Brother To Brother

on November 05, 2004 by Annlee Ellingson
Young, black and gay, Perry (Anthony Mackie) has conflicts that are both physical and spiritual. Disowned by his family, Perry struggles to survive on his own by working at a homeless shelter and retaining a scholarship to college, where he draws the ire of his classmates by arguing that James Baldwin's homosexuality threatened the leaders of the Civil Rights movement. A talented painter, he fears success means selling out to the white establishment. It's when he meets Bruce Nugent (Roger Robinson), however, that he discovers an atavistic connection to the old man who grappled with similar issues of racism, homophobia and artistic integrity during the Harlem Renaissance with Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston and Wallace Thurman.

As much about the past as the present, "Brother to Brother" straddles two time periods with flashbacks to the '30s that are photographed in black and white and infused with a jazz-influenced score. The segues aren't seamless, however, as the portrayals of the historic figures feel playacted with an amplified energy better suited for live theatre. Mackie also recently starred in Spike Lee's politically charged "She Hate Me," and, like that film, "Brother to Brother" suffers from didacticism, with writer-director Rodney Evans wearing his politics on his sleeve. Starring Anthony Mackie, Roger Robinson, Larry Gilliard Jr. and Aunjanue Ellis. Directed and written by Rodney Evans. Produced by Rodney Evans, Jim McKay, Aimee Schoof and Isen Robbins. A Wolfe release. Drama. Unrated. Running time: 90 min

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