*Regina King’s debut feature film as a director, “One Night in Miami,” is riveting.
Not only is it an outstanding display of filmmaking and creativity, but an awesome show of courage and balls.
She did not choose to make a quick buck with pole dancers for the salacious and lascivious crowd.
Nor did she feel the need of another themed “Godfather of Harlem,” type or drug narrative with soft porn. The warrior King (“Watchmen,” HBO) revisits one night in Miami when four prestigious, legendary men (Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Sam Cooke, Jim Brown) celebrated Clay’s win in a hotel room. Based on real events, King’s tour de force envisions what went on in that room.
Although the conversations were humorous at times in that room, there were moments when they became very heated. After reading Alex Haley’s “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” I became a great admirer of Malcolm. One of the important things, among the many, he proclaimed was to go into a closet and work out differences. Then come out in a united front. I’m quite sure that’s why Malcolm invited them all back to his hotel.
The screenplay written by Kemp Powers is based on his award-winning play, “One Night In Miami.” Powers says he became obsessed with learning everything he could about these four men and imagined the intense conversation the four trailblazers might have had about the issues facing artists and athletes of color.
“One Night in Miami” is apropos to the times. With the level of systemic racism permeating just about every fabric of Americana, it is incomprehensible that almost 20% of spineless black males voted for Trump. “One Night in Miami” is definitely a film the likes of Kanye West, Ice Cube, 50 Cent, Lil Pump, and Lil Wayne–who endorsed Trump—should see.
As a critics’ group member, I was invited to meet with Kingsley Ben-Adir (Malcolm X), Eli Goree (Clay), Aldis Hodge (Brown), Leslie Odom, Jr. (Cooke), and Kemp for a virtual moderated discussion.
Kemp, what did that February 25, 1964 night mean to you?
KEMP POWERS: I’ve always viewed these four men as a nascent black power movement. The Jim Brown scene in ‘One Night in Miami’ shows this belief amongst some people that the most exemplary black man is still lower than the least exemplary white man. I wanted to really have that show up in the script. I think the way Regina staged and executed that scene, viewers will have a gut wrenching reaction, the same exact feeling Jim felt at that moment.
Kingsley, Kemp said he was in awe of your performance because you were cast only two weeks before shooting. What was that like for you?
KINGSLEY BEN-ADIR: It was such a whirlwind and so intense, it’s hard to remember what the preparation for Malcolm was like. He is such a hero on so many levels. He’s fearless and an incredible human being who put his life on the line for black people. I understood early on, just from the brilliance of the writing, and Regina’s incredible direction I would be able to be fon point.
Leslie, what was the banter like between you Kingsley?
LESLIE ODOM, JR.: It was fierce but we had a brilliant road map from Kemp. I did at one time call him and say, ‘I don’t have what I need right here because Malcolm has been coming at me for four pages, and tomorrow I have to respond to him. Kemp came back with something better and richer, upping the ante.
It’s been fifty-seven years since that night in Miami. How relevant is ‘One Night in Miami’ today?
ALDIS HODGE: It’s all relevant. They’re fighting to be acknowledged, respected. They’re not asking anyone’s permission. it’s still the same conversation a lot of us are having today. This is not something new. I don’t think racism has ever dissolved. I think it’s only graduated to what people deem to be culturally appropriate.
FUN FACT: Leslie Odom, Jr. and Aldis Hodge appeared in “Supernatural.” Hodge has the distinction of killing the lead character, Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki).
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