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Monday, July 15, 2024

A review of the film 'Origin' by Ava DuVernay.

MovieA review of the film 'Origin' by Ava DuVernay.

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The effect is often confusing with the many levels at which the adaptation of the equally audacious and ambitious book "Caste" operates. If you allow yourself to be taken on this wide-ranging, occasionally digressive journey, you will emerge not just edified but emotionally wrung out and cleansed. In her book, she linked anti-Black racism in America with other racist structures around the world and throughout history, such as the Nazi-era beliefs about eugenics and the centuries-old hierarchies in India. DuVernay has not made a talky illustrated lecture, which is why the film is not for the faint of spirit. Instead, she has made the story of trauma, loss, healing and family as universal as possible. Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, who plays Wilkerson in this capacious, occasionally baggy narrative, has a stunning central performance that calls on her to be vulnerable and unbending one moment, and unbending the next. After caring for her elderly mother and enduring a sudden loss of another family member, Wilkerson sets out to explain why race isn't enough to contain the stories we tell about ourselves and others. The audience will return to Berlin and the American South in the 1930s as a result of that quest. It will take her to a family reunion where she will have a number of funny, enlightening conversations with her cousin, played with warmth and cackling wit by Niecy Nash. It will send her to meet a real-life activist, who plays himself, as well as to a swimming pool in Ohio that was the site of a notorious instance of racist segregation. DuVernay uses a similar technique in the scene in which she talks with a witness to those events, which seems to create a new cinematic language in the same way she tried to capture and express a new concept. DuVernay is working with an excellent team, including cinematography Matthew J. Lloyd and editor Spencer Averick, that keeps hold of the reins of the story as it grows. A scene with Nick Offerman, playing a plumbing professional, coming to help Wilkerson at her mother's house, becomes a master class in unspoken expression as she forces herself to un-see his "Make America Great Again" hat, which opens the film. Audra McDonald plays a character who recounts how the simple choice of a child's name can penetrate an otherwise intractable edifice of irrational hatred and dehumanization. An air of mournfulness suffuses the title, given the circumstances of her life when she explored it. The movie is big and bold, unruly and utterly of itself, and it is managed to inject exhilaration and moments of genuine joy and humor. It is one of the most powerful films on-screen this season and it lives up to its title.

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