‘One Night in Miami’ and ‘Sylvie’s Love’ two great films available at CIFF and on December 25

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By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.

One Night in Miami

The feature film debut of award-winning actress Regina King is screening through the 56th Chicago International Film Festival and will also be released in theatres on December 25. “One Night in Miami” will also be available on Amazon Prime on January 15.

On one incredible night in 1964, four icons of sports, music, and activism gathered to celebrate one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. When underdog Cassius Clay, soon to be called Muhammad Ali, (Eli Goree), defeats heavy weight champion Sonny Liston at the Miami Convention Hall, Clay memorialized the event with three of his friends: Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge). Based on the award-winning play of the same name, and directed by Regina King, “One Night In Miami” is a fictional account inspired by the historic night these four formidable figures spent together. It looks at the struggles these men faced and the vital role they each played in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval of the 1960s. More than 40 years later, their conversations on racial injustice, religion, and personal responsibility still resonate.

A SCENE FROM ‘One Night In Miami.’ Four civil rights activists, including Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Sam Cooke and Malcolm X, come to enlightened perspectives during a night in Miami—not long before two of them would, unfortunately, no longer be with us.

I was delighted to be able to watch this film as part of the Crusader’s coverage of the Chicago International Film Festival. The issues that were raised in what I view as a “Come to Jesus meeting” between these four civil rights icons are truly relevant today. Cooke, Ali, Brown and Malcolm X were icons, in that the film shows them at pivotal times in their careers—pivots that contributed much to the advancement of Blacks in the early 60s and beyond.

As Cooke notes in the film, “Everybody says they want a piece of the pie. I don’t. I want the goddam recipe.” For info about viewing “One Night in Miami” during CIFF’s presentation at the ChiTown Drive In movies, 2343 S. Throop St., on October 23, visit https://www.chicagofilmfestival.com/digifilm/one-night-in-miami/.

Take a look at the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TO3gp3j8_4&feature=youtu.be.

Sylvie’s Love

In Sylvie’s Love, the Jazz is smooth and the air sultry in the hot New York summer of 1957. Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha), a saxophonist, spends late nights playing behind a less talented but well-known bandleader, as member of a Jazz quartet. Sylvie (Tessa Thompson), who dreams of a career in television, spends her summer days helping around her father’s record store, as she waits for her fiancé to return from war.

When Robert takes a part-time job at the record store, the two begin a friendship that sparks a deep passion in each of them unlike anything they have felt before. As the summer winds down, life takes them in different directions, bringing their relationship to an end. Years pass, Sylvie’s career as a TV producer blossoms, while Robert has to come to terms with what the age of Motown is doing to the popularity of Jazz.

TESSA THOMPSON PLAYS Sylvie, an inquisitive but sheltered and privileged young lady, along with aspiring Jazz musician Robert, in the Harlem love story ‘Sylvie’s Live.’

In a chance meeting, Sylvie and Robert cross paths again, only to find that while their lives have changed, their feelings for each other remain the same. Writer/director Eugene Ashe combines romance and music into a sweeping story that brings together changing times, a changing culture, and the true price of love.

This is a classic love story, but it makes for better viewing because it is set in 1960s Harlem, permeating with Black culture and promise. I enjoyed the story, although at times it seemed formulaic. However, the time period, premise and great soundtrack are enough to offer hope for the love-starved out there.

The film will be released on Amazon Prime Video on December 25.

For information about virtual screening during CIFF, visit https://www.chicagofilmfestival.com/digifilm/sylvies-love/.

Take a look at the trailer: https://tinyurl.com/yywhvgbs.

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