Saturday, October 5, 2019

Movie Reviews: The Day Shall Come

The Day Shall Come
directed by Chris Morris
After 9-11, or even before 9-11,  some people arrested and convicted of conspiracy or terrorism charges were either people guilty of much lesser crimes or were enticed, directed, financed and even ordered into criminal behavior by law enforcement, usually the FBI. 

More ominously the FBI, often with the assistance of local police departments, set up certain people to be murdered, rather than stand trial on flimsy or non-existent charges. People who are engaged in political activity that the government doesn't like can frequently find themselves in serious trouble. 

For the past six hundred years or so Europe has had more effective technology, especially military, than the rest of the world, particularly Africa and the New World. And to put it mildly, armed with superior technology, Europeans didn't treat their fellow humans with kindness and decency. The distance between European technology and that employed by certain non-European nations has shrunk and even reversed in some areas but most observers would note that Africa and the African diaspora are often still lagging behind. Why this is and what can or should be done about it is a book, not a blog post, and certainly not this movie review. But to understand this film's characters you should be aware of that history. 

There are many religiously minded Black people who believe in a past glorious period before white supremacy, want to minimize the impact of white supremacy in their current life, and have future plans to eliminate racism in toto. Whether they be Hebrew Israelites, Muslims, MOVE members, Five Percenters, or what have you, these groups are often targeted by the federal government.

The Day Shall Come is a satirical black comedy that investigates what happens when a hapless Black Nationalist/Hebrew Israelite leader gets roped into FBI sting operations.

Moses Al Shabazz (Marchant Davis) wants to build a safe place for his family and for underprivileged Black people. Moses wants a farm that can produce clean organic food for the masses. Unfortunately Moses lives in urban Miami, in a place not conducive to farming, even on the microlevel he and his wife are attempting. Moses' magical thinking prevents wise decisions. Moses thinks that he can stop the construction of new apartments by telepathically destroying the cranes. He practices every night. Moses eschews guns in favor of (toy) crossbows. Moses believes God spoke to him through a duck. Moses thinks that his airhorn will summon back the dinosaurs to fight for Black people in their time of greatest need.

Moses is pretty clearly a few fries short of a happy meal. But he fiercely and unabashedly loves his wife and daughter. The Al Shabazz family and their handful of followers are about to be evicted. The landlord doesn't want to be paid in eggs again; banks see no point in loaning money to someone who thinks double-entry accounting is the white man's tool.

FBI Agent Kendra Glack (Anna Kendrick) is low woman on the totem pole at the local FBI office. Kendra is eager to get promoted and get away from the clueless condescension of her boss or the sexualized hostility of her co-workers. 

Kendra has watched a few of Moses' speeches on Facebook. Kendra thinks that Moses might be just the person to loop into committing a crime that will get her promoted, get commendations for her boss, and/or get budget increases for the local office. And if she has to use a pedophile informant to do this, then that is what she will do.

This comedy has its moments but isn't as funny as it thinks it is. I think the writers probably needed some greater familiarity with the culture that they're satirizing. They get the passive aggressive nature of bureaucracy down, from what I could tell but they didn't get the interpretation of the Hebrew Israelites quite right. The characters evoke pathos but the viewer never sees or understands any of the everyday racism that many Black people experience. Without that I think there is a risk of viewers too often laughing at Moses and company instead of at least occasionally laughing with them. The writers and director had certain political points they wanted to make and didn't bother to build strong characters. 

However Davis was very well cast. He does as much with screen presence, eye movement and facial expressions as he does with his dialogue.  Even though I thought this movie was a miss, Davis is someone to look out for in the future. His role was the only one which wasn't flat.
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