Night Catches Us


1h 30m 2010

Brief Synopsis

In 1976, after years of mysterious absence, Marcus returns to the Philadelphia neighborhood where he came of age in the midst of the Black Power movement. While his arrival raises suspicion among his family and former neighbors, he finds acceptance from his old friend Patricia and her daughter. Howe

Film Details

Also Known As
Stringbean & Marcus, Stringbean and Marcus
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Drama
Period
Romance
Release Date
2010
Distribution Company
Magnolia Pictures; Magnolia Home Entertainment; Magnolia Pictures
Location
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m

Synopsis

In 1976, after years of mysterious absence, Marcus returns to the Philadelphia neighborhood where he came of age in the midst of the Black Power movement. While his arrival raises suspicion among his family and former neighbors, he finds acceptance from his old friend Patricia and her daughter. However, Marcus quickly finds himself at odds with the organization he once embraced, whose members suspect he orchestrated the slaying of their former comrade-in-arms. In a startling sequence of events, Marcus must protect a secret that could shatter everyone's beliefs as he rediscovers his forbidden passion for Patricia.

Film Details

Also Known As
Stringbean & Marcus, Stringbean and Marcus
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Drama
Period
Romance
Release Date
2010
Distribution Company
Magnolia Pictures; Magnolia Home Entertainment; Magnolia Pictures
Location
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m

Articles

Night Catches Us - Anthony Mackie & Kerry Washington in Tanya Hamilton's NIGHT CATCHES US


Tanya Hamilton's debut feature Night Catches Us caught everybody who saw it in 2010 by surprise - it seemed hard to understand where, exactly, this movie came from. For one thing, it makes a big meal out of a subject and terrain very few of us know about or thought needed to be explored: the interpersonal fallout in the '70s after the rise of the Black Panther movement and after J. Edgar Hoover's COINTELPRO operation left so many of its members dead or in jail. Hamilton's movie is decidedly retrospective, plopping down in the overgrown, affluent black neighborhood of Germantown, Philadelphia in 1976 where the matter of Pantherhood is something not openly discussed, where a new generation of youth begin their rebellions against the white police brutality still ever-present, and where the Panther legacy has been reduced to old photos, fading copies of the Party's newspapers and comic books, and secrets.

This is not a pressing piece of history for most us because it has been largely expunged from the media consciousness, a reality that Hamilton's movie does well to redress. From the credits on, Night Catches Us resurrects the forgotten history with news footage, vintage graphics, tabloid photos, etc., suggesting as well that the Panthers' story might make a riveting period drama all its own. Hamilton's movie isn't it, though - the thrust here is elegiac and rueful, and the characters are all struggling with how to live in the ambivalent period of transition from civil rights upheaval to the slow accretion of equal rights that leads, eventually, to the Obama era. The houses still have bulletholes in the walls (wallpapered over), and the rooms still remember the assassinations and betrayals, even as Jimmy Carter is heard on nearly every radio, begging for order and peace.

Still, Hamilton's style is tough and realistic; exposition about what these people lived through and what they're hiding comes in a trickle. We arrive with the return of Marcus (Anthony Mackie), duffel bag on his shoulder, after an unexplained self-imposed exile, on the occasion of his father's funeral. Because of his absence, he's widely suspected as an informant and therefore responsible for the police killing of a Party leader, whose widow Patricia (Kerry Washington) clings to the old neighborhood and tries to nurture the new wave of kids growing up in the Party's wake. The threats from the Panther underground begin, and the navigation of the old feelings and the new tensions on every street corner is agitated for the two of them by Patricia's nine-year-old daughter (Jamara Griffin), who's intent on finding out what happened to her father, and whose watchful gaze gives the movie a haunting gravity.

In fact, Hamilton structures her whole film around wary watchfulness, and so her casting of the two leads is money in the bank. Mackie, having emerged in everyone's memory from the Sturm und Drang of The Hurt Locker, is unarguably one of the best, most humane, and most addictively watchable young actors at work today, and Hamilton hands him a plumb role loaded with unmentionable memories and conflicted instincts. Exuding soulfulness and bitter strength, the character scans his landscape as if anything could knock him off that high wire he's walking on, and we are glued to him in every instant. This guy "watches." The smartest and quickest black actress of her generation, Washington has less submerged material to work with, but her Patricia is just as hypnotic, stuck forever between the past and the present and failing, try as she might, at being the sensible force that solve everybody's problems.

Hamilton gets her period details so right they can make any viewer over 40 chuckle, but her visual acumen give Night Catches Us a suspenseful, vigilant personality all its own. Unorthodox close-ups, off-kilter compositions, vibrating off-screen space, plenty of quiet brooding intercut with newsreel chaos - the very texture of the film speaks more clearly about the characters' tribulations (including the ever-present internal warfare between resistance to authority and assimilationist compromise) that they do themselves. It's a rich, mysterious piece of work, all the more fascinating because the sociopolitical territory it explores is brand new to movies, and yet the film feels as integral and organic as a piece of well-thumbed historical scholarship.

Lately, "black cinema" has been on the skids - Spike Lee has lost his relevance, Tyler Perry seduces huge black audiences with broad, saccharine comedies, and black indies in general seem to have all but vanished. (Lance Hammer's 2008 film Ballast was an exception, and as a consequence was barely released.) Perhaps it's an indication of cultural evolution in the Age of Obama - Denzel Washington and Will Smith have for years now routinely starred in big-budgeted productions that make no reference to race whatsoever. But ignoring the facts of racial inequity and bigotry and social stress as they still exist today, and as they had been battled over for so long, is foolhardy. There is so much history that's been buried, by the government or by media disinterest and distaste, and Night Catches Us is all by itself as a remarkable revivification of a not-so-distant moment when what we may take for granted today was earned at a human cost.

For more information about Night Catches Us, visit Magnolia Pictures. To order Night Catches Us, go to TCM Shopping.

by Michael Atkinson
Night Catches Us - Anthony Mackie & Kerry Washington In Tanya Hamilton's Night Catches Us

Night Catches Us - Anthony Mackie & Kerry Washington in Tanya Hamilton's NIGHT CATCHES US

Tanya Hamilton's debut feature Night Catches Us caught everybody who saw it in 2010 by surprise - it seemed hard to understand where, exactly, this movie came from. For one thing, it makes a big meal out of a subject and terrain very few of us know about or thought needed to be explored: the interpersonal fallout in the '70s after the rise of the Black Panther movement and after J. Edgar Hoover's COINTELPRO operation left so many of its members dead or in jail. Hamilton's movie is decidedly retrospective, plopping down in the overgrown, affluent black neighborhood of Germantown, Philadelphia in 1976 where the matter of Pantherhood is something not openly discussed, where a new generation of youth begin their rebellions against the white police brutality still ever-present, and where the Panther legacy has been reduced to old photos, fading copies of the Party's newspapers and comic books, and secrets. This is not a pressing piece of history for most us because it has been largely expunged from the media consciousness, a reality that Hamilton's movie does well to redress. From the credits on, Night Catches Us resurrects the forgotten history with news footage, vintage graphics, tabloid photos, etc., suggesting as well that the Panthers' story might make a riveting period drama all its own. Hamilton's movie isn't it, though - the thrust here is elegiac and rueful, and the characters are all struggling with how to live in the ambivalent period of transition from civil rights upheaval to the slow accretion of equal rights that leads, eventually, to the Obama era. The houses still have bulletholes in the walls (wallpapered over), and the rooms still remember the assassinations and betrayals, even as Jimmy Carter is heard on nearly every radio, begging for order and peace. Still, Hamilton's style is tough and realistic; exposition about what these people lived through and what they're hiding comes in a trickle. We arrive with the return of Marcus (Anthony Mackie), duffel bag on his shoulder, after an unexplained self-imposed exile, on the occasion of his father's funeral. Because of his absence, he's widely suspected as an informant and therefore responsible for the police killing of a Party leader, whose widow Patricia (Kerry Washington) clings to the old neighborhood and tries to nurture the new wave of kids growing up in the Party's wake. The threats from the Panther underground begin, and the navigation of the old feelings and the new tensions on every street corner is agitated for the two of them by Patricia's nine-year-old daughter (Jamara Griffin), who's intent on finding out what happened to her father, and whose watchful gaze gives the movie a haunting gravity. In fact, Hamilton structures her whole film around wary watchfulness, and so her casting of the two leads is money in the bank. Mackie, having emerged in everyone's memory from the Sturm und Drang of The Hurt Locker, is unarguably one of the best, most humane, and most addictively watchable young actors at work today, and Hamilton hands him a plumb role loaded with unmentionable memories and conflicted instincts. Exuding soulfulness and bitter strength, the character scans his landscape as if anything could knock him off that high wire he's walking on, and we are glued to him in every instant. This guy "watches." The smartest and quickest black actress of her generation, Washington has less submerged material to work with, but her Patricia is just as hypnotic, stuck forever between the past and the present and failing, try as she might, at being the sensible force that solve everybody's problems. Hamilton gets her period details so right they can make any viewer over 40 chuckle, but her visual acumen give Night Catches Us a suspenseful, vigilant personality all its own. Unorthodox close-ups, off-kilter compositions, vibrating off-screen space, plenty of quiet brooding intercut with newsreel chaos - the very texture of the film speaks more clearly about the characters' tribulations (including the ever-present internal warfare between resistance to authority and assimilationist compromise) that they do themselves. It's a rich, mysterious piece of work, all the more fascinating because the sociopolitical territory it explores is brand new to movies, and yet the film feels as integral and organic as a piece of well-thumbed historical scholarship. Lately, "black cinema" has been on the skids - Spike Lee has lost his relevance, Tyler Perry seduces huge black audiences with broad, saccharine comedies, and black indies in general seem to have all but vanished. (Lance Hammer's 2008 film Ballast was an exception, and as a consequence was barely released.) Perhaps it's an indication of cultural evolution in the Age of Obama - Denzel Washington and Will Smith have for years now routinely starred in big-budgeted productions that make no reference to race whatsoever. But ignoring the facts of racial inequity and bigotry and social stress as they still exist today, and as they had been battled over for so long, is foolhardy. There is so much history that's been buried, by the government or by media disinterest and distaste, and Night Catches Us is all by itself as a remarkable revivification of a not-so-distant moment when what we may take for granted today was earned at a human cost. For more information about Night Catches Us, visit Magnolia Pictures. To order Night Catches Us, go to TCM Shopping. by Michael Atkinson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Limited Release in United States Winter December 3, 2010

Released in United States on Video February 1, 2011

Released in United States 2010

Released in United States January 2010

Released in United States June 2010

Shown at New Directors/New Films Series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center (Official Slate) March 24-April 4, 2010.

Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival (New Directors Competition) April 22-May 6, 2010.

Shown at Seattle International Film Festival (New American Cinema) May 20-June 13, 2010.

Shown at Los Angeles Film Festival (Summer Showcase) June 17-27, 2010.

Limited Release in United States Winter December 3, 2010 (Los Angeles)

Released in United States on Video February 1, 2011

Released in United States 2010 (Shown at New Directors/New Films Series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center (Official Slate) March 24-April 4, 2010.)

Released in United States 2010 (Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival (New Directors Competition) April 22-May 6, 2010.)

Released in United States 2010 (Shown at Seattle International Film Festival (New American Cinema) May 20-June 13, 2010.)

Released in United States 2010 (Opening Night)

Released in United States January 2010 (Shown at Sundance Film Festival (U.S. Dramatic Competition) January 21-31, 2010.)

Released in United States June 2010 (Shown at Los Angeles Film Festival (Summer Showcase) June 17-27, 2010.)