Me and the world review: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book keeps its power on screen

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As coronavirus rates have increased, production of many upcoming TV shows and films has been halted around the world. But social distancing precautions haven’t deterred journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates from reintroducing his 2015 culture-changing, non-fiction book. Between the world and me through a visual lens. Intentionally launched after the 2020 election, the HBO adaptation has a myriad of acclaimed thespians and black activists reciting segments from the book in various intimate settings. Director and producer Kamilah Forbes, who adapted Between the world and me for the Apollo Theater in 2018, returns to take the reins as a director for this conflicting and impressionistic perspective of black America.

Over the past five years, HBO has made significant efforts to amplify the visibility of blacks on Unsafe, Random acts of theft, Lovecraft Country, and A Black Lady Sketch Show. A one-off film rather than a recurring series, Between the world and me is HBO’s latest addition to the palette. Round of award-winning actors (Jharrel Jerome, Mahershala Ali) and those who are long late for an Emmy Award (It’s us star Susan Kelechi Watson, Mj Rodriquez), the film centers on the plight of blacks and the disproportionate injustices we face. As of November 10, black Americans experience the highest death rate from COVID-19 – about three times higher than white or Asian populations.

Through this dark reality Between the world and me It also features captivating depictions of black life, from its radical collage title sequence to delicate montages of families and downtown murals. The visuals are a nod to Coates’ education in West Baltimore, while the cast acts as a Greek chorus for the author’s revelation on the racialized dysfunction of the nation. During Barack Obama’s two terms of presidency, Coates was unhappy with Obama’s contradiction between comforting whites through his political rhetoric, while numerous cases of police brutality against blacks went viral. Coates was prompted to warn his young son, Samori, about the social implications of being a black person in America: “This is your country, this is your world and you have to find a way to live in it. “

Based on James Baldwin’s 1963 double-essay book Fire next time, Between the world and me is just as piercing when recited in choreography as it is in book form – perhaps more. While some actors in the film visibly read passages from their MacBook screens and cue cards, others memorized their segments, capturing the essence of the book in dramatized ways. Between the world and me is no longer just a soliloquy between father and son. There is an urgent need for black people to acquire a widespread awareness of an unethical nation designed to go against our favor. Even democracy cannot save us.

Between jazz numbers and styles of spoken words, Between the world and me features soundscapes for Millennials and Gen Z viewers, from Compton Buddy rapper’s declarative anthem ‘Black’ to Lil Baby’s ‘The Bigger Picture’, the most widely aired protest song after death by George Floyd. Like the film’s score, the cast of Between the world and me is multigenerational, recounting the disparities between black and white communities. In one segment, Angela Bassett sits in a den, describing the dream of the white picket fence. When the characters Le Brady Bunch and 90210 could wander invincibly without glancing over their shoulders for hidden dangers, black youth craved the same.

Amid this whitewashed outlook on life, black Americans have always been the opposite, as explained Cultivated sweetheart Yara Shahidi and political activist Angela Y. Davis. As a youth, Coates developed a liking for the empowered presence of Malcolm X, though history lessons ritualistically imposed images of submissive and non-violent civil rights figures on him. Perhaps the redundancy of these lessons was a subtle attempt to put white students at ease, without being exposed to the radicalism of the Black Panther Party, or the 1973 blaxploitation film. The ghost who sat by the door. Images of black protesters from the 1950s and 1960s beaten, watered and arrested were commonly shown to Coates and his comrades. Davis and Shahidi repeat the concerns he wrote: “Why are they showing this for us?

Coates was freed from these messages once he arrived as an undergraduate student at Howard University, but he did not find his identity when receiving student honors – it was thanks to “Mecca”. On the HBCU campus, Watson (who received his BFA from Howard) gives a fascinating oral performance on the vastness of black student counterculture. Unlike the many HBCUs based in historically Confederate states, Howard University is at the heart of Washington DC, where students are in the presence of political sense and a revolution in the black diaspora.

Howard University is also where Coates found love three times, conceiving his son with the woman who became his wife. In Coates’ words, Samori was not a birth, but a “summons”. Oscar winner Mahershala Ali sheds a tear as she talks about Coates’ lines about protecting a child from an imperfect reality. After the initial joy of starting a family, concern sets in: The investments black parents make in their children’s education do not determine whether those children are able to survive into adulthood.

In dashcam-style footage, Rodriquez reproduces the terror of a traffic stop, as Coates was once pulled over by a Prince George County cop shortly before his son was born. As Rodriquez sits in the glow of the fluorescent lights of the police cruiser, Kendrick Sampson of Unsafe shares the passage in a less passionate read, sitting in a separate car during the day. Frustration with systemic oppression swells everywhere Between the world and me, from the wrongful murder of Coates friend Prince Jones by PG County police in late 2000 to Coates’ inability to empathize as the 9/11 terrorist attacks rocked New York City . As he watched the Twin Towers crumble, Coates recalled that Manhattan’s financial district was once a prime location for the slave trade in the 18th century.

Arguably the most captivating moment of Between the world and me takes place between actress Michelle Wilson and ThreadIt’s Wendell Pierce. The two capture the aggression any black parent would feel watching their child being thrown to the ground by a stranger, someone who considers a black child to be worthless to be in the way. The incident described by Coates was a Karen moment before “Karen” became a meme. The white woman who dehumanized Samori also threatened Coates with “I could get you arrested” – an all-too-common pompous threat used to keep blacks from stepping out of line.

Photo: HBO

Black people in America can find any misbehavior costly, which painter Molly Crabapple and Oprah Winfrey discuss in a segment about how black bodies sacrificially built America. Representing the cannibalism of American industries and the prison system, Crabapple deposits paintings of blacks, rivers and skulls buried in blood-red paint.

While those who voted for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris (also formerly of Howard) are excited about their victory, Between the world and me reveals that having the first vice president of color hasn’t changed the iniquity of America’s core. The film offers viewers a much needed dose of the reality that black Americans have endured since we were unwittingly brought here in the 1600s. Halfway, Between the world and me, reveals Samori’s namesake, West African military strategist Samori Ture. Although Ture was killed in captivity, the fight was bigger than him. As Between the world and me He said, black Americans still endure this struggle, but they have the strength to survive.

Between the world and me will debut on HBO and HBO Max at 8 p.m. ET on November 21.

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