Release Date: August 26, 2016
Directors: Richard Tanne
Writer: Richard Tanne
Cast: Tika Sumpter, Parker Sawyers, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Phillip Edward Van Lear, Taylar Fondren, Deanna Reed-Foster, Jerod Haynes, Gabrille Lott-Rogers, Preston Tate Jr., Donn C. Harper, Tom McElroy, Stephanie Monday, Eric Morgan Stuart, Deborah Geffner, Donald Paul
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 84 minutes
Production Company: Get Lifted Film Company, IM Global, Miramax
Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance
Budget: $1,500,000 (estimated)
First, if you have not seen Southside with You yet and have not purchased your ticket to see it, purchase it now! This was such a beautiful film, and it was much more than I expected! I expected to see a sweet, romantic film about our President and First Lady’s very first date. But it was so much more!
The film was definitely about a young, confident Barack wooing a well-put together, follow the rules (including not dating the summer associate you are advising at your law firm) Michelle! And the story was unveiled so beautifully, I felt in one sense like I was on the first date with them and in the other sense a strong desire to go on my own first date just to feel what the couple was emoting from the screen! The music was used perfectly to set the tone of each scene. Not surprising with John Legend as an executive producer. Can I take a moment to thank John Legend for Underground and Black Wall Street (a new series in the works on the story of “Black Wall Street”)? And of course, I must thank and shout out the writer, director, and one of the producers of the film, Richard Tanne.
Tika Sumpter (The Haves and Have Nots, Ride Along), who is also a part of Black Wall Street, did a superb job as a young Michelle Robinson. Sumpter is also one of the film’s producers. And the moment Parker Sawyers (Zero Dark Thirty) came on the screen and spoke his first words, he was Barack Obama! They were everything I expected and wanted to see in the portrayal of both POTUS and FLOTUS and Black love!
And as if that was not enough, especially in the short 84 minute runtime, the film managed to delve into double consciousness, the struggle between choosing a corporate path and a path you feel truly called to pursue (something many millennials are sure to relate to), being an outsider, giving back to and being a part of the community, and context and background to President Obama’s childhood.
But what I loved most about the film was how it included all of the aforementioned things, while still finding time to immerse the audience in Black culture. From the art exhibit they visit showcasing work by Ernie Barnes (which is later also showcased during the end credits), to Barack sharing with Michelle, and in essence the audience, the history of Barnes’ work and how it relates to the show Good Times. In the same setting at the museum, we see the couple share a moment where one of Barnes’ pieces reminds them of a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks. And then Barack proceeds to recite the poem, We Real Cool, again not just to Michelle but to the audience. There’s a scene with African drumming. In a later scene at the bar they go back and forth on Stevie Wonder’s greatest album. And in the next part of their date they go to see Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, with the scene opening up during the scene where the police kill Radio Raheem. How timely, including their encounter and brief discussion about the film with the older, White partner from the law firm and his wife outside of the theater immediately following both couples watching the film!
The film was so well done! I’m not ashamed to admit that I was even brought to tears more than a few times during the film. At times it would be from Barack sharing stories about his childhood, other times it would be from how closely I related to the question posed about whether one is doing enough for the community and/or fully living out their true passion. At times it was tears of pride in knowing who this young, amazing couple would become. It was an exceptional film!
There should have been more than five people in the theater with me! I am quick to say support a Black film, and this is no exception. We must tell Hollywood we want to see more of this! More of this representation of Black love, of Black young professionals and the related issues they face, of Black culture appreciation, of Black role models and where they started! And we can only tell Hollywood this through the box office. So again, if you have not seen Southside with You yet and have not purchased your ticket to see it, purchase it now!
Black Media Review Collective: