10:56 | 19th February 2019

Reviews: Film and Book reviews

Sun 5 Sep, 2010
By Robert Ingham

This is an intelligently written and stunningly acted portrayal of a part of African American history that has not really been addressed before.

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Brother to Brother - Film Review

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Brother to Brother is a wonderfully absorbing drama about Bruce Nugent who, now an elderly man, meets a gay teenager in a New York homeless shelter and reminisces about his time as a writer and painter in the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s. Whilst it is a fictional story, it is based on reality and told in sweeping flashbacks.

The story opens on Perry (Anthony Mackie), a black teenager studying art who, whilst standing up for his rights as a gay man, faces antagonism from another student who “doesn’t want to hear about all that sh*t”. Perry has been kicked out of home and disowned by his family for being gay but finds solace in another guy in his class, Jim, who is straight/curious – and white.

What starts off as a seemingly routine and unoriginal film about war on race and sexuality blossoms into a beautiful story about finding friendship where you least expect it and kindred spirits which transcends the decades. As Perry and his friend Marcus, an aspiring writer, talk they are interrupted by an old man quoting poetry. This old man seems to be wherever Perry is and turns out to be Bruce Nugent (a riveting and nuanced performance from Roger Robinson), who wrote a short story that has been deemed by many to be the first publication by an African American openly depicting homosexuality. Perry’s thirst for knowledge and desire to expand his horizons leads Bruce to tell his story of the Harlem Renaissance and we are introduced to his bohemian, hedonistic days of youth.

This is an intelligently written and stunningly acted portrayal of a part of African American history that has not really been addressed before. Whilst this side is told in black & white, the characters spring to life, rich and rounded, and illustrates that it doesn’t matter what generation you are from, we all face the same problems when fighting for what we believe in and for acceptance in our society.

It is easy to be sceptical and say this film portrays that era with a glossy coat but this is told from Bruce’s point of view, about the most important part of his life, so a sheen must be allowed. Plus for those that have no understanding of the Harlem Renaissance this is a sumptuous and affecting introduction.

Brother To Brother was brought out in 2004 but seemed to miss the accolades it deserves. It is a warm tale, bringing together two people who are almost two sides of the same coin. It will leave you wishing that everyone could meet someone who inspires them to be the best they can be through their wisdom, wit and wonder.

Pinkwire have two copies of the DVD to give away. If you want to get your hands on one then send us your name and address to The first two picked on the 31st October will be sent a copy. (Good Luck)

Brother To Brother is from Peccadillo Pictures and released on DVD on 4th October for Black History Month 2010.


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