Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
'Jessica Jones' Producers Share Details on How Involved Luke Cage Will Be in the Series 'Jessica Jones' Producers Share Details on How Involved Luke Cage Will Be in the Series Danny Glover's Toussaint L'Ouverture Film That Never Was, But Could Still Be & Other Films on the Haitian Revolutionary Danny Glover's Toussaint L'Ouverture Film That Never Was, But Could Still Be & Other Films on the Haitian Revolutionary HBO Boss Says Issa Rae's Series Casting Now, Slightly Different in Tone from Web Series, Don't Expect Until 2016/2017 HBO Boss Says Issa Rae's Series Casting Now, Slightly Different in Tone from Web Series, Don't Expect Until 2016/2017 Nice! Lupita Nyong’o Will Star in Danai Gurira's Liberia Civil War Drama ''Eclipsed' Nice! Lupita Nyong’o Will Star in Danai Gurira's Liberia Civil War Drama ''Eclipsed' S&A Call for Films That Speak to the #BlackLivesMatter Movement - Cash Award for the Strongest S&A Call for Films That Speak to the #BlackLivesMatter Movement - Cash Award for the Strongest Watch Episode One of Controversial Caribbean-Set TV Series ‘Chee$e’ Watch Episode One of Controversial Caribbean-Set TV Series ‘Chee$e’ John Legend and His Get Lifted Production Company to Executive Produce WGN America's 'Underground' John Legend and His Get Lifted Production Company to Executive Produce WGN America's 'Underground' Nollywood Is a Genre of Nigerian Film & Not the Entire Nigerian Film Industry (Watch Al Jazeera's New Documentary) Nollywood Is a Genre of Nigerian Film & Not the Entire Nigerian Film Industry (Watch Al Jazeera's New Documentary) It Looks Like 'Beasts of No Nation' Will Be THE "Black Film" in Awards Season Contention This Year - With 9 Other Potentials It Looks Like 'Beasts of No Nation' Will Be THE "Black Film" in Awards Season Contention This Year - With 9 Other Potentials Marvel Hopes to Release a New Netflix Series Every 6 Months - Including 'Luke Cage' & 'The Defenders' of Course Marvel Hopes to Release a New Netflix Series Every 6 Months - Including 'Luke Cage' & 'The Defenders' of Course Queen Latifah Will Play Wiz and Mary J. Blige Is Evillene in NBC's Musical Production of 'The Wiz' Queen Latifah Will Play Wiz and Mary J. Blige Is Evillene in NBC's Musical Production of 'The Wiz' 'Shaft' Reboot Draws 'Black-ish' Creator Kenya Barris as Writer - Studio Aiming for Something More Comedic 'Shaft' Reboot Draws 'Black-ish' Creator Kenya Barris as Writer - Studio Aiming for Something More Comedic 5 Tips on Writing No-Budget/Low-Budget Feature Screenplays... Back (or Rather Black) By Popular Demand... 5 Tips on Writing No-Budget/Low-Budget Feature Screenplays... Back (or Rather Black) By Popular Demand... What's Wrong with Being Black and Chasing Your Hollywood Dream? What's Wrong with Being Black and Chasing Your Hollywood Dream? Starz Announces Return Date for Original Series 'Power' + New Key Art + Trailer Starz Announces Return Date for Original Series 'Power' + New Key Art + Trailer Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Third 'Best Man' Movie Gets a Title, an Official 2016 Release Date & A Most Unexpected Wedding Third 'Best Man' Movie Gets a Title, an Official 2016 Release Date & A Most Unexpected Wedding Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' 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...

Tribeca 2013 Review: Revisting Charles Lane's 'Sidewalk Stories' Twenty Years Later

Shadow and Act By Zeba Blay | Shadow and Act April 29, 2013 at 2:52PM

Tribeca 2013 Review: Revisting Charles Lane's 'Sidewalk Stories' Twenty Years Later
4
SideWalk Stories

It’s been a good few years for silent film, which has enjoyed some popularity with movies like Blancanieves and The Artist, Michael Hazanavicius’s love letter to Old Hollywood that gained the adoration of critics and several Oscars statuettes. The movie’s charming sense of nostalgia was deemed an inspired, refreshing change of pace from the norm, a reminder that the image is paramount in what makes the storytelling of film work.  

Of course, The Artist is only one in a long line of modern films that have attempted to capture the magic of the silent era. In 1989, a similar movie, this time by a black filmmaker, was greeted by its own flurry of adoration and applause. Charles Lane’s Sidewalk Stories, released in 1989, was a silent story set in gritty New York City but injected with the slapstick of Buster Keaton and the pathos of Charlie Chaplin.

Starring Lane, who not only directed but also wrote and edited the picture, it focused on a down-on-his-luck a sidewalk portrait artist who inadvertently becomes the caretaker of a toddler (played by Lane’s real-life daughter) after witnessing the murder of the child’s father. 

The film was championed by critics like Roger Ebert and won several awards, including a Prix du Publique at the Cannes Film Festival.

But despite the initial fanfare, it has been largely forgotten in the years since its release, with the talented Lane having completed only one film (the black-man-disguised-as-a-white-man comedy True Identity) since. Now, over twenty years after its debut, a beautifully done digital restoration of Sidewalk Stories has premiered for the first time at the recent Tribeca Film Festival.

A clear riff on films like The Kid and The Vagabond, Lane’s story was as much a stab at emulating the work of silent films stars he admired as it was an interesting experiment in a sort of silent social commentary on New York at the time. The comedy of the film is tinged by a certain amount of melancholy.

Amid the comic gags are the harsh realities of city life - Lane’s “Artist” squats in a condemned building with no furniture and limited electricity, later he and the little girl are forced to sleep on the street. In one scene, Lane’s “Artist” comically shoplifts from a baby clothing store. When he’s caught, though, there’s a poignant moment when the owner of the store let’s him get away with it, realizing that he and the little girl he’s taking care of are in dire straits.

Like The Artist, there’s a moment at the end of the silent picture when sound is finally used, and the effect is stunning. Finally at rock bottom, Lane’s Artist sits amongst the homeless of the city as they call out for help, ignored. 

That moment was important,” Lane explained after the Tribeca screening this past weekend, “I wanted to give the homeless a voice in this film.

While Sidewalk Stories may not have the glossy veneer of other modern day films that have tackled this genre, this new version of the film stands as a worthy and even important part of the black film landscape. Lane has revealed that he has several new projects in the works, and we can only hope that this time around audiences pay more attention.


Zeba Blay is a Ghanaian-born film and culture writer based in New York. She is a regular contributor to Huffington Post, Africa Style Daily, and Slant Magazine. She runs a personal movie blog, Film Memory, and co-hosts the podcast Two Brown Girls. Follow her on Twitter @zblay.


This article is related to: Charles Lane


Shadow & ActNewsletter