Black – ***

Posted: November 22, 2015 in 2015, Belgium, Drama, Flanders, Gangster Movie, Romance, Social Drama, Thriller, XXX

A few weeks ago, things looked great for Black, a Flemish movie set in Brussels focussing on the ‘forbidden’ love between a petty thief of moroccan descent and a girl from african descent who belongs to a rival gang.

The movies has won a prestigious award already (in Toronto), the title song (an Amy Winehouse cover) scores well and both directors have excellent marketing skills, appearing in all kinds of media promoting their second feature movie as the ‘dope shit of the century’.

But things have changed since its release. Several cinemas refuse to screen the movie because of its violent nature. And because of incidents that occurred during its premiere. (the movie is rated +16, which led to riots between younger kids trying to see the movie and security/police). Last weekend’s Paris attacks and this weekend’s Brussels lockdown don’t help either. And that’s sad, because the movie is worth the hype.

The story is based on a Flemish young adult novel (which is read by kids younger than 16) and focuses on the relationship between two kids who ultimately are just young kids in love, but who somehow have ended up with the wrong posse. Marwan, the petty thief, belongs to a small group of hotheads living in (the currently notorious) Molenbeek. Mavela, the African girl, hangs out with the gang of her cousin called the Black Bronx, a much more violent drug dealing group. It’s very clear from the beginning: this relationship is NOT going to end well.

This really is a great movie. Especially the audiovisual aspect is praiseworthy. The photography is meticulous. The soundtrack efficient. Some scenes are incredibly well done. The editing is flawless as well. But Black isn’t a masterpiece, because the brilliance isn’t consistent. Martha Canga Antonio and Aboubakr Bensaihi excel as the lead characters and do an impressive job, but they are not experienced actors. This has a certain charm, because their inexperience makes you believe what they are going through. But it somehow feels like they could have been award winning good if directors El Arbi and Fallah would have focused more on that aspect.

The acting, the character development, the storytelling, the dialogue, the critique, the humor: it’s all there. But it’s inconsistent. Some of it is brilliant and some of it is not. Not all actors perform well. Not all characters are believable. Not all critique is to the point (although some of it is dead on right). Not all jokes are funny.

However, from start to finish: this movie had me captivated.


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