birdy (alan parker, 1984)
revisiting the 9s: red cliff (john woo, 2008)

geezer cinema/african-american directors series: the inspection (elegance bratton, 2022)

This is the eleventh film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2023-24", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 9th annual challenge, and my fifth time participating (previous years can be found at "2019-20", "2020-21", "2021-22", and "2022-23"). Week 11 is called "Hidden Indies: levelFilm Week":

These days, indie distributors are a dime a dozen. Some manage to make their names widely known, as in A24 or Neon, but most are content to operate under the radar, releasing lesser-known films that typically don't find their way in front of wider audiences or generate large amounts of buzz. Our focus this week is on one of them. levelFILM (founded in Toronto in 2013) focuses primarily (but not exclusively) on Canadian films, and a quick look at the over 300 titles in the company's filmography reveals a full range of genres and a notable surfeit of quality.

This week, let's avail ourselves of an offering from one of the hidden indies and seek out a film distributed by levelFILM.

The Inspection is the debut feature for writer/director Elegance Bratton, who had previous worked on documentaries. The story, about a gay black man who enlists in the Marine Corps, is "inspired" by Bratton's own life. Bratton's experiences were much like the movie character "Ellis French" ... thrown out of his home as a teenager by a homophobic mother, Bratton/French was homeless for many years before joining the Marines. It's assumed that what we see in the movie is true to life, if not in exact details, then in general. Bratton is successful at letting the audience understand what French is going through, helped immensely by the performance of Jeremy Pope (Jackie Wilson in One Night in Miami).

The movie is heartfelt, with a story that begged to be told. But it's presented in a fairly standard way. Bokeem Woodbine is the Drill Instructor, and he's excellent, but mostly he'll remind you of all the other movie D.I.s you've seen. Bratton gives us something like a happy ending ... French makes it through boot camp and begins work as a cameraman. But French never reconciles with his mother, and that gives the happy ending an edge that bites. The Inspection is a solid debut, suggesting we will be seeing more from Elegance Bratton.


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