Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' 'Death Proof' Star Zoe Bell Leads Latest Additions To Quentin Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' As Filming Begins 'Death Proof' Star Zoe Bell Leads Latest Additions To Quentin Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' As Filming Begins Ranked From Best To Worst: Every Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Winner Ranked From Best To Worst: Every Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Winner Watch: 'Saturday Night Live' Sketch 'Fanatic' Written & Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson And Starring Ben Affleck Watch: 'Saturday Night Live' Sketch 'Fanatic' Written & Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson And Starring Ben Affleck Check Out These Minimalist, Old School Paperback-Style Posters For The Films Of Wes Anderson Check Out These Minimalist, Old School Paperback-Style Posters For The Films Of Wes Anderson First Look: Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Grimy In Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant' First Look: Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Grimy In Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant' The 30 Most Anticipated Movies Of The 2015 Sundance Film Festival The 30 Most Anticipated Movies Of The 2015 Sundance Film Festival The 10 Best Films Of 2001 The 10 Best Films Of 2001 2015 Oscar Nominees Get The Honest Poster Treatment 2015 Oscar Nominees Get The Honest Poster Treatment Watch: Full 90-Minute Documentary 'Great Directors' With David Lynch, Richard Linklater, Todd Haynes And More Watch: Full 90-Minute Documentary 'Great Directors' With David Lynch, Richard Linklater, Todd Haynes And More Exclusive: Matthew Gray Gubler Has Flashbacks In Clip From 'Suburban Gothic' Exclusive: Matthew Gray Gubler Has Flashbacks In Clip From 'Suburban Gothic' The 10 Best Films Of 2000 The 10 Best Films Of 2000 "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice The 20 Most Anticipated Foreign Films Of 2015 The 20 Most Anticipated Foreign Films Of 2015 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Sundance Review: ‘Imperial Dreams’ Features A Knockout Performance From 'Attack the Block' Star John Boyega

The Playlist By Chase Whale | The Playlist January 26, 2014 at 9:51AM

There’s always at least one hidden treasure at Sundance that seems to go unnoticed by audiences and critics alike—with no real good answer as to why the buzz wasn’t loud enough to get more people talking about it—but it happens. This year, that gem is Malik Vitthal’s first shot at a feature film, the incredibly touching “Imperial Dreams,” which remixes the gangster rites of passage: you can take the gangster out of the hood, but can you take the hood out of the gangster?
1
Imperial Dreams, John Boyega

There’s always at least one hidden treasure at Sundance that seems to go unnoticed by audiences and critics alike—with no real good answer as to why the buzz wasn’t loud enough to get more people talking about it—but it happens. This year, that gem is Malik Vitthal’s first shot at a feature film, the incredibly touching “Imperial Dreams,” which remixes the gangster rites of passage: you can take the gangster out of the hood, but can you take the hood out of the gangster?

John Boyega (whom you’ll remember from the SXSW darling “Attack the Block”) stars as Bambi, a young man fresh out of prison, living in the slums of Los Angeles. The only thing he knows is the gangster life; while in prison, however, he takes up creative writing, gets a short story published in a book and decides he wants to trade in the gun for a pencil and take care of his son, whom he finds living without supervision from anyone when he returns home. His first day out isn’t turning out as well as he hoped, his constantly high uncle wants him to return to the gangster’s paradise and it’s either that or him and his son will be without food or a roof over their heads. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but what is a father to do with limited options?

Boyega first wowed audiences with his dynamite performance in “Attack the Block.” Once again playing the anti-hero, “Imperial Dreams” is another victory lap for this young actor, who’s going to go on to do big, big things, yet again showcasing his ability to crank up the charm in the roles he’s been given. Bambi is the kind of guy who will give up everything so his son can have a chance at a better life. Currently, their best and only form of entertainment is each other—they spend their time together reading, with Bambi embellishing the stories for his boy. They may be living out of a car, in the streets or wherever they're welcome, but he’ll be damned if his son’s education doesn’t continue. When some fathers in this less-than-ideal life look to possibly abandon their child, Bambi finds the magic in this situation.

Co-starring Rotimi Akinosho, Glenn Plummer, Keke Palmer and De'Aundre Bonds, Vitthal co-wrote “Imperial Dreams” for the 2011 Sundance Screenwriters Lab, which won a slew of grants and assisted in finding funding to help him make it into a feature. There are many stories out there dealing with a former thug trying to make good, but the impact of "Imperial Dreams" is in how the thug is trying to influence the world around him and live a better life. Bambi is trying to become a writer and wants to teach at-risk kids to stay out of trouble, but in order to do that, he needs a job; in order to get a job, he needs a driver's license; in order to get a driver’s license, he has to pay off a ridiculously large child support bill created and executed by the state—the government is keeping him from doing good things and leaving him little choice as to how he can live his life. (“Either they don't know, don't show, or don't care about what's going on in the ‘hood’.” – Ice Cube, “Boyz N The Hood.”) It’s a heartwarming story of a father and son bonding, one which highlights that nothing is more powerful than family. [B+]

Browse through all our coverage of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival by clicking here. 

This article is related to: Imperial Dreams, John Boyega, Malik Vitthal, Sundance Film Festival, Reviews, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates