ByPaul Donovan, writer at
A jerk with an opinion. An explorer of transgressive cinema. See more things about movies at
Paul Donovan

Despite the vague and boring title, this is one of the best movies of its kind.

1. This is perhaps the best movie I've seen on the intersectionality of race and sexual orientation.

2. It's about an openly gay black art student named Perry who works in a homeless shelter. While there, he meets an old man named Bruce Nugent. The young man and the old man strike up a friendship, and compare the struggles of being black and gay in the 1920's to what it was in the early 2000's.

3. The movie is kind of a history of the Harlem Renaissance. Bruce Nugent was a real person; while many gay people participated in the Harlem Renaissance, Nugent was one of the few who were openly gay.

The real Bruce Nugent
The real Bruce Nugent

4. Through Nugent's character, we get a feel for what the Harlem Renaissance was like. About half the movie is told in black-and-white flashbacks of 1920's Harlem, where black artistic icons such as Langston Hughes, Aaron Douglas, Wallace Thurman, and Zora Neal Hurston all come to life.

5. Anthony Mackie plays Perry. This movie was made in 2004, so Mackie was still a decade away from becoming the Marvel superhero, Falcon. He won several awards for this brave and open portrayal of a young man who tries to not only raise the racial consciousness of his white peers, but the gay consciousness of his black peers - while also trying to find a boyfriend. I've seen about a dozen of Mackie's movies, and this is probably his best performance.

6. Instead of contrasting the black and gay experiences of Depression-Era America to today's culture, the movie focuses on the parallels.

7. There are some great scenes that call out white gay men and their unconscious racism. There are also some great scenes that call out straight black men and their more conscious homophobia.

8. I learned more about the Harlem Renaissance in this 90-minute movie than I did during all of my years in school.

9. Whether it was on accident or on purpose, this movie was kept on the cinematic down-low, and that's a shame. This is an important piece of the American experience, and the type of story that doesn't get told nearly as often as it should.

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