Friday Film Review--"Residue"
An indie film, honored at last winter’s Slamdance Film Festival, made its way to Europe, then Netflix. Now it’s Libby’s Wadman’s focus for this week’s Friday Film Review.
First time feature writer and director Merawi Gerima’s film, “Residue”, was the audience award winner at the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival and was screened at this year’s Venice Film Festival.
“Residue” is the quasi autobiographical story of Gerima told through the eyes of Jay, a young filmmaker, who returns home to his Washington D. C. neighborhood, after living for some time in Los Angeles. What he finds is the quintessential you can’t go home again; former friends and neighbors who have moved away or disappeared, a neighborhood undergoing gentrification, and perhaps hardest of all for Jay to understand and accept, a change of attitude on the part of the old-time residents especially towards him. It is the story of the layers of residue left by circumstance and decisions, impactful to some, ignored by others.
As director, Gerima wanted to create a film that was totally authentic. With this in mind, many of the actors are locals, so that they are a true part of the neighborhood right down to the D.C. accent. His decision to run the title of the film only at the end credits, demonstrates his ability to create subtle, but powerful artistry.
Obinna Nwachukwu, as Jay, fully embodies the disappointment of someone full of the anticipation and excitement of returning home to the friends and family not seen for some time, only to be hit with the realization that that reality no longer exists. He and his fellow cast provide an incredible set of raw and emotional performances reflecting their world with all of its flaws, hardships and strengths.
Along with the remarkable directing and acting, is the cinematography. Rough shooting mixed with some smoother shots reflects the different components of the neighborhood. People are seen at odd angles and often with no head shots. This was done as the unfortunate result of only a few white actors being willing to go to the shooting location, so they had to fill multiple roles. In a way, this was fortunate, as the end result adds to the idea that the whites moving into the neighborhood are on a different level from the locals and do not see the people whose neighborhood they are taking.
“Residue” is a film that needs to be seen by all, especially by those who would be likely to ignore it. It is a multi-level lesson on the effect of different opportunities, the impact of gentrification and the daily horrors some people are forced to live with, and others can’t even begin to fathom. To say “Residue” is an eye opener is an understatement. Possibly, the most important residue of this film is its impact on the viewer’s thoughts and perhaps actions long after the film is over.
“Residue” is a compelling, but hard watch. It is, however, the most valuable 1 hour and 30 minutes one could spend watching a movie. It is not rated and is now streaming for free on Netflix.
This is Libby Wadman with the Friday Film Review, reminding you that film is always fun and fascinating.