Brother to Brother | 2004 Sundance Film Festival-Special Jury Prize
This was the official website for the 2004 Sundance Film Festival-Special Jury Prize, Brother to Brother. The narrative film follows the emotional and psychological journey of a young, black, gay artist as he discovers the hidden legacies of the gay and lesbian subcultures within the Harlem Renaissance.
The content is from the site’s archived pages as well as other sources.
Directed By: Rodney Evans
Written By: Rodney Evans
In Theaters: Nov 5, 2004 Wide
On DVD: Jun 14, 2005
Runtime: 90 minutes
Studio: Wolfe Releasing.
2004 Sundance Film Festival-Special Jury Prize (Dramatic)
2004 NewFest: New York International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival-Vanguard Award
2004 San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival-Audience Award
2004 Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival-Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature
2004 OutFest: Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival-Grand Jury Award, Outstanding American Narrative Feature
2004 OutFest: Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival-Grand Jury Award, Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film Roger Robinson,
2004 OutFest: Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival-Audience Award, Outstanding Narrative Feature
2005 International Gay Film Awards-Best Indie Film Award, Glitter Awards
2005 Black Movie Awards-Rodney Evans - HBO Director to Watch
TOMATOMETER CRITICS 76% | AUDIENCE 72%
April 21, 2005 | Rating: B-
Philip Wuntch Dallas Morning News
Takes on a plethora of phobias. Homophobia, racial prejudice and age discrimination are among its targets, and it hits them squarely and fairly.
The Spirit of 'Brother'-hood
By Desson Thomson
Washington Post Top Critic
Friday, January 28, 2005; Page WE38
WHAT YOU end up liking most about "Brother to Brother" is the movie playing in filmmaker Rodney Evans's head. The very idea of a young black man (played by the likable Anthony Mackie) grappling with his gay identity and bonding with an elderly Bruce Nugent (Roger Robinson), who experienced similar issues as a gay artist during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1930s, is imaginative and provocative.
Perry (Mackie) is a gay painter living in Brooklyn who was kicked out of his family home by his homophobic father. He is searching for self identity, and an artistic voice. He'd really like a meaningful romantic relationship, instead of the cruising encounters he has had to be satisfied with. He is also consumed with the way society -- even African American society -- treats and regards black gay men.
He gets a deeper perspective on these and other issues when, at a homeless shelter, he meets Bruce, a poet and painter who was one of the lesser-known figures in the Harlem Renaissance.
In conversations with Bruce, Perry learns about the older man's role as co-founder of the literary journal called Fire! along with collaborators Langston Hughes (Daniel Sunjata), Zora Neale Hurston (Aunjanue Ellis) and Wallace Thurman (Ray Ford).
We see most of these memories in black-and-white flashback scenes, as Bruce (played as a young man by Duane Boutte) and his fellow artists and friends try to live an open, permissive lifestyle and make their magazine succeed. This means, among many things, resisting a white publisher's request to play up the badness in their stories and "translate" black idioms into "English," and dealing with the NAACP, which tries to have copies of the journal removed from newsstands and other outlets.
Perry realizes his experiences are not unique.
Writer-director Evans creates a fluid transition between Perry in the present and Bruce's past. And there's a nice surreal flow. But "Brother" works far better as an idea than its execution; this has to do with the difficulties of making profound statements with limited budgets and technology, and also grappling with the still-growing sensibilities of an emerging writer. This is a bold, earnest freshman venture, with all the excitements and drawbacks inherent. Evans's spirit is the best thing about "Brother." The viewers interested in this movie in the first place are likely to mentally provide that extra bit of help. After all, such a personal movie -- especially one that's a trapeze-balancing act of faith -- amounts to an intimate dialogue between the artist and a sensitized audience.
**** Ed W October 31, 2022
*****Sandra November 9, 2020
Wonderful stories from the Harlem Renaissance
not sure how I found this film, but sure am happy that I did.
I was looking for a movie to distract my brother who had just started a new program to help him take control of his alcohol consumption. The website offered a different approach to people who wanted to make drinking a choice and not a habit or a need. Fortunately, my brother bought in to their program which doesn't label a person an alcoholic with a disease that requires total abstinence. In fact the medication my brother is just starting, Baclofen, allows a person to continue drinking. Doesn't that blow your mind? Baclofen helps users suppress alcohol cravings, and break their drinking habit. Baclofen must be titrated up and down when starting and stopping to minimize the risk of side effects. When you start with Baclofen, the person begins with a low dosage, three times a day and slowly increases it until an effective dose is reached that makes the person completely and effortlessly indifferent to alcohol. My brother was told that Baclofen, like any medication, induces a variety of different responses in every new person that takes it. For some people the treatment is really easy with no side effects at the start. The most common side effects are fatigue, insomnia, dizziness, and nausea. My brother initially had insomnia so he would watch movies into the early mornings. One evening I suggested Brother to Brother which is available for renting or buying on Amazon. It was a good choice and we were both engaged watching the movie.
Rodney Evans' inspiring independent picture, Brother to Brother attempts to answer what was Langston Hughes, Zora Lean Hurston, Wally Thurman's connection, to life in the 1920's, to life in Harlem, and their role in the pre-Civil Rights Movement via effective flashbacks that gives context to the main character, Anthony Mackie who plays Perry, a young, gay, black artist struggling to find his place in this world and his own community. I thought the actors playing the main people of Bruce's social set incredible from Aunjanue Ellis who captures the zeal and life of Zora Neal Hurston to Daniel Sunjata who plays Langston Hughes. This was a wonderful movie, from the acting, stories, and emotion portrayed.
Just an added note to my review. It's 2021. The program really worked for my brother. The side effects lessoned and finally disappeared. Baclofen takes time and it doesn't cure you overnight. But 1 year later and my brother's craving have disappeared. He set his own goals and from the start was able to work at his own pace with his support coach. He now chooses how much he wants to drink instead of the mindless consumption from 2 years ago that nearly wrecked his life. Just yesterday he mentioned wanting to see Brother to Brother again. I think we will the next time I visit.
**** Ed W October 31, 2015
Fine performances all around. The Harlem Renaissance from 1918 - 1929 and the rebirth of African American culture and intelligence through art, poetry, and the written word were explored through the eyes of racism, homophobia, and age discrimination. Interesting theme in that words and art were used as power back then... not guns and excuses. Would have been 5 stars, but I thought the film was attempting too many subplots that were distracting. #langstonhughes #wallacethurman #zoranealehurston
*** ½ Lee M November 27, 2013
A very good drama about the difficulties of being young, black, and gay. With a bigger budget and a sharper focus, it might have been a great one.
Tiffany W November 29, 2012
deep movie that gives you a inside look to another life
** ½ Jennifer T November 18, 2012
I liked seeing Anthony M in this..so cute! And it was an informative movie about gays at one time in Harlem and Anthony Mackie's character was very interesting. Worth watching at least once.
*** ½ The Critic The Critic August 12, 2012
Rodney Evans' biopic on Bruce Nugent, intercut with the modern-day struggles of a young black man, doesn't reach the satisfaction that it should. It's main flaw is that Evans merges two fascinating stories into one film, resulting in neither chief protagonists being fully explored or developed, especially since very little is known about Nugent et. al. outside of the United States. On the plus side, 'Brother to Brother' is a well-photographed piece (despite its obvious low budget) and the performances are solid, particularly from Anthony Mackie, Alex Burns and Roger Robinson. A good film - and one to be recommended - but it could've been a masterpiece.
**** Bobby L. P April 10, 2012
interesting movie about a gay mans life and what he goes through in life as a black man.
*** April N January 29, 2012
As an Anthony Mackie fan I was curious. This is a wonderful movie and educational too. Disappointed that it didn't receive a much wider distribution. Quite a few actors from the HBO series The Wire in this one!
*** ½ Ronald T August 28, 2011
Wasn't sure if I would like this movie given the subject matter, but I did. It's both a tale of a gay young man's life experience and the life of the writers of the "Fire" magazine that was published during the Harlem Renaissance. The latter was an unexpected surprise and offers an insightful look into that period. The look into the the "Fire" magazine writer's lives is the part that is most interesting and draws your attention. Unfortunately, the story of the lead character, Perry, was not developed well. You never really understood where his thoughts were during a scenes that pertained to his life. It was explained one way or another in a following scene, so you understood after the fact, but you could never get into the moment when the scene happened. This makes the movie story feel disjointed although at the end it made sense. The other half of Perry's story involved the meeting of the old Bruce Nugent one of the writers from the "Fire" magazine. This part of the story is the part that makes the movie interesting and ties in the other part of the movie regarding the writers of the "Fire" magazine.
The greatest aspects of this movie is the actors. There were a lot of great performances in this movie, but the stand outs were: Roger Robinson who played older Bruce, Duane Boutte who played younger Bruce, Aunjanue Ellis who played Zora, and Ray Ford who played Wally. Honorable mentions are: Alex Burns as Jim, Leith Burke who didn't say much but gave striking looks into the camera as Aaron, Daniel Sunjata as Langston Hughes, Anthony Mackie who played Perry and he was a good fit for the role, but as mentioned before the story of Perry wasn't developed well, so some of Anthony's acting didn't make sense until it was explained later on.
The other great aspect of this movie was the look and feel of the Harlem Renaissance scenes. The prop crew did a nice job and the filming was on point as well.
I would classify this movie as a fictional documentary. It was entertaining overall, but it borders sometimes on being a documentary...which for me is the best way to see a documentary. Ultimately, the producers of the movie want to give you an insight of life from the view of a young black gay man and his interactions with society, particularly the unique struggles that are associated with being black and gay. There are four preachy scenes, but they are short and bareable. Overall a good movie and one you will want to see by yourself, or with your best conversational friend, or book club group. Not for children due to nudity, and a graphic scene.
Maurice E July 27, 2011
We are watching this movie @ PIVOT on Fri August 5th
Michael D June 10, 2011
a little stereotypical and a little uneven but still, well-written and very educational. sadly, one of those films that could be great with a bit more money but not bad, anyway.
** ½ v h December 19, 2004
There's this young, gay, black guy named Perry who's an artist and a student at Columbia. His father kicked him out of the house when he caught him messing with a guy in his room so he's got all that to deal with, plus he's kind of struggling with his gayness anyway. He starts sleeping with the only white student in his African studies class, a long haired boy who seems to always carry around a skateboard. But when his new boyfriend compliments him on his skin and his lips, Perry somehow takes this as a personal affront and dumps him. This makes him even more morose than he was to start.
Meanwhile, Perry meets an older, gay, black guy named Bruce Nugent who lives at the homeless shelter where he works part time. Perry recognizes Nugent's name from a book of poetry he's reading. In real life, Bruce Nugent was a minor player in something called the Harlem Renaissance, the name given to a very creative period which took place for black artists and writers in New York City in the 1920's and 30's. A more recognizable poet from this period who's also depicted in this film is Langston Hughes.
The Bruce Nugent in the movie is supposed to be THE Bruce Nugent from the 20's except that the real Bruce Nugent died in 1987 and the movie appears to be set in the present. Also, the real Bruce Nugent would be close to 100 years old if he were still alive and the guy in the movie looks to be no more than 70. I spent a good deal of time trying to work this all out as I watched the film. Is the Nugent in the film supposed to be older than he looks? Is what looks like the present really the 80's? I probably thought about this much longer than the screenwriter, who seemed to just slap it all together and hope that we wouldn't notice. This sort of sloppiness drives me nuts.
So anyway, Perry and Nugent sort of hit it off and hang out a bit, being that they're both black, gay artists. Nugent often has flashbacks to the old days when he and Langston and the gang used to sit around having boring discussions about art and the importance of not selling out. In case you can't tell it's a flashback by the way the people are dressed and the jazzy background music, the director helpfully filmed all of these old scenes in black and white.
The basic gist of the movie seems to be that it's tough to be gay when you're black, because black men are even more intolerant of homosexuality than the general populace. And I guess we're supposed to recognize the parallels between young Nugent's life during the Harlem Renaissance and Perry's life now. Fascinating. (Yawn.)
Maybe I would've liked this movie better if I were gay or black or an artist. Or if I was particularly interested in the Harlem Renaissance. But as it stands, this film didn't really do much for me. I didn't find it particularly engaging or even well made. In fact, I don't think I would've liked it much even if I were a gay, black, artist. And given the fact that my dog went on an anxiety-fueled chomping jag while I was out watching it, I really wish I'd just stayed home instead.
***** Clay C November 15, 2004
Progressive, compelling, organic, groundbreaking.
Finally a film that effectively encompasses the black gay experience without excessive, trite stereotypes. Unlike the problematic [i]Punks[/i], which was full of cliches and unrealistic scenarios all for the goal of a good giggle, [i]Brother To Brother[/i] deals with black, gay issues from an intellectual, emotional and realistic point of view. All while still relaying some form of comic relief. There are no drag queens. No HIV/AIDS stories. No "coming out" of the closet stories.
The acting is nearly flawless especially by the lead, Anthony Mackie, who delivers a real as rain performance evoking the isolation that can happen when you are black and gay from the black community and even the gay/white community. The other characters seemed to have a chemistry that oozed onto the screen, which you see most strongly during the Harlem Renaissance scenes. These scenes touched on areas of the Harlem Renaissance that I did not even know existed - I have done extensive research so it was good to not only be entertained but educated. My only mild critique is how these black men are lusting for all these white men. It would have been nice to see at least one scene with two black men together (despite the porn) instead of solely black and white men.
Rodney Evans moves his cast and the screenplay to bounds that have never been touched before in American cinema. These images, stories are unsung voices that need to be heard - similar to the voices of the Harlem Renaissance. I truly hope that [i]Brother To Brother[/i] gets the promotion and accolades it deserves. Congratulations to all who worked on this groundbreaking film!