Rating: (5 out of 5) [Critic’s Pick!] Wednesday, 10/22/2008, 9:00 PM Feature presentation, $10 at 6th & I Synagogue
IT’S DIFFICULT to think of U People as a movie, rather than as an experience or a celebration. Filmed, for the most part, over the course of what seems to be a couple days in a single Brooklyn brownstone, U People invites viewers to share in a sense of community that even in two dimensions may be more genuine than the sense of community many of those viewers enjoy in their own lives.
Like the best of ”buddy films,” U People will leave plenty of people with a sense of longing to better connect, to have stronger friendships, to be more present in their own lives and with others.
Leading the action, filmmaker Hanifah Walidah has a houseful of diverse women — all seemingly of color, and with some gender variance in the mix — in the Brooklyn house to film a music video. And as these women assert in asides to the camera, they feel a unique sense of power and creativity coming out of this experience.
As Walidah’s fellow filmmaker, Olive Demetrius, observes, ”This is it. Right time, right place.” From impromptu conversations on the front stoop about race, gender and orientation, to a coordinated dance in the living room as part of the video, there are joyful bonds being forged by these fabulous women that seep off the screen. The intimacy of the crowded shots will leave viewers feeling not like observers, but like participants.
Accordingly, some will appreciate and enjoy U People more than others. People who would feel uncomfortably out of place in a crowded space with a couple dozen women of color may not enjoy U People. They probably won’t dislike it — they just won’t ”get” it. Those who do get it will recognize U People as a unique offering that celebrates black, gay women in a way seldom seen, and they won’t want this movie to end. Going back to their own lives, their communities may seem duller by comparison. Luckily for them, U People has become something of a cultural movement based online at www.iloveupeople.com. That’s an encouraging sign that we can expect much more from Walidah and Demetrius.
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