If Beale Street Could Talk

Dir. Barry Jenkins

If Beale Street Could Talk is a poetic revelation in cinematic form. Like Barry Jenkins’ previous film, the Oscar-winning Moonlight, its tone is subdued, and offers commentary on societal issues in an implicit way.

Based on the novel of the same name by James Baldwin, the film revolves around a young couple - Tish (Kiki Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) - in 1970s Harlem, mainly reflecting on the trials and tribulations they endure due to both the systematic racism prevalent during this period on the outside world and family conflicts on the domestic front.

The cinematography of close-ups on characters, lingering shots of the mise en scène and the use of shifting genres in its soundtrack work together to convey the feelings left unsaid and impacts on the viewer on a visceral level.

Whilst the narrative appears to be a simple love story - which is disrupted by a false accusation of rape on Fonny and his subsequent imprisonment, as well as Tish’s pregnancy - the dynamics in the unfolding of these events tell us much about the complexities of the patriarchal/matriarchal family structures of African American families, the plight of imprisoned African American men and a whole host of other American politics.

The standout performance comes from Regina King, as Sharon, Tish’s mother. This complex role includes one standout scene in particular in which Sharon prepares for an important meeting by putting on and pulling off a wig, revealing a blend of confidence and vulnerability. King’s portrayal of a perfect balance between a loving yet strong maternal figure appears effortless.

Mina Suder

The Raft

Dir. Marcus Lindeen

“So, let’s put the women in charge and see what happens.” The outcome? Well, have a look at The Raft, a film that throws a light onto a social experiment, conducted by Santiago Genoves, with the results not being too surprising.

Genoves was a psychologist fascinated by social structure and environment. Yes, his lofty ambition of identifying a path to world peace will not be realised, but this film documents one of his most prominent experiments, and that’s exactly what we must take it for, an experiment.

In today’s era, where it’s possible to get a phone signal at the top of Mount Everest, social isolation can seem pretty difficult. So, he decided to take 11 people - six women and five men - put them on a wind powered raft and let them spend over 100 days crossing the ocean, to see what happens. Strictly no contamination from any other humans. Who in their right mind would volunteer for such an adventure? Plenty.

With the intention of creating as many obstacles to social interaction as possible, and therefore an increased level of friction between crew members, Genoves carefully chose the crew members so as to reflect different races, languages and abilities.

Of course, they were all young and attractive, with one exception: himself. The female captain was an experienced seafarer and the men had the more mundane chores.

With only seven of the original 12 shipmates still alive, the documentary team gathered them together after 43 years to visit a full-sized replica of the raft, built inside a warehouse. Genoves died in 2013, but his presence on the raft was ever invasive, as can be seen from the original footage.

The design of this recent film was both to capture the views those still living, now viewed with hindsight, and also to hear some of the original recordings Genoves had made during the crossing.

The remaining sailors took up their original sleeping berths in the 1:1 recreation of the original raft. Well, it wasn’t so much bunks, more so 12 beds next to each other. Toilets would prove not the best hideouts either, as they were exposed on deck (ultimately a hole in a plank of wood, not far from the Glastonbury setup).

With lack of privacy, sexual tensions flared, thoughts of murder surfaced, and mutiny was definitely on the cards.

Ged Camera