monica Calhoun, Lark Voorhies, and the sensational N'Bushe Wright (the lady Panther from DEAD PRESIDENTS who is one of the most talented people acting in Cinema today, not to mention drop-dead gorgeous), powerful cinematography, and brutal honesty come together to make CIVIL BRAND not just a great movie, but an extremely important one.
(c) Jake McGee - Get Underground
Women In Prison films are standard fare for the entertainment of mainly
boozed up, lurid male audiences, featuring (1) cat-fight; (2) almost
nude gals in isolation; (3) sexual harassment of inmates; (4) brutal
guards; (5) rape; (6) riot; (7) revenge on the (8) corrupt warden and
superior officers. WIP are usually low budgeted, filmed with poorly
paid crew and very small cast.
Guess what? You've all the required items, the film was made on a stringy budget and a dozen actors, one of them doubling as stunt choreographer, who 'gets shot' without putting up a fight! So why is all the uproar? Plenty of (lurid?) viewers complaining that it's a BAD BAD FILM, and plenty of established critics complaining that it's a BAD BAD FILM...
Because this film was made (as the director explains in detail in the voice on commentary in the DVD version) from a critical, very political view point, exposing as well as it can the link between Politics, Economics, and Prisons. Even without being corrupt, a prison's system exploited like a private business - as it is perfectly legal in some countries, like the U.S. of A. - may, and eventually does, as historic cases prove, end up in being a monstrous creation.
That the director was naif, and tried to put to many ideas and characters in at the same time, ending with a couple of loose ends, it's a pity. DaBrat is not the best narrator to keep an audience interested, in a film with not much screen action; Tichina Arnold should be meaner as Aisha the bad girl, yet she provokes a good fight on the gravel yard of this urban prison; woman sarge Cervantes looks sexy enough to liven things up - but her character is underdeveloped in the (cut to 91m though R rated) DVD version; LisaRaye is OK as the taller new girl, but lacks experience, and it shows, in several crucial moments.
The music is new, and at times inspired, by Mandrill. The exposé of established facts will be valuable for audiences who wish to get a larger view than the telly gives them. Supporting cast has good performances by Clifton Powell (justly awarded), Reed McCants, and best for last, the beautiful and definitely the best actress of the pen, N'Bushe Wright. (I'm closing this comment and go searching for other films with her.)
Actually, I thought this B-film was somewhat of a throwback to the
Black expolitation era of the 70s with Lisa Raye as a modern-day Pam
Grier. The setting takes place in a female prison with disenchanted
convicts feeling "exploited" or enslaved by an opportunistic warden who
uses their labor to produce clothes for merchants. However, when you
consider the fact that prisoners are wrongdoers who are in jail to pay
their debt to society, it's rather hard to sympathize with their
"plight" in this film.
The warden and captain of the guards are the bad guys of the movie, but their demeanors are too iniquitous. So much so that the film becomes predictable and you know what will inevitably happen.
The casting could have been better. Mos Def portrays a law student who works as a part-time corrections guard in the prison. However, his dense mentality makes this portrayal very unconvincing.
Perhaps the best part of the movie--at least for guys--are the scenes in which voluptuous Lisa Raye and N'Bushe Wright appear barely clothed in the "hole." In spite of anything else, it's enough entertainment to merit the movie's viewing! To any of the ladies out there who are reading this, yeah, I know what you're thinking. But c'mon, you'd get your jollies too if you were to see LL Cool J in a movie bearing his best!
I'm pretty sure a lot of movies we watch contain errors that were honest mistakes. This movie may have a few major mistakes, but overall we understand where the author was trying to go. Last year I began writing a script myself and after proofreading several times I still may have over looked a few mistakes. The bottom line is Civil Brand was a good movie. I believe the director used the right actresses to star in the movie because they fit the characters easily. Acting is something you have to feel and I believe this is why the movie is considered to be one of our best. There's a major difference between Black Movies and movies with Black stars. Civil Brand is a black movie all the way through. It may be a beginning for us who knows, but most importantly it's something done by us. A $500.00 budget is nowhere near enough to make a movie without pressure, so I say please keep up the good work women. All of the women in this movie are setting the path for aspiring, actresses/ writers like myself.
I saw the movie on Friday August 9th on 34th street.
It is a incredible movie that explores the new trend prison for profit.
It truly is an incredible movie. It took me to a place that I have ignored-The plight of women in prison. So many times, I have said "Prison is just a country club". But I realized today that it is not a country club and that many innocent women or people are behind bars. Women just like the character LiL Moma, for example, who may have killed in self defense.
I must say that as a result of the director taking the time to develop a story line for each character in the prison, the audience comes to terms with the fact that these women were survivors and not animals.
Last but not least, the film is very much like a roller coaster-just when you feel very sad, you begin to laugh hysterically-just when you are laughing hysterically, you begin to clap.
I tried my best not to tell the story.
This film is outstanding and anyone that has followed this movie over the past year knows there is a really great buzz about it all across the nation. This is also a big success for director Neema Barnette and the marvelous cast as this film has won several awards in it's journey to the top. Be sure to check this film out at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in January and also in theatres across the country in April 2003 as Lions Gate Films prepares for a theatrical release.
When you consider that Lions Gate reneged on a promised 25 day shooting schedule with no advance notice, forcing the director to finish the film in 14 days, the movie is not bad. Props to Neema Barnette for championing this film and finally getting it into movie theatres.
Caught the beginning of this film on cable, found it interesting enough, that I purchased the film on Amazon. Honestly, I didn't expect much, women's prison films are notoriously bad or depressingly sad; however, I have to say that I was surprisingly pleased with Civil Brand. While the story initially seems to revolve around Frances Shepherd (lovely LisaRaye)) a women convicted to life for killing her abusive husband, the film quickly transforms into an ensemble event, with an interesting, and for a women's prison film, very attractive cast. First we're introduced to Sabrina (rapper Da Brat) who narrates us through this tale. Once inside we meet Lil' Momma (gorgeous Lark Voorhies) the religious teen doing time for killing her rapist step-father; militant Wet (always impressive Monica Calhoun), prison snitch Aisha (the underrated Tichina Arnold) and finally gangster girl Nikki (the delectable N'Bushe Wright). Instead of focusing, as most prison films do, on infighting between the inmates, the film successfully sheds light on the abuse women prisoners often encounter while locked up. In Civil Brand, that abuse is orchestrated by the notorious Captain Deese (the always worthy Clifton Powell). From slave labor to rape, Deese is the perfect despicable villain needed for such a movie. While the performances range from watchable to very good, none stand out more than that of N'Bushe Wright. Not since Pam Grier have I seen an actress pull off the role of a tough-as-nails bad girl, and look so hot doing it. Those that don't know her by name, may remember her in similar roles in the films Blade and Dead Presidents. This woman should be an A-List actress, why that hasn't happened is a mystery to me. Anyway, I digress, Civil Brand is worthy of 91 minutes (the actual running time) of your day. If you like action films, if you like action films with great looking actresses, this is the film for you.
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