Review: A Letter to Black Men

Written and directed by Kiosa Sukami, Kevin succumbs to a life of crime after the loss of his father. On the day of Kevin’s initiation, Black is released from prison and attempts to rekindle the relationship with Kevin and his sister turned legal guardian, Kelsie, proving himself as a dependable father-figure to Kevin. Starring: Jesse Lihau, Baba Oyejide, Lynsey Murrell, Ashley Durant, Iain Gordon, Dejon Weston and Trinity Benjamin.

You can feel the message that this film is trying to get across right from the start. It dedicates itself to creating a voice of motivation for Black men to not get trapped in a cycle of social and racial injustice and to find their individual way out. Pushing the vital point that a community doesn’t get trapped into becoming purely statistics and mentions in crime articles. It’s a very worthy cause to tackle and it approaches it in a way that’s sensitive to not scandalise the violence but at the same time, it’s perhaps over sanitized. It’s trying a little too hard to be objective and give you a certain perspective rather than just handing you the story and letting you interpret it on your own.

Part of that struggle is the commercial edge to the narration and direction, its opening feels as though you’re being taken through a charity advert rather than going into a short film. Unfortunately the message has bled too far into the style, which obscures the final product. It’s a shame as the quality itself is good, particularly the cinematography from Miguel Carmenes. There’s a great texture to the visual and it feels much more accessible in its view of Britain rather than truly being tied down to one area. The progression works well and adds a smart touch to the story, you may know mostly where it’s going but it still feels original. It feels as though Kiosa Sukami is going for a more philosophical edge, to open a larger discussion.

Jesse Lihau proves himself an up and coming talent as Kevin, it’s a heavy topic to handle in a short format and he does well to do justice to the emotions of the story. He gives the classically young, reckless and over-confident vibes but does let us see the layers that hide beneath. The secret desire for something more, the trauma and pull of the path of least resistance, in this case crime. Baba Oyejide gives us a guiding light for that new path, redemption and enhanced perspective. He creates a welcoming, strong and thoughtful presence. Ashley Durant shows us the other junction to Kevin’s path, providing the niggling influence to push him towards crime with their friendship.

A Letter to Black Men has wonderful intentions but can’t quite establish the emotions to back it up. The style leans towards the commercial so while the quality is there and the aesthetic is solid, it’s unfortunately being held back. The cast are a strong combination, led by Jesse Lihau and Baba Oyejide, exploring the potential to create a better path for yourself. It has a great message and asks the right questions but needed to let its story speak for itself rather than trying too hard to lead the audience to the destination they’re looking for.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ | 6/10

Nominated for Best UK Short at Raindance Film Festival 2022

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