How does someone get through generational trauma?
This is the question at the heart of Titus Kaphar's feature film debut, Exhibiting Forgiveness. Kaphar writes and directs an intimate portrait of the healing power of art, and how it can be used to work through some of our darkest moments.
Tarrell (André Holland) has built a great life for his family, well with the help of his wife Aisha (Andra Day). Working as a celebrated artist, while Aisha is a songwriter/singer, its clear that they've built a house of art. Not only a house of art, but one full of love. Their young son Tre (Daniel Michael Barriere) is as free spirited, adorable, and loved as anyone would love to see for a small child. But this life goes into turmoil as Tarrell's estranged father La'Ron (John Earl Jelks) returns.
The ghost of La'Ron's actions haunt Tarrell in the form of violent night terrors. Forcing Tarrell to wake up gasping for air, knocking things off shelves, and terrifying Aisha and Tre. As we begin to see through numerous flashbacks, what La'Ron did during Tarrell's youth, we begin to see a better picture of where his trauma stems from. Painting beautiful, pastel colored scenes, it's clear that Tarrell tries to work through these emotions through his art. As much as Aisha wants him to see a doctor on his sleeping patterns, Tarrell retires to his studio to create some wonderfully vivid paintings. Imbuing every aspect of his life, into the canvas.
While Exhibiting Forgiveness does a great job showcasing how Tarrell's painting is an outlet for his sadness or anger, it also pushes you further. Art and solitude can only get you so far. Tarrell's mother Joyce (Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor) urges him to forgive his father La'Ron, for how can he possibly forgive himself if he can't forgive others? Although Kaphar's script is a bit heavy handed in its thematic push of forgiveness, often forcing each major piece of dialogue between Tarrell and his parents to exude forgiveness, it still plays out quite well. Reliance on faith and the Bible are consistent throughout the film, but can also be a bit of a crutch in the writing. Moreover on the heavy-handedness of the script, Aisha's song in the film definitely contributes to the palpable overtone of forgiveness but Day's voice is gorgeous and I loved seeing her range coming off of The United States v. Billie Holiday.
For a feature film debut though, Kaphar does an incredible job articulating the emotional journey of Tarrell and his family. He has a savviness to his direction that is impressive to see so early in his filmmaking career. Framing and composing scenes that have significant emotional impact, such as having a pillar in the basement scene of Tarrell and La'Ron be in the foreground between the two is a simple example of strong artistic vision.
Not to mention, Holland turns in a phenomenal performance. I loved his small yet powerful role in Moonlight and have been waiting for him to reappear in something with a little more magnitude. Kaphar gives him some fantastic moments with emotionally charged dialogue he delivers with a sensitive ferocity that's amazing to watch unfold. His reactions to a predominantly white audience at his art exhibit, a potent metaphor on white people commenting on black art, is well done and incredibly honest. Overall, Kaphar's debut is a wonderful piece of work. Holland's lead role anchors the heart of the film while Kaphar's steady writing and direction, albeit not without its flaws, serve to establish a thematically sound and emotionally touching film on the healing power of art, and forgiveness.
One of my favorites of the festival deserves one of my favorite beers from Park City! Close by the Holiday Village theaters where I spent most of my time in and out of screenings, sits Offset Bier. Little did I know that this small brewery packed a delicious punch! The first beer I had there was a single hop Pale Ale called Nectaron, named after the New Zealand hop it's brewed with. I'm a little annoyed that I started with such an amazing beer because I figured there was no way they could up the ante with whatever I ordered next. But that's for another article...
Anyway, the Nectaron is a fantastic concoction of passionfruit, peach, and tropical tastes with a medium to light body that goes down with complete ease. It's clean, hoppy, and outrageously delicious with its pure Nectaron hopping. The singular focus of Exhibiting Forgiveness, while a little obvious, is a perfect companion for a single hopped beer. Titus Kaphar's emotionally intelligent and socially poignant film is simple, yet complex, much like the variety of flavors and aromas you get from a single hopped beer.
I noticed this brewery the first day of Sundance and was heartbroken when it wasn't open. But I made it my mission to get in here and try some of their beer, and boy am I happy I did. The Nectaron was a fantastic start and I am thoroughly impressed with Offset Bier's work and can't wait to share more of their offerings with you!