Synopsis: After serving eight years in prison, reformed gang leader S. Lance Ingram (DANIEL BEATY) re-enters society and struggles to adapt to a changed Harlem. Living under the tough supervision of a parole officer in a halfway house, he is unable to find a job that will let him use the technological skills he gained in prison. Lance is forced to take a job delivering for a food pantry where he befriends Ms. Maddy (LORETTA DEVINE), a strong and spirited grandmother, and assumes responsibility for her 15-year- old grandson Ty, a promising student who is pulled into a dangerous street gang. When gang members decide to punish Ty for disobeying the “law of the streets,” Lance risks sacrificing his “second chance” at freedom so that Ty can have a “first chance” at a better life.
Writer/Director Jamal Jospeh’s Chapter & Verse: A Harlem Story will be released on February 3 at MIST Harlem, and it is a film to witness. Tragedies are often portrayed in cinema for their bigness because one, dark instant can change all the light of your world. Yet, Chapter & Verse reveals that tragedies are more painful because of how common and casual they can be.
The eeriness of Chapter & Verse is that every lead character you meet, for however good they are, is confronting the darkness of humanity. From gangs, the easiness of being incarcerated, and cancer, you want to hold S. Lance Ingram as he is reintroduced into a world divided by the laughs it can give you but also the pain. Daniel Beaty plays Sir Lance with a quietness that could be confused for brooding, but is actually intelligent observance. Lance is well-aware of how easily he could be thrown in jail as a black man, especially because he was just released. That tension is never gone from the film, and, as you grow to love and discover the layers of Lance as a human being, you feel disappointed from your own perception that his time of freedom is limited. His relationship with Loretta Devine’s Maddy comes as the heart of the film. These are two people that have seen the worst side of humanity, from illness to violence, and yet they want to live. This kind of resilience makes Beatty’s performance .and Devine’s, the ones to watch in the film because they are symbols of how to keep an empowered spirit over powerless situations. Yet, they are not the only performances that teach virtuous lessons.
Khadim Diop as Ty shows the lostness of disenfranchised youth. Struggles with race, class, and violence causes Ty’s brilliance, like Sir Lance’s talents, to run the risk of being extinguished forever. In some ways, these two characters are reflective of what happens when a young black man’s light is socially deemed too dim to shine in this world. While Ty is circled for recruitment into a gang, Lance is willing to sacrifice himself to save this young kid from sharing a similar fate: incarceration. His eagerness to protect Ty moves audiences to understand that jail is no vacation; thus, why is tossed upon black communities like a giveaway? Ty’s own absorption of Lance’s care is also moving, and, when it is lost, you feel his pain. Yet, there are characters like Omari Hardwick as Jomo and Selenis Leyva as Yolanda, who manage to keep a lightheartedness to Chapter & Verse through their humor and charm. Their interactions with characters helps to keep some airiness in a film that could become cloudy in its dark subject matter.
When you are surrounded by challenges both brewing and staying, how do you keep a smile on your face? Jamal Joseph has made a film that displays that love and friendship between people is what helps a person supercede the cruelty of others. No matter how threatened these characters are, with losing their life and liberty, they manage to keep love as a foundation to keep them going. Go See Chapter & Verse at MIST Harlem On February 3 and in the locations below on February 10. For More Information on the film Click Here.
AMC Empire 25 (2/10)
Cinemark 18, Promenade at Howard Hughes Center
AMC River East 21
AMC 24 South Lake