The 2020 Urbanworld Film Festival closed yesterday, after offering a plethora of new and upcoming shorts and films, and exclusive panels that provided insight from various casts and filmmakers since last Wednesday. Some of the highlights for me were watching two coming-of-age stories that I believe will be classics in their respective genres.
The first is THE WATER MAN, which was Wednesday’s opening night presentation and is the directorial debut of actor David Oyelowo (Selma, The Butler). Starring Oyelowo, Rosario Dawson, Amiah Miller, and Lonnie Chavis (This is Us) as lead character Gunner, The Water Man tells the story of Gunner, an artistic kid who has a close relationship with his mom, who is battling cancer, but a strained one with his father. When his mother’s illness takes a turn for the worst, Gunner sets out on a quest with local guide Jo (Miller) to locate a mythical figure called “The Water Man,” whom he believes holds the secret to everlasting life.
A gorgeously crafted story, with stunning visuals, the film covers various dark themes – such as terminal illness and abuse – in such a delicate manner that it still qualifies as appropriate for family viewing. It’s grounded and fantastical enough for younger audiences, and intelligent enough for adults.
And Chavis, known for his role as teenaged Randall on the hit show This is Us, once again displays his magnificent range at such a young age – he was only 11 years old when shooting began on this project.
With the pandemic still in effect, a release date has yet to be determined, but this is one story that you should keep an eye out. I give it 4 out of 5 beats on the MMTrometer.
The next film, CHARM CITY KINGS, was one of my favorite screenings of the week and, unlike the former selection, is a bit grittier in its coming-of-age telling but a beautiful story, nonetheless.
Here’s the official synopsis: “Mouse (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) desperately wants to join The Midnight Clique, an infamous group of Baltimore dirt bike riders who rule the summertime streets. When Midnight’s leader, Blax (Meek Mill), takes 14-year-old Mouse under his wing, Mouse soon finds himself torn between the straight-and-narrow and a road filled with fast money and violence.”
The film, written by Chris Boyd, Kirk Sullivan and Academy Award-winner Barry Jenkins and inspired by the 2013 documentary “12 O’Clock Boys” by Lofty Nathan, is slightly reminiscent of 2003’s Biker Boyz – especially the fact that both use illegal drag racing as the action that propels the story forward.
They both also feature young men, coming of age in the shadow of late father/father figures (in this case a brother) that discover secrets and ultimately are granted gifts of grace after upsetting choices – however Charm City Kings is hands down the better crafted story.
And, I absolutely love the fact that Mouse is given more depth than the average “kid in poor circumstance” character that’s often depicted, and the focus is not just on bikes or a love interest but his love of animals, his dedication to his family and loyalty to his friends.
Jahi Di’Allo Winston (Queen and Slim, The Upside) is dynamic as Mouse – but that’s no surprise considering this is the young man who shined in the role of young Ralph Tresvant in The New Edition Story – and Meek Mill gives a solid performance as his mentor Blax.
Rounding out the cast is Will Catlett, Donielle Hansley, Kezii Curtis, Chino, Lakeyria “Wheelie Queen” Doughty and Teyonah Parris.
CHARM CITY KINGS is a highly entertaining watch with an R rating – so it is not for younger audiences. I give it 4 out of 5 beats on the MMTrometer. The film will premiere Thursday, October 8 on HBO Max.
Until next thought, Thomasena