If you didn’t see “Kings of the Evening” at this year’s Pan African Film Festival then you missed an opportunity to celebrate the human spirit and the black man. Currently the film is making the rounds at film festivals nationwide, garnering awards and lots of attention because of its very different subject matter, and the obvious passion that went into making this film that is based on true events.
“Kings of the Evening” tell the story five people who become friends while living in a small southern town during the depression. They all reside in a boarding house run by a woman known as Gracie (Lynn Whitfield) who although times are rough doesn’t hesitate in lending a helping hand. There’s Clarence (Glynn Turman) always broke and broken, the ex-convict with a gentle nature Homer Hobbs (Tyson Beckford), Lucy (Linara Washington) whose dark secret could destroy them all and Benny (Dorsey) a street hustler always dreaming of being someplace else.
Life is hard, work, when there is work is backbreaking, but on Sunday nights the little community turns out to see who will be crowned King of the Evening. Men put on their finest fashions and with great style and the pride of a peacock ‘strut their stuff’ to see who will be crowned king for the evening. More than a title, the men are given respect, and walk tall. And it doesn’t hurt to win first prize which could be a chicken or a big can of peaches.
Reginald T. Dorsey was not only a featured player in the film; he was also one of the producers. However, he wasn’t a part of the original production plans, he came late to the table but he brought his own place setting and utensils. There was something about this film that moved Dorsey to the point of telling the filmmakers he intended to do more than simply play the role of a character. He was so convincing that the filmmakers entered into a partnership with Dorsey and he came aboard as a producer.
“I’m not a doctor, I’m not a lawyer but I feel like what I do as a filmmaker has a significant impact not only on my culture, the African American culture, but also on the world,” says Dorsey. With that as his core belief Dorsey is very selective when it comes to film and television projects. So much so, he made the decision to work behind the camera rather than in front of the camera for the past seven years.
Movies such as “The Great Debaters” are high on Dorsey’s list as films that impart black history, and culture. About some black films he says “Let them be culturally respectful and dignified in a way that these kids can at least be inspired.”
“Kings of the Evening” whose storyline is based on an African proverb offer filmgoers an opportunity to look into the lives of people who put aside their problems to help one another.
The acting is so superb from the stellar cast that you’re drawn into the story before you know it.
It speaks of dreams, determination, danger and love. It’s no wonder Dorsey chose this film to return in front of the camera.
Dorsey spoke of his journey to get “Kings of the Evening” made; “Every move that I made, I was told that it would never happen. And the saddest thing about it is that I was told that by my own people.” He continues, “I’m making a film that dignifies African American men in cinema and in life, and I can’t even get black production companies to read the script.”
But Dorsey persevered, something his 36 years in the business taught him saying he didn’t last this long in the business by accident. He says, “I know how to make movies,
I know how to spread the love (hiring in front of and behind the camera), but what I’m so blessed and what I’m so happy about is in spite of all the objection, in spite of you’ll never get it made, in spite of …well, a movie like this is not something that Hollywood is going to be receptive of…” “I don’t give a damn; I didn’t make this movie to please Hollywood. I made this movie so that I can stand by all the things I believe in as an African American spoken like a true king.
Check out myspace.com/kingsoftheevening to learn more about the film and to find out when it’s coming to a theater near you.
-Gail Choice is a producer/writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.