Thursday, October 10, 2019

Emanuel (2018) opens Friday

I am not really certain what I think of Brian Ivie's EMANUEL about the killing of 9 people at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. I have watched the film three times now trying to find the words to sum up what I think about the film, but I haven't been able to fully do so.

I do know that it is a beautiful film that focuses on the people left behind. It is wonderful expression of how an act which was intended to divide a community instead brought it together. It is also a telling recounting of the history of racism in America and in South Carolina in particular, the only slave state where whites were out numbered by African Americans. I also know that in the end the film brought me to tears.

And yet somewhere along the way I never fully connected to the film, which is something that really bothered me.

I suspect that the problem with the film is not with the story or the people in the film, rather in the slickness of the presentation. This film looks absolutely stunning with each image the sort you'd want to hang on your wall. The music is perfectly modulated to manipulate your emotions and everyone says exactly precisely the right thing to make you murmur "yes exactly". I think that each time I watched the film I felt like I was being forcibly moved through the story and being told what to feel instead of truly experiencing it for myself. Nowhere is this clearer than when the film explains to me what President Obama was doing in his eulogy. Never mind that his words were moving me to tears the film had to explain why at the same time.

My reservations aside this is still a good film even if it's not the great one it feels it is. I absolutely love the film and its explanation of the history of racism in South Carolina. I love the portraits of the survivors whose stories give us hope.  Actually I love pretty much everythng about this film except the hand holding.

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