"It’s intimate, it’s elegant, it’s woman-focused and it’s colorful. It’s of rare hue and emotional nuance." MIDDLE OF NOWHERE had its first screening since Sundance at the Los Angeles Film Festival last month. Angela Bassett, guest host for the evening, calls it a gem. The film went fairly under the radar at Sundance, even though director Ava DuVernay won the Sundance award for best directing in drama, but Los Angeles Film Festival director Stephanie Allain knew she wanted to put it in the spotlight here, where it's one of three gala screenings.
Be it loneliness, or intuition, whatever it is, DuVernay did something right. I haven't been this moved by a piece of art since I don't remember when.
It's the kind of movie where the filmmaking is so personal and the acting so good that you start to breathe with the protagonist. Every move she makes you make, you feel her anguish. And there is anguish. At one point in the movie Ruby goes to see Derek after not seeing him in two months. What is the first thing you say to your love after not seeing them in months? We hold our breath as we wait to find out. It's the kind of movie you're so wrapped up in that time is warped-- a full minute goes by in a breath. Then you catch yourself and think, how long has it been? Somewhere in the middle of the film I thought to myself, "I don't want this to end."
It's really well shot, the soundtrack is incredible. "Black films have great soundtracks," says DuVernay to a laugh from the audience.
"I fell in love with this character on the page. It's not what Ava wrote, it's what she didn't write," says Toussaint. The intution, instinct, trust, and lack of rehearsals let the actors explore their roles themselves.
Q&A moderator Elvis Mitchell asked the cast whether they are worried that
since this is an all black cast that it will have limited exposure.
Corinealdi says she's not concerned. "I'm concerned," said Duvernay. "But let me worry about that," she said to Corinealdi.
DuVernay talked about how statistically it is just the case that white people don't see all black movies. DuVernay asked the audience to identify recent black movies that are popular. "Men in Black," one audience member called out.
I think Corinealdi is not concerned because she knows DuVernay, who has a
background in distribution, will take this film places. DuVernay says it's
all about exposure. She used the term "visual vocabulary." We have to
"train the audience to see black people in this environment." She spoke
of having to cultivate this, with purpose, and intention, as a movement.
"There's a reason we haven't seen these kind of films in distribution yet," says
Toussaint. "There's a problem." But the studios aren't going to do the
legwork to figure out why not. "We've got to do it ourselves, and I
think we will." That's what's so exciting about DuVernay, she's DOing it.
"I never thought we'd see a black president," said Toussaint.
"But how sad is it that we have a black president but Angela Bassett doesn't have an Oscar on her shelf?" asked Hardwick.
Sitting in the theater I felt like I was part of something. Watch out world for Ms. Duvernay.
MIDDLE OF NOWHERE took 7 years to make. It will be wide - released in theaters this October. Watch the trailer here.
This is also posted on my film blog at filmfestivals.com.