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Freestyle: ‘Middle of Nowhere’ stirs imagination
BY ELIZABETH KIESZKOWSKI / firstname.lastname@example.org
Ava DuVernay’s “Middle of Nowhere” is a significant film. DuVernay made history this year with her Best Director Award at the Sundance Film Festival, as the first black woman to take this prize. It’s an atmospheric, thoughtfully presented and beautifully acted independent movie, illuminating the experience of imprisonment — actual and metaphorical.
In the film, a talented medical student puts her dreams on hold while her husband is in prison. The film considers the woman’s story up front, and we don’t know at first why the man is in jail. What we see is the depth of the wife’s passion, her steadfastness, the burden she bears in keeping contact with him and the sacrifices she makes.
With disproportionate numbers of African-American men imprisoned in the United States today, a film that brings to light the way this affects women’s lives is worth your time. But don’t be too comfortable in your expectations.
The movie doesn’t settle for making either the heroine (Emayatzi Corineadli) or her jailed husband (Omari Hardwick) one-dimensional victims. It takes off in less predictable directions, and the pensive Corineadli keeps your attention as she faces up to her situation. The handsome David Oyelowo also plays an instrumental part in this story.
Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times calls it “classic filmmaking of a completely different sort.” The New York Times called it “soul-stirring.” And now the film is being bandied about as a possible Oscar contender in the Best Screenplay category.
The filmmaker’s own story is also inspiring. An accomplished publicist, she did not go to film school, but has said that she learned by observing on set with clients that included Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood and Michael Mann.
See the film at Honolulu Museum’s Doris Duke Theatre, with screenings tomorrow through Dec. 7. (Click here for showtimes and to buy tickets online.) It serves as a preview for the museum’s African American Film Festival, coming up in February.
I THINK you’ll like the music as well. DuVernay knows music: She’s the director of the 2008 hip hop documentary “This is The Life,” and of 2010 BET/TV One docs “My Mic Sounds Nice” — on female hip hop artists — and “Essence Music Festival 2010.”
I went looking for the soundtrack artists, taken by the moody, sensual aura the movie’s music created — most by women artists. They include the amazing Little Dragon and Goapele — both have performed in Honolulu — as well as other dreamy acts like MelodiousFly and Ra-Re Valverde (check out this hypnotic track, “On Time”). I’ve been listening to this music all week!
I was especially drawn in by the mysterious post-punk/live electro of Spektrum, an outspoken British trio headed by singer Lola Olafisoye — and was pleased to discover a Pacific connection, as Spektrum drummer Isaac Tucker is from New Zealand. The band is playing several shows in New Zealand this month, culminating with New Year’s Eve. Too bad I don’t have any vacation left! Let me share some of this awesomeness with you. Thank me later, leave a comment, or better yet, go forth and buy some of this gorgeous music.
Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter.