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‘Ungrateful’ could be a little more great

This image released by Focus Features shows John David Washington, left, and Laura Harrier in a scene from “BlacKkKlansman”. AP

Ungrateful (Rated C)

Cast: Nathan J. Burrows, Charaé Sands, Tamara Marie Simms

Genre: Drama

Dwight’s Rating:

There’s good news and bad news with the new Bahamian film “Ungrateful”.

Since its special premiere a few months ago, the picture has been making the rounds over the past few weeks at some smaller theaters in the country. It finally opened last week Friday at the multiplexes in New Providence and Grand Bahama.

The good news is this relatively short flick (about an hour) represents a valiant effort in terms of production values. It looks and sounds great, and is free of a lot of the technical errors that plague locally produced movies. The audio and sound mixing are top-notch, and the video is of unquestionable quality.

Perhaps there’s an overuse of drone footage, and it’s a little heavy-handed with the establishing shots of the more scenic parts of downtown Nassau, Nassau Harbour and Paradise Island –  but otherwise, Director Gary Wong has largely nailed this very important part of the filmmaking process.

The bad news comes down to the other critical components.

In the film, Sam (Nathan J. Burrows) has a tenuous relationship with his mother (Tamara Marie Simms) and siblings, and hasn’t been home to The Bahamas in years. There’s trouble in paradise as Sam and his new fiancée Robin (Charaé Sands) come back home for a life-changing vacation.

“Ungrateful” takes on some of the characteristics of quite a few of Tyler Perry’s earliest theatrical productions – that uneasy meshing of comedy and supposedly drama. Add to that religious messages and life lessons, and we get a confusing mix of “dramedy”.

That’s my word for it. I, personally, wouldn’t call it a drama, as many scenes (probably a few too many) are played for laughs, replete with odd (playful) choices for background music. Characters, too, make odd and questionable choices. And there are a couple awkward cameos by real people playing themselves.

Written and produced by Dario Erics (Poitier), “Ungrateful” is based on a stage play, “Boy Das Ya Mar”. And like a few of those early Perry films – also based on plays – at quite a few times, it feels like you’re watching something meant for the stage, especially from a dialogue perspective.

As such, there are a few highly overdramatic scenes, with some actors significantly hamming it up for the camera. Again, perhaps these requirements for the stage could have been toned down for the transition to film, where overacting can feel like a swift kick to the face.

But there are some genuinely funny scenes – even if a couple of those were “laughing-at” moments, rather than “laughing-with” ones!

And it is great to see the city of Nassau looking like a far more evolved version of itself with the drone footage.

The issues with “Ungrateful” – in theaters through August 24 – can be resolved with just a bit more massaging and greater character development, and is another sign of the steady improvements to the small filmmaking sector in the country.

What gives? No shows for ‘BlackKklansman’, ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

Disappointing!

There’s no other word to describe the feeling of not being able to see Spike Lee’s highly anticipated “BlackKklansman” this past week.

Advertised as opening last week Friday, it’s not been available for filmgoers at all over the last few days. Plus there’s been no explanation as to what has happened.

And there’s more disappointment (but not surprise): the new film “Crazy Rich Asians” – which opened in the U.S. on Wednesday – has not arrived here.

One of the most buzzed about movies this year, will “Crazy Rich Asians” ever come to the local multiplex? It’s unclear. My off-the-wall theory: there are concerns that the ignorant plebs amongst us might see that title and think this is a documentary about you-know-whos growing influence in you-know-where, and would decide to stay away in droves, opting instead to take a drive downtown for a first-hand.

As for “BlackKklansman”, I’ve been assured that it will be playing in theaters here beginning today. (Of course, I had been told earlier in the week that it would open the next day, and that never happened.)

Keep your fingers crossed! And keep some others crossed for “Crazy Rich Asians” too. Or better yet, call and harass the multiplex and demand they bring it!

Anything less would be disappointing!

 

• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email dwight@nasguard.com and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.

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