SIFF Double Feature: Bound: Africans versus African Americans and Leading Lady

Bound: Africans versus African Americans: Kenyan-born director and actress Peres Owino takes a look at the relationships between Africans and African Americans in this documentary that doesn’t shy away from asking difficult questions. Common ancestry does not make for instant friendships, and both groups of people often buy into stereotypical ideas about each other. African Americans are often seen by their African counterparts as lazy, whiny thugs. And Africans are viewed as savages who sold the African American’s ancestors into slavery. The film addresses these issues by presenting a brief history of both groups, a rundown of their current relationship, and allows representatives from each side a chance to converse as a group to create a dialogue and clear up misunderstandings. Owino also allows individuals to give voice to their own ideas about the situation and how they might possibly heal the rift between the two groups. (I know I am being problematic in referring to the entire population of a continent as one group – and African Americans can hardly be considered homogenous – but I’m using the framework set up by the film, and I think it works fine for a broad-level discussion.)

This is a great movie. I’m not entirely sold on the story-telling device used to frame the narrative, and I found it distracting that many participants were filmed looking into a mirror. But those are pretty trivial quibbles and did not lessen the impact of the film for me. A lot of information is presented, and much of it conflicts; I think Owino should be lauded for allowing the complexities of the issues to stand rather than trying to smooth everything out. You know, I could do a lot of movie review talky talk, and it would all lead back to one thing: GO SEE THIS MOVIE. You may not agree with everything said here, but I think it’s very important that you see it. And for non-black people who are wondering why they should care about this issue; get your freaking act together. You live in the world. Africa is in that world. Some crazy and awesome stuff has gone on there in the past, and more will happen in the future. The very least you can do (and I mean the very least) as a good citizen of our planet is to educate yourself about the other people who exist here. The history of African Americans in this country impacts every aspect of our society. There has been a lot of talk about reparations in the news lately, and maybe the best reparations we can make is to stop being so willfully ignorant. I know this is not a dispassionate review, but hell, some movies just make you feel it. Go see the movie.

Bound: Africans versus African Americans plays at the SIFF Cinema Uptown on June 7 and 8.

Final Grade: A-

Bound Movie Still 1

Leading Lady: Actress/teacher Jodi Rutherford (Katie McGrath) desperately wants the lead in her director boyfriend Daniel Taylor’s (Gil Bellows) next picture. It’s about an Afrikaans war heroine, the only problem being that Jodi knows next to nothing about South Africa and is unable to really give the role what it needs. And she is in competition with a woman who is perfect for the role. Jodi decides to take off for South Africa to do research, and accidentally ends up on a farm owned by the family of Kobus Willemse (Bok van Blerk). Kobus doesn’t want to deal with her nonsense, but his headstrong (and wacky) mother Magdaleen (Brümilda van Rensburg) overrides him and invites Jodi to stay and help them put on their annual concert. They decide to use the script for the movie she wants to be in as their inspiration, with Jodi in the lead. That way she will be able to show Daniel what she can do and hopefully land the role. Of course things are complicated by her attraction to the practical, kind, and hunky Kobus and Jodi must decide where her real desires lie.

This romantic comedy isn’t funny or particularly romantic. It pains me to say that because I love the genre and am willing to overlook a lot in the quest for light and fun entertainment. I don’t need originality or subtlety; I will settle for competent direction and adherence to a successful formula. The rom com is in decline (I know I complain about this all the time. Let me whine.) and I will take what I can get. But nothing in this film worked for me. Jodi was just sort of bland and unknowable, and it’s kind of important that the female lead in romance be someone the audience can get behind. Kobus was okay, but his family was crazy because families have to be crazy, but they weren’t funny or interesting or anything but caricatures. And to be perfectly honest, I was uncomfortable with the racial politics of this film. Normally I just get annoyed by lack of representation or stereotyping, but this went beyond that. Blackface was not used, but only just. Even if anything else in the movie had worked for me that would have been enough to make me not recommend it. I don’t know that I would have stayed for the whole thing if I hadn’t been reviewing it. But I did so you don’t have to.

Leading Lady plays at the Harvard Exit June 7 and 8.

Final Grade: D


Adelaide enjoys watching all kinds of movies, but is never going to see Titanic unless there is a sizable amount of money involved.

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