Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Trailer: UP Original Movie 'My Other Mother' (Lynn Whitfield, Essence Atkins, Jasmine Guy) Debuts 9/21 Trailer: UP Original Movie 'My Other Mother' (Lynn Whitfield, Essence Atkins, Jasmine Guy) Debuts 9/21 Premiere Date for 'Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B' + Elise Neal Cast as Gladys Knight Premiere Date for 'Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B' + Elise Neal Cast as Gladys Knight Wendy Williams is Crushing the Competition in the Ratings, as Queen Latifah's Show Struggles In Last Place Wendy Williams is Crushing the Competition in the Ratings, as Queen Latifah's Show Struggles In Last Place The Cast of 'A Different World' 20 Years Later - 'Oprah: Where Are They Now?' The Cast of 'A Different World' 20 Years Later - 'Oprah: Where Are They Now?' Sundance Institute Selects 10 Writers for Inaugural Episodic Story Lab Sundance Institute Selects 10 Writers for Inaugural Episodic Story Lab Lamman Rucker, DB Woodside, Billy Dee Williams, Christian Keyes Lead 'Man in 3B' (Based on Carl Weber Bestseller) Lamman Rucker, DB Woodside, Billy Dee Williams, Christian Keyes Lead 'Man in 3B' (Based on Carl Weber Bestseller) Tribeca Film Announces 'Nas: Time is Illmatic' One Night Only October 2 National Screenings Tribeca Film Announces 'Nas: Time is Illmatic' One Night Only October 2 National Screenings The Complete ‘Extant’ Series w/Halle Berry Coming Out On Blu-Ray DVD in Dec. The Complete ‘Extant’ Series w/Halle Berry Coming Out On Blu-Ray DVD in Dec. 'Terror at the Mall,' Documentary on Siege of Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Premieres on HBO Tonight (Trailer) 'Terror at the Mall,' Documentary on Siege of Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Premieres on HBO Tonight (Trailer) Producer Charles Belk and Actress Daniele Watts Apparently "Fit the Description" (Just Another Day in the Neighborhood) Producer Charles Belk and Actress Daniele Watts Apparently "Fit the Description" (Just Another Day in the Neighborhood) What’s the Big Secret That Got Those ‘No Good Deed’ Screenings Canceled? What’s the Big Secret That Got Those ‘No Good Deed’ Screenings Canceled? 'Drumline: A New Beat' (Sequel to the 2002 Film) Gets a Premiere Date + New Trailer (Watch It) 'Drumline: A New Beat' (Sequel to the 2002 Film) Gets a Premiere Date + New Trailer (Watch It) 'Terror at the Mall,' Documentary on Siege of Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Coming to HBO (Trailer) 'Terror at the Mall,' Documentary on Siege of Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Coming to HBO (Trailer) Watch First Trailer for Tyler Perry's New OWN TV Drama 'If Loving You Is Wrong' Watch First Trailer for Tyler Perry's New OWN TV Drama 'If Loving You Is Wrong' OWN Announces Cast for New Drama Series 'If Loving You is Wrong' From Tyler Perry OWN Announces Cast for New Drama Series 'If Loving You is Wrong' From Tyler Perry Michael Ealy, Sanaa Lathan, Morris Chestnut Eyeing Leads In Revenge Thriller 'The Perfect Guy' Michael Ealy, Sanaa Lathan, Morris Chestnut Eyeing Leads In Revenge Thriller 'The Perfect Guy' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

Slamdance 2013 Review: Clever 'Big Words' Is A Well-Acted & Engaging Feature Debut By Neil Drumming

Shadow and Act By Vanessa Martinez | Shadow and Act January 19, 2013 at 4:23PM

Premiering at Slamdance 2013 in Utah this past Thursday, Neil Drumming’s feature film debut Big Words has been one of our most anticipated films of the fest’s lineup, and that anticipation is well deserved.
6
Dorian Missick and Yaya Alafia in a still from 'Big Words'
Dorian Missick and Yaya Alafia in a still from 'Big Words'

Premiering at Slamdance 2013 in Utah this past Thursday, Neil Drumming’s feature film debut Big Words has been one of our most anticipated films of the fest’s lineup, and that anticipation is well deserved.

Drumming, a black man by the way, is a former staff writer and editor at Entertainment Weekly whose sole film credit prior to Words is the short film Hi Res, which stars Jevon McFerrin and Nadia Kiyatkina

The narrative takes place in the backdrop of the 2008 election. Although it’s barely a backdrop, it further added significance to the film’s underlying theme of change in these characters’ lives. While watching the film I kept wishing it had premiered at Sundance instead. It’s one of those films that deserve more opportunities and a bigger platform.

Malik, played by Darien Sills Evans (20 Rock, Treme), was the DJ of an up-coming rap group trio in the early 1990’s, who along with John “Big Words” (Dorian Missick) and James (Gbenga Akinnagbe), hoped to “make it“ as the likes of “De La Soul” and “A Tribe Called Quest” at the height of Alternative Hip-Hop’s boom.

But it has been 11 years after the group’s break-up, now Malik lives with his girlfriend and makes a living taking up different DJ gigs. There’s new R&B song that keeps hitting the airwaves, and to his mortification, the new “hit” samples a beat Malik produced 15 years ago. He is the only one out of the trio still hoping to reunite with the group and get due recognition.

John – a "glass-half-empty-state-of-mind" kind of guy - has been getting by as a computer tech that has seemingly lost all his drive; his disappointments have gotten the best of him. He strikes an unlikely friendship with a stripper named Annie (a fantastic Yaya Alafia better known as “DaCosta”) whom he sees out in the city trying to buy a microphone.  Their subplot is one of the most enjoyable highlights of the film. It’s not common to see a nuanced, realistic portrayal of a stripper or “dancer” on screen without gratuitous shots of pole dancing or “booty shaking”. Their chemistry is organic, so is their blossoming, genuine connection, stemming from her passion for singing; his very own passion for rap is being deeply buried. I appreciated their fully layered and dynamic – their complex need to bond, differences, attraction, romantic hesitation, insecurities and fears.

James, the only white-collar worker out of the trio, is now a book publicist who has been living openly as a homosexual since departing the group. The past comes back to hunt him when one of his colleagues seeks his advice on a book he’s thinking of writing about said colleague’s father, who just happens to be the rap group’s manager. Conflict arises when James and his boyfriend are hosting an election party, which Malik and John - separately - get word of and show up.

Their distinct personalities are finely developed. Akinnagbe is aplomb in the challenging role of a well-to-do gay ex-rapper now out of the closet; Missick is superb and so is Evans, whose TV work I have not seen. The scenes in which Evans is inebriated are so convincing that I could’ve sworn he actually was during the making of the film.

Drumming’s Brooklyn-set debut is impressively acted and touching.  I’d be remiss if I don’t mention the freshness of the poetic lyricism in the film, as well as the beats by DJ Malik.

This rap group felt real; the rifts and consequent estrangement among group members felt authentic; the amusing conversations had among peers in their age group - how hip hop music used to be, its lyrical content, and cultural progressiveness versus that of the new generation - felt familiar and immediately recognizable although in a very good way.  In most scenes, I felt as if I was in the room with these characters, laughing along and wanting to partake in their discussions.

Neil Drumming’s Big Words is an engaging, entertaining and clever film about passion and nostalgia; overcoming regrets and failure, team camaraderie and self-actualization just when you thought your dreams and hopes were lost. And Drumming is able to craft a film buoyed by compelling and convincing performances sans the didactical clichés that films of this genre tend to offer.

This article is related to: Reviews, Dorian Missick, Slamdance Film Festival, Neil Drumming


Shadow & ActNewsletter