What movies are you watching for the holidays? Most people are more likely to think along the lines of movie classics like It’s a Wonderful Life (1947) or the more modern The Preacher’s Wife (1996) and megastar Jim Carrey’s forthcoming Walt Disney blockbuster, A Christmas Carol when it comes to considering films to enjoy with one’s family during the holidays.
However, a number of films do a very good job at representing and reinforcing those values celebrated during the holiday season while not necessarily focusing on Santa Claus squeezing down a chimney or a roasted turkey and sweet potato pies.
The holidays in general tend to center around strengthening such universal values as positive cultural and spiritual traditions, friendships, love, loyalty, and much-needed shots at second chances. Three movies that embody these themes in entertaining and emotionally moving ways, but are not part of the holiday film genre, are: Sylvain White’s Stomp the Yard, Jordan Walker-Pearlman’s Constellation, and Gavin Hood’s Tsotsi.
Constellations of Love and Pain
It is interesting to note that the movie Constellation was first screened in 2005, just after the Academy Award-winning Crash. And like Crash, it provides a penetrating look into how race relations have influenced the American character. But unlike Crash, it gives much more credit to the role that love has played in developing that character.
Director-writer Jordan Walker-Pearlman opens his film with a quote from Jeffery Seaver in which the author observes that between love and death, "Love is more powerful and lasts longer." The film attempts to prove that point by tracing the history of an interracial relationship and its painfully mixed impact upon the lives of the couple involved as well as their family and friends. It stars veteran actor Billie Dee Williams, Lesley Ann Warren, Rae Dawn Chong, Clarence Williams III, Hill Harper, and Zoe Saldana.
Relationship is a key word for this movie, as it tends to be during the holidays, because the "Constellation" referred to by the title more than anything else is indeed a constellation, or a grouping, of deeply intimate interactions. Relationships between lovers, between brothers and sisters, between friends, between Blacks and Whites, and between the past and the present.
Walker-Pearlman weaves these relationships together and explores their human depths with sheer mastery set to a mesmerizing score of America’s classical music forms, including jazz, gospel, American classic, folk, and rap. In his vision of America, specifically the U.S., racial antagonism comprises only a fraction of what has bound Blacks and Whites together. They have also been bound by shared culture, history, tragedies, triumphs, and blood.
Please click here for Part 2 of Three Great Movies to Tag for Holiday Viewing