Night Catches Us at the House of Maysles

Director and screenwriter Tanya Hamilton is someone you should make note of. You could be saying years from now, “Yeah, I’ve seen every film she’s made. I’ve known about her work from the beginning.” This claim would let others know that A. you know your shit and B. (more importantly) you’ve been able to experience a film master, master her craft.

A. Maysles, J. Joseph, and T. Hamilton at Maysles Cinema. C. Nelson, 2011.

With cinema vérité master Albert Maysles filming, those of us who packed the Maysles Cinema last night experienced Night Catches Us, a film by Tanya Hamilton, as well as a post-screening Q&A with Hamilton and Jamal Joseph, Associate Professor and Chair at Columbia University School of the Arts (Film), writer, director, poet, and one of the youngest members of the Black Panther Party. Added to that were audience members who were also Panthers, contributing to the heart-felt and hard-hitting discussion about making film that is more art than entertainment and what it was like to be a member of the Black Panthers in the heat of it.

Night Catches Us, set is 1976 Philadelphia, delves into the lives of several Black Panther members, post “war”, and their struggle to remake their lives, professionally and personally. This film brilliantly exposes our universal sense of loss with the American need/ability to reinvent oneself. Thankfully, the film is rooted with a sense of beauty, intelligence, and emotional insight that makes us ready to confront the inner disquiet. Oh yeah, The Roots provide the gorgeous soundtrack…pass the popcorn.

In this year of revolution, the film also makes us think about the possibility within our own country, of our own economic and social revolution…started by many before us, which has yet to be fully realized.

And, go to the Maysles Cinema. It’s a great place for some revolutionary inspiration.

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