Buried Treasures is a column dedicated to things we feel have gone underappreciated, often both critically and commercially. We encourage you to seek these moments out and hope you enjoy them as much as we do.
Words: Paul Dean
DVD: 'Brother To Brother'
Director: Rodney Evans
Cast: Anthony Mackie, Daniel Sunjata, Larry Gilliard Jr, Aunjanue Ellis
Generally speaking, I like surprises. I suppose I don’t really like muggings, but mostly I find the unexpected to be quite the morale booster. I didn’t know quite what to expect from 'Brother To Brother' and I certainly had no idea it was going to be such a good film.
I think part of my prejudice came from the opening scenes, scenes that feel as if they’re trying too hard to set a scene and create, rather unconvincingly, a moody picture of 1980s New York. Some of the dialogue is clichéd. The acting at first feels a little awkward. Then, somehow, without warning, this film gently grabs you and manages to hold you carry you through a brilliant narrative. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a film that never feels like it’s trying too hard to impress you while it does this, nor that it’s trying to make a point or that it has something important to say. Instead, it simply tells its story both lyrically and lucidly, while possessing a rather wonderful and very natural charm.
'Brother To Brother' benefits in no small part from touching topics that are far from the mainstream and showing how fresh and exciting the esoteric and the unusual can be. It tells the story of a student’s chance encounter with a 1920s poet, something that sparks an engrossing, fascinating and often intimate investigation into New York’s Harlem Renaissance, as well as its gay subculture. It’s about art and communication, and also about isolation, even isolated cultures within other isolated cultures, but it’s never pompous, pretentious or preachy, as lesser films might fall into the trap of being.
I would like people to watch 'Brother To Brother' simply because it’s such a warm, positive and genuine motion picture, and be able to end my review on that note, but I suppose there’s one more thing to be mention, even if I don’t believe it’s very worthwhile.
I don’t consider it particularly important or even relevant to mention that this is a gay film, but for some people this is both significant and even, in light of how good it is, a source of pride. Some of 'Brother To Brother'’s key themes are drawn from homosexuality and reactions to it, but really this is a film about issues, interests and inspirations that transcend such petty divides as sexuality, or even skin colour or age. It shows that we don’t need to be the same generation, ethnicity or sexuality as somebody else to identify with them, connect with them, appreciate them or enjoy their work.
Don’t be petty enough to decide you’re not interested in 'Brother To Brother' because it’s a “gay film”. You may as well stop listening to 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.
'Brother To Brother' was released on DVD in the UK this week.
BUY: Amazon.co.uk // Amazon.com