The story of a young artist coming to grips with his cultural and sexual identity, Rodney Evans’s fictionalized Brother to Brother looks back to the pioneering days of the Harlem Renaissance and traces its spiritual manifestation in present day New York City. At a homeless shelter he works at, Perry (Anthony Mackie) meets Richard Bruce Nugent (Ray Robinson), a real-life player in the New Negro Movement and close friend of Langston Hughes, Zora Neal Hurston, and Wallace Thurman. Evans daringly conflates the struggles of the past with the struggles of the present, paralleling at one point brutal scenes from the Civil Right’s Movement with a celebration of gay pride. Throughout the film, black culture is seen in a constant state of flux: For Perry, sex is politics, and his belief that there’s much work to be done within the black community positions him as a modern-day James Baldwin. Ostracized by his family and his race, Perry attempts to negotiate his loneliness by confronting his people with their shameful disregard of their homosexual brothers and sisters. Via Perry’s relationship with a cute skater boy named Jim (Alex Burns), the director engages the fetishization of race and subtly wonders what the “caucazoid” Jim’s line about Perry’s “sweet black ass” has to say about this white boy’s affinity to black culture and what—if anything—it has to do with Perry’s own sexual hang-ups. And in the black-and-white sequences between a younger Nugent (Duane Boutte) and his author friends, Evans similarly evokes a community of freedom fighters ostracized by their own community and whose art is reconfigured by the dominant white patriarchy. Like bell hooks, Evans gives serious consideration to the issue of masculine identity within the black community, understanding that many social issues that grip society are inextricably bound. But while Brother to Brother‘s obsession with race and representation may be intellectual, its justified anger and inquisitiveness is tempered with great sensitivity.
- Wolfe Releasing
- 94 min
- Rodney Evans
- Rodney Evans
- Anthony Mackie, Larry Gilliard Jr., Duane Boutte, Daniel Sunjata, Alex Burns, Ray Ford, Aunjanue Ellis, Ray Robinson
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