Eve's Bayou

Eve's Bayou ★★★★½

#52FilmsByPOC 2020 pt. 12.
#52FilmsByWomen 2020 pt. 18.

The past changes color depending on the light.

It is so refreshing to see a film centered around black people in the deep south in the 1960s that has nothing to do with racism, simply due to the total absence of white people. While racism is an undeniably huge part of the African American experience, it does not encompass it, yet there seems to be an unspoken rule that "black movies" about this time and place need to center on racism, which forecloses on a lot of stories that could otherwise be told, like this one.

Notice I said that it has nothing to do with racism--though it has plenty to do with race. The voodoo theme, as well as the idea of people being separated from their pasts, ensure that cultural blackness pervades this production. It's also a quintessential southern gothic tale, told with subtlety, loving landscape shots, and a creeping sense of inevitability. Southern gothic isn't a genre that I always love, but this keeps from being boring by centering female relationships and being shot in such a way that every detail seems fraught with meaning, asking to be decoded. While the acting from the children is inconsistent, young Meagan Good especially imbues her performance with a grace and frailty that reminded me of my sister, the know-it-all oldest sibling who carries herself like a grownup even though she would rather not. The supernatural elements--disturbing visions, voodoo, ghosts--are handled with the lightest of touches, leaving them open to a variety of interpretations. It's not a film that holds your hand, and its reach probably exceeds its grasp on occasion, but what it does achieve is magnificent. I wish people talked about this movie more.

Cf. The Gift