Wednesday, August 31, 2016


SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU is a small indie film with a simple story and setting, Barak Obama's and Michelle Robinson's first date. It takes place in one day and only a couple of locations. It can be seen as a summary of who this couple is and what they stand for, and of the arguments both for and against Obama as a conciliator and politician.

But it is also an engaging and surprisingly moving love story. The most radical thing about it is its rhythm of normalcy set against the backdrop of the ongoing struggle of African-Americans to achieve equality and justice (the date includes the couple's going to see DO THE RIGHT THING, and focuses on the now even more resonant scene of a young black man being choked to death by a New York City cop).

Parker Sawyer as Barak captures his speech patterns and physicality perfectly, and even looks like a slightly darker version of him. Tika Sumpter as Michelle isn't quite as perfect a match, but the actress gives her version of the proto-first-lady an emotional complexity that I found convincing and compelling.

It's a surprise to find out that this film was written and directed by a fairly young and not African-American Jersey boy, Richard Tanne. Some scenes and dialogue might be seen by some as not authentically "black" enough, but I noticed it wasn't just the few "white" folks in the audience I saw it with who were wiping away tears at the end.

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