If one anticipates the declassification of the FBI reports on MLK, are we then complicit in the invasion of his privacy and the attempt to racially stereotype him? This film insists that what the FBI did to King is emblematic of what this country does when it fears those who might undermine its entrenched hierarchies.
Night of the Kings is a testament to a more inclusive future: actors are sourced not only from Abidjan but also from France and Burkina Faso, and the director pointedly serves us up a medley of western art touchstones and West-African traditions.
It comes as a relief that Francis Lee is not a punishing filmmaker. We are not made to observe Mary living out these well-documented instances of discovery and loss onscreen. Nor are we inclined to reduce her life to a quest for notoriety, foiled by Victorian paternalism.
Fire Will Come, with its single location and small cast, is a more focused work than Mimosas, but maintains a similar sense of possibility as the earlier film, of things unknowable to the viewer. What’s really important may be happening somewhere outside of the frame.
In adapting London’s novel, Marcello and his screenwriting partner Maurizio Braucci have transposed Eden’s story from turn-of-the-century Oakland to the coast of Naples, but they’ve also left the question of when intentionally unresolved, indeterminate.
The new Jia documentary may not have the aesthetic boldness of his best work, but it illuminates the proximity of fiction and nonfiction in his oeuvre and doubles as something of a directorial mission statement, highlighting the role of the artist in writing and preserving history.