One Miami boy’s dark side of the “Moonlight”

A24 Films

A24 Films

A little boy turns on the stove. Next, the bathtub faucet. He heats a pot of water, pours it into the tub and mixes in dish soap. He’s home alone. Sitting in the makeshift bath, he cups the soapy water and raises his hands above his head before unleashing on to his body. Alone and dejected, he cleans himself.  

Barry Jenkins' superb 2016 film "Moonlight" follows one deeply-compelling boy’s life at three different ages: Little, Chiron and Black.

The movie originated as the semi-autobiographical unproduced play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” by Tarell Alvin McCraney. Years later, Jenkins came on board as writer and director. He knew McCraney’s tale of growing up in Liberty City, Miami, with a drug addicted mother; he’d experienced most of it himself.

"Moonlight" was the last movie I saw in the "Obama years." It served as an unexpectedly cathartic transition into a new administration likely to be unkind to today’s Chirons.

The first black president overseeing the landmark passage of marriage equality. Chiron's story likely wouldn’t have been produced or critically acclaimed eight years ago, or even two. Obama’s legacy allows this story to be told.

It’s no easy film to watch. Moonlight focuses on a boy foreign to guidance and love. An alien in his own community.

Little is tailor-made for a program like My Brother’s Keeper, President Obama’s initiative to promote the lives of young black men.  

He eventually finds his “keeper” in Juan, a crack dealer. Sensing himself in the young boy, Juan divulges his similar upbringing while on a trip to the beach.

“At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you’re going to be,” Juan says.

The remark, albeit a little too deliberately, sets up the major focus of the film: identity. The relationship between Little and Juan isn’t stale. Juan is no wise old man; Little’s abrupt presence rattles his sense of purpose.

Played masterfully by Mahershala Ali, he creates a hard demeanor with an innate sensitivity peaking out past the golden chains and grill. Juan sees the ill-effects of his career manifested in the life of a lost child — a child he used to be.

But that’s the success; there’s beauty in the pain. Cinematographer James Laxton captures sadness in a tropical, bright Miami.

While at the beach, Juan teaches Little to swim. Laxton immerses the camera bobbing up, down and submerged in the water by a tide. Juan isn’t just teaching him to swim; he’s giving him the tools to swim away from his childhood.

Even in the most standard of scenes, Laxton demands wrought emotional responses.

Chiron spends much of one night aboard subways and platforms since his mother won’t let him come home. He eventually finds himself at the beach where a clandestine encounter occurs with Kevin, a childhood friend.

It’s a tough scene to watch, in part because Laxton so intimately frames each shot. Chiron rests his head on a subway windowsill, dejected. He wanders down to an eerily empty beach while palm trees sway in the night sky. Each shot intrudes further and further in to the yearnings of an isolated child.

In the third act, the two men reunite and reflect on their formative years. Neither of their lives turned out as expected with stints in prison and complex family woes.

A decade later, Kevin finally found his purpose. "It's a life," Kevin says about now living as a single bisexual dad on parole working as a night cook.

Black isn’t there yet. But as he tells Kevin, "What do you expect?"

Growing up a gay, black boy with a drug-addicted mother in the hood of Miami, Black’s life isn’t “saved” by a pull yourself up by your own bootstraps mentality dominating conservative thinking.

However, Chiron isn’t the only one on a journey to self-actualization. His mother Paula too goes through her own metamorphosis, although not one immediately helpful to her son. Naomie Harris brings an understanding — even love — for a working mom’s slow descent into drug addiction.

Even after shaking down her deeply isolated teenage son for money, she demands he go to school. He must better himself, though his environment gives him every reason not to.

Praise again goes to Jenkins, who based Paula off of his own mother. That’s the success of the role; there’s a truth — an identity — behind the character. She’s not just another coked-out absent mom. She’s a former health care professional who, after her own rehabilitation, returns the aid in assisting other addicts. These are characters no doubt dependent on the Affordable Care Act for their health.

Each scene is accompanied by a haunting, almost Gregorian score. Nicholas Britell’s classical composition starkly contrasts to the inner-city setting. That’s the beauty of "Moonlight"; the tug between what is seen and what is felt.

That’s also Chiron's biggest struggle. Who he is and who people see are vastly different. Sure, he’s a poor, gay, black boy, but he also is a caretaker, a student and an individual — that’s intersectionality.

"Moonlight" leads the 2017 awards season with 96 wins. It too picked up eight Oscar nominations. Though, "La La Land" received 14 nominations and tied the all-time record previously set by "All About Eve" and matched by "Titanic."

"La La Land" is receiving praise for ushering in a return to Hollywood's "Golden Age." While undoubtedly a superb, grandiose musical, it’s just not a film indicative of the current political and social landscape. It doesn’t have to be, but it sure picked the wrong year to premiere.

Like Trump’s election campaign, "La La Land" is wild, crazy and fun to watch. "Moonlight" isn’t. It’s a look at the type of people Trump wants to reform: inner-city dwellers, drug lords and the incarcerated.

It’s more than just honest, engrossing storytelling; it’s a memento to a now bygone administration's views of culture, politics and expression.

Don't let 'La La Land' be this year's 'The Artist.'

Courtesy of Lionsgate.

Courtesy of Lionsgate.

Every awards season, one picture resonates with film critics unlike its competition. This movie doesn’t always have to be the front-runner. But with focus on either the film industry or the press, the picture inherently spurs a sort of insider glee. Last year “Spotlight” held the honor by depicting a famed newsroom. Now, “La La Land” follows suit.

Praise for a modern-day jazz musical navigating one Los Angeles couple’s relationship and career turmoil should come as no surprise. Director Damien Chazelle works almost exclusively on jazz films. Starting with 2009’s “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench,” he followed to high acclaim with 2014’s “Whiplash.” Two years later, he’s finally an insider with a bigger budget and bankable stars on his side.

All of this led “La La Land” to infatuate critics. Variety’s Owen Gleiberman called it, “the new-fangled version of a sprawling Tinseltown classic.”

He’s not wrong. The films extends beyond just a return to cinema's golden age. As Gleiberman notes, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling heartbreakingly depict the loneliness of trying to make it in Hollywood rarely explored with such nuance in film. Mia is any modern ingenue without a secure path to her big break. Then there’s Sebastian, a jazz aficionado angered by his beloved genre’s decline.

The movie exists in Sebastian's world. With whimsy and magic, the film progresses as an ethereal beauty. An epic opening musical number and multiple extended dance sequences provide purely joyous viewing.

However, this pomp and circumstance dupes critics. The glorious vitality blinds an imperfect film. After all, Mia finds her career success; most aspiring actors cannot say the same.

Yet, this insider obsession is nothing new. The hype surrounding “La La Land” recalls another recent return to the classics: “The Artist.”

The black-and-white silent film follows the relationship between one of Hollywood's leading men and an up-and-coming dancer at the dawn of talking pictures. It's the loss of traditional art in favor of new media as told by romantics. Sounds like a familiar tale.

“The Artist” went on to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Since then, the French-film and its stars remain largely forgotten when discussing the best movies of recent years. Looking back, it’s not much more than Hollywood praising a film about Hollywood.

Four of the last 5 best picture winners at the Oscars focused film or reporting. With the exception of 2013's “12 Years a Slave," “The Artist,” “Argo,” “Birdman,” and “Spotlight” all centered around people in or near the profession of film and press. Based on the precedent, “La La Land” should have a safe route to success. 

Though certainly benefitting from industry nostalgia producing critical acclaim, "La La Land" suffers from a problematic storyline. Mia and Sebastian both repeatedly perform segments of the original jazz song "City of Stars." It's undeniably a great track, yet Sebastian pointedly praises jazz for sounding different with every listen. The writing and the output are not cohesive.

The imperfections extend beyond just script snafus. In a series of tweets, musician Rostam Batmanglij criticized the film's lack of diversity. The former Vampire Weekend member condemned a jazz film with black musicians as fringe characters, although he praised John Legend's performance as Sebastian's collaborator. 

At a minimum, it's problematic. The picture is another sad entry in to a long line of Hollywood films ignoring essential diversity.

Fortunately, “La La Land” is certainly no lost cause. It’s the best cinematic musical in recent years, far surpassing 2012's “Les Miserables.” Emma Stone deserves the credit. She's revelatory showcasing a prestige star power never before fully realized.

But the film needs a bigger audience than just the in-crowd. Its biggest competitor does exactly that.

In observing an young man coming to terms with both his sexuality and family, “Moonlight” inherently--and expertly--showcases diversity and exploration of “new” cinematic territory. Meanwhile, “La La Land” is another ode to the romance of film, and film insiders by nature love film. It’s a great feast for a starving critic. Beyond that, it’s more excess fat than meat.

The Carmichael Show Deserves Your Attention

Chris Haston/NBC

Chris Haston/NBC

by Joseph Longo

A family gathers around the living room in the wake of the father’s announcement. A middle-aged father of two-boys with a doting wife has decided he will vote for Donald Trump. And so it begins. Proudly “feeling the Bern,” his son’s girlfriend scolds the old man for his controversial candidate. On cue, the doting wife interjects. She wonders why her future daughter in-law, a proclaimed feminist, would not be aligned Hillary Clinton. The debate continues doused with comedic one-liners, as the son eventually steps in. The link between all the characters, he offers advice and gets the last word.

This scene from The Carmichael Show feels very familiar. A network sitcom portrays the perceived average American family through the lens of the handsome son. There is nothing innovative or unfamiliar about it. Everybody Loves Raymond and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air found success in adapting this standard sitcom formula.


So, it comes as no surprise that The Carmichael Show would follow the same footing. With a mid-season premiere, multi-camera studio production, and cliché characters, it is equally as unsurprising the little-known NBC sitcom received a last minute third season renewal.

But, this is the show’s strongest element. Through an emphasis on conventions, The Carmichael Show fosters discussion of difficult modern-day topics in a comfortable, familiar platform for a wide-ranged audience. All while not feeling like another “Afterschool Special.”

The characters are all black--the most notable divergence from conventional network sitcoms. But what at first feels like NBC’s answer to Blackish or another tokenistic approach to programming severely limits the show’s stellar nuance.

By evoking the understood tone of the standard “black network sitcom,” The Carmichael Show drudges up an initial conservatism. Jerrod bickers with his girlfriend, Maxine, while his brother Bobby cracks one-liners and his parents talk about the “old days.” The viewer feels very comfortable watching; they know what to plot points to expect. If a comparison must be made to staple black sitcoms, think more The Cosby Show.

In fact, that’s intentional. They even did a whole episode on it. Jerrod offers to take his father Joe and mother Cynthia to see Bill Cosby. Unsurprisingly, this does not go over well. Father and son are excited to see the famed comedian, while Maxine refuses to attend. And then there is Cynthia; she remains conflicted. The scene continues on debating the ethical line between supporting a household staple in the family or berating an alleged abuser of numerous woman. While the average sitcom covered conventional age and gender barriers, this show elevates standard sitcom discourse with a mix of new and old wave feminism and cultural diversity. The show exudes an acute self-awareness without preaching.



However, just as the show devotes to multi-dimensional views of a topic, so too the characters remain fully fleshed. Maxine is not always right in her preaching activism. Nor, is Bobby always the culprit of his own failures. In discussing, Bobby and his estranged wife Nekeisha’s recent eviction—a classic lazy brother living on the couch—the Carmichael’s debate gentrification. On cue, Maxine berates the notion of gentrification, yet Jerrod quips with a reminder they live in a recently flipped neighborhood. These characters do not always get it right. The Carmichael’s find the truth somewhere in the middle—just like normal family matters

Network television recently finalized their fall 2016 schedule. Notably, The Carmichael Show is absent, likely with a midseason season 3 premiere. Yet, two sitcom legends have new shows debuting. Both Kevin James and Matt LeBlanc star in their respective shows as stay-at-home dads maneuvering their new terrain. So, bumbling dads actually having to parent? I’ll take Jerrod Carmichael instead.

Chicago’s First Annual Feminist Film Festival

By Anna Brüner

Photo by Brooke Hawkins

Photo by Brooke Hawkins

What makes a feminist film? Is it its filmmaker? How it portrays its subject matter? The content of its characters? Its underlying message? Its themes? Now, what makes a feminist film festivalIts target audience? Its panel of artists eager to answer questions? The stories its films convey? A table set up by Planned Parenthood? Or, like feminism, is it something broader? More universal? Thing like unity, equality, representation.

For Chicago’s first annual Feminist Film Festival, held on Film Row April 21st­ and 22nd, it’s all these things. But one thing stands out in particular that makes this festival ­­the first of its kind in the city ­­undeniably feminist: its voice. Or more, its voices. Perhaps I naively went into this festival expecting to hear from a lot of women, about women, in women's’ voices. And there was a lot of that, believe me, on everything from dating to the humors and perils of sex to struggling with self identity. But there were also moments of silence. Silent anger, silent fear, silent confusion. Stories from every race, ethnicity, and background, some funny, some painful, but all of them unique. Filmmakers of every gender and background. Stories just as diverse in their matter at as they were united in their feminist messages. An audience filled with old bearded men in glasses, a Polish mother and daughter whispering behind me every time the credits rolled, scores of young couples, and clusters of pensive looking girls who knew just when to laugh, and when to remain morbidly quiet.

Photo by Brooke Hawkins

Photo by Brooke Hawkins

For the first Feminist Film Festival, there were a lot of different stories to convey. Over the two days, screenings were broken up into potent themes ­­ each viewing an anthology of its own of sorts for the various films woven together into each cluster, ending credits from one flowing seamlessly into the opening of the next. “Bodies, Rest, and Motion” and an “Early Bird Midnight Special” outlined the first day of screenings, with themes such as “The Rise and Fall of Kingdoms,” “The Complexity of Modern Life,” “I Am Me,” and “In the Friend Zone” rounding out Friday’s shorts. The themes more than conveniently broke down the schedule of the show, but projected the films of each themes through a lense that might have been hard to grasp for audiences without context. An example of this would be the short “Pifuskin” by Singapore filmmaker Tan Wei Keong, a surreal animated short with no dialogue. By being screened in the “I Am Me” section, I found myself personally identifying with the silent, often faceless main character, as their head becomes a bowl full of blood that crashes to the floor.

Photo by Brooke Hawkins

Photo by Brooke Hawkins

Perhaps the greatest strength of the festival, aside from its diversity, is the relatability of each film. Even if it is something small, there is something in each work for everybody, which is the greatest message of feminism: there is something here for everyone. Feminism itself is for everyone.

This first year brought filmmakers from Ireland, Macedonia, Chile, The Netherlands, India, Taiwan, The Philippines, Iceland, Croatia, Spain, Australia, Slovenia, and all over the USA and Chicago, both professional and students. The festival was truly an opportunity and experience for everyone, relaying its core message that feminism itself is for everyone, regardless of who they are or where they are from. My only hope for the festival in years moving forward is that it continues to celebrate this diversity...and that it lasts a little longer than two days. 

Photo by Brooke Hawkins

Photo by Brooke Hawkins

Photo by Brooke Hawkins

Photo by Brooke Hawkins

Catalyst:​ A Story Of Love And Protest

By Anna Brüner


When I sat down to watch Catalysta short film by filmmaker Serena Illuminati screened at Chicago’s first annual Feminist Film Festival, I went into it expecting a love story of sorts. In its fourteen minute running time, I received so much more than I could have imagined. Calling Catalyst a love story would be like calling Black Swan a movie about ballet. The love is there, but it is less the story and more the binding ingredient of the ambitious messages that the film sets out to deliver. Isolation. Unity. The power of protest. Commentary on the corrupt system of college education. This is a story that is not just moving, but incredibly timely.

Catalyst begins with a suicide, the “catalyst” of the title. Overwhelmed by massive debt and unable to pay her student loans, feeling alone and helpless, a young woman writes a suicide note on the back of her student loan bill and hangs herself in her bedroom.

I heard someone say the phrase, ‘You can't even get rid of your loans if you file for bankruptcy. The only way out is to kill yourself.’ That was what sparked the idea for this film,” Illuminati says. While it may seem like an exaggeration, it is the utmost truth.

The jarring cold open grabs audience members by their collars and pulls them in, letting them know right off the bat that the ride they’re about to go on is going to be an intense one, and that they, as much as the film’s characters, have to react to the desperate first moment they have just witnessed.

Catalyst follows two young women, each loosely connected to the woman who kills herself, as they fall in love and form a relationship while working as activists. They build a movement protesting against the “indentured servitude” the woman describes in her suicide notes, eventually going to extreme lengths for their cause.

“The biggest motif of Catalyst is isolation vs unity. Alone we are fucked­­ nothing more than a loan,” Illuminati says of her film’s message. “Revolution requires empathy, requires camaraderie, requires love. All we can do is stand together and fight for each other.”

“She kills herself. Her death, however, brings people together. She sparks a political movement. There is a scene where two activists discuss her death. ‘What do you think she'd think of us?’ ‘Well, I don't think she would have killed herself if she had us.’”

Catalyst is as much a powerhouse in its production as it is in its message, with a cast and crew that is racially diverse, female centric, and queer. It represents an ambitious message, told by an equally ambitious artist, that rings strongly as a reality that will be all too familiar to most of its audience. You can see Catalyst at the first annual Chicago Feminist Film Festival, as well as on Youtube. 

"Sisterhood of Night", Girl Crushes, And The Mystery Of Female Adolescence

By Anna Brüner

Courtesy of Evenstar Films

Courtesy of Evenstar Films

I recently watched The Sisterhood of Night this weekend, which, if you don't know, has been compared to a "modern day telling of the Salem witch trials." And that's what I thought going into it…that a few girls meeting in the woods would descend into some witchy supernatural conflict between them and their homogeneously white, privileged, conservative, upstate New York society. I couldn't have imagined that the movie (unlike the actual Salem witch trials, which had to deal with the teenage girls vs. society) would deal mostly with society vs. teenage girls. There was no witchcraft at fault here. Mostly, the fear, superstition, and paranoia revolved around a misunderstanding of a particular group of girls' friendship. This, it seemed, was more terrifying than witchcraft, and the persecution they encountered was more terrifying than being burned at the stake. The girls in "the sisterhood of night" in the movie encountered violence, persecution, and a social stigma that the girls perpetrating the witch trial madness in Salem hundreds of years ago never had endured -- in fact, those girls received an almost state of immunity. Which led me to raise the question: why are people so afraid of female friendship? More so, why are people so afraid of adolescent female friendship? Or, even more simply, why are people afraid of how girls interact with other girls?

I use the term "girls" loosely here. Basically what I mean is "non-men" -- anyone who identifies as non-masculine, or at least doesn't identify as masculine all of the time. But with Sisterhood of Night, it is very clearly about girls, and, most importantly, strictly about the structure of female friendship. The big secret in the movie isn't witchcraft, it's the girls' friendship itself. Here is a group where young women can be 100% open, 100% vulnerable, 100% sexual, and 100% free,100% unapologetically…and all of these things are perceived as dangerous in society.

Courtesy of Evenstar Films

Courtesy of Evenstar Films

As I said, I went in expecting an adaptation of sorts of the witch trials. What I found was a brutally honest reflection of my own adolescence, and even my own childhood. My first real kiss was at seven years old with a girl under a picnic table, both our mouths stuffed with birthday cake, hiding from adults. My earliest crushes were on fellow female classmates, yearning for both their acceptance and their company. I recall even as a young child wanting to marry Princess Jasmine more than Aladdin. But even before I knew -- or even considered -- that I was bisexual, I knew two things for certain. One, that I was attracted to girls. Two, that my relationships with women were "easier" -- more organic, instinctual, and comfortable -- than with men.

It's necessary that we take this into consideration when regarding male friendships. Female friendships, even heterosexual ones, are infinitely more intimate than those of their male counterparts. Women tell each other that we love each other. We afford comfort both emotionally and physically. Not only do we offer mutual understanding and empathy, but we offer hugs, even kisses between the straightest of individuals, and we don't question it. I tell my female friends that I love them upon almost every occasion where I encounter them. Whereas men rarely exchange this kind of intimacy with one another.

In Sisterhood of Night, the girls regularly hug, kiss, touch each other, are naked with each other, and none of it is explicitly sexual. With my own adolescence, I remember undressing with my friends, sleeping together, touching each other that was in no way sexual or romantic, but in a way that could only be described as "I trust this person, and they trust me, and we care about each other, and it's not a big deal." And it wasn't a big deal, just like it isn't a big deal now when I kiss friends upon greeting them, share beds with them, hold them when they are sad or discouraged, or express my affection towards them. Much of this stems from my female friendships in childhood and adolescence, just as they are portrayed in Sisterhood of Night.

Underneath this though is a particular kind of stigma; one that revolves around sexuality. In our culture we are much more accepting of girls experimenting with other girls, and with girls even being bisexual or queer in any sense, than we are with boys. Part of this has to do with the over-sexualization of women, and part has to do with the limited hyper-masculine expectations of men. It's "okay" for a girl to be "a little queer". It's not okay for a man to be. Most of this has to do in part with the fact that boys, from an early age (or at least when they start to masturbate) know what feels good to them. Girls, perfectly able to masturbate, but not able to replicate a (penetrative) sexual experience in the way boys are, often turn to other girls for experimentation. This has nothing to do with sexuality, but more with trying to figure out what feels good, as well as trusting one another. Girls in puberty are afforded this opportunity, whereas our culture deeply frowns upon boys experimenting with other boys. As a teenager I kissed and did things with girls I was attracted to, but I also kissed and did things with girls I wasn't. It was completely consensual, but it had very little to do with sexual orientation, and I never felt secluded because of that. It would have been very different had I been a boy experimenting with other boys without any sexual motivation.

Maybe this has something to do with why women are more sexually fluid (at least openly) than men are. Maybe it's just a social construct to perpetuate women as infinitely, unlimited sexual creatures. I'm not sure. What I am sure of is that I tell my female friends that I love them, whereas many of my former male partners (as well as my current male partner) have never told their male friends that they love them; that since childhood I have been expected to share a bed with my female host, whereas boys rarely slept together during sleepovers; that I am encouraged by a misogynist society to remain attracted to all genders and sexes, whereas my male counterparts are discouraged from any deviation from the masculine "norm."

I watched Sisterhood of Night with my male partner and his brother, and their reaction to it was much different than my own. While they were shocked and reacted heavily to certain parts, I didn't, because overall I felt the movie accurately portrayed not just female friendship, but going through the perils of adolescence as a girl where you are constantly scrutinized. It was only a further reminder that my "normal" as a teenager was not their "normal," and that much of the female adolescence remains shrouded in a false mystery and romance to this day. There's nothing strange, there's nothing abnormal, there's nothing scandalous. There's only a certain kind of trust.

"This is the only place where I could tell my secrets," one member says in Sisterhood of Night about the "sisterhood." And that's how many female and non-men friendships work today, throughout people's ages. This is the only place where we trust each other. But it shouldn't be the only place. 

Courtesy of Anna

Courtesy of Anna

Sci-fi In Our Time: The Screening of Convergence

By Anna Brüner

Do one thing intent on propelling civilization forward.
Photo by Brooke Hawkins   Pictured: Actor, Producer Frank T.Ziede with Night's Host Noelle Kayser

Photo by Brooke Hawkins 

Pictured: Actor, Producer Frank T.Ziede with Night's Host Noelle Kayser

Hooligan Mag was invited to attend the screening of the first episode of new aspiring series Convergence. Our writer Anna Brüner was able to review the episode itself, while our photographer Brooke Hawkins explored the screening and captured this very special opening night. 

The series took 15 years to develop/produce and is a "lifelong passion project" for Corey and Curtis Gilbert. In Corey's own words he calls it an "ambitious project" and that "Netflix would be [their] goal". The series is inspired by the demands for renewable energy, as well as the larger issue of climate change. Help support the series via their Kickstarter and Facebook.

Photo by Becky Yeker   Pictured: Directors Corey and Curtis Gilbert

Photo by Becky Yeker 

Pictured: Directors Corey and Curtis Gilbert

1857: Oil is discovered along Pennsylvania’s Allegheny River.

2015: Children are going missing around the world. In all cases, they were last seen being led off into the woods by another child, before vanishing without a trace. The only connection between all of these disappearances? All the kids are the children of oil execs.

So sets the stage for Convergence, a sci-fi political drama series created by brothers Curtis and Corey Gilbert. Set against the backdrop of shady business dealings being carried out while more and more kids go missing, the story follows oil execs Jon Hill (John T. Woods) in Pennsylvania and Ernesto Sandoval (Wesley John) in Venezuela as both men and their families are affected by their companies and the mysterious disappearances. At its core, Convergence is the Gilbert brothers’ passion project packaged as an environmental Grimm’s fairytale. What are the oil companies really up to? Why are only the kids being targeted? Who or what is taking them, and why?

Set primarily in the isolated rural suburbs of Pennsylvania and Ohio’s rustbelt, the corrupt and money hungry leaders at the very top of the oil pyramid remain as ominous and faceless as whoever is taking their employees’ children. Miles away from their glistening corporate headquarters, down stretches of barren highway, teenagers wait to be picked up from football practice and sneak out into cornfields at night on 4-wheelers. Storms roll in over the horizon. An idealistic school teacher tries to convince his class that humanity is beginning to drift apart, and that “somebody’s gotta just storm the podium of the world’s stage and say ‘whoa, whoa, simmer down.’” Strange lights begin appearing in the sky at night. The impending sense that something is about to go wrong is palpable and imminent.

International intrigue, ruthless capitalism, political philosophy, family relations, and aliens...yup, ALIENS...are all equally at fault in the world of Convergence.  We find out that the aliens are definitely to blame for taking the kids, but there’s no shaking the feeling that it’s all connected in the same malevolent conspiracy. Everyone seems to be hiding something.

Convergence is incredibly complex, atmospheric, fast paced, and ambitious...and it’s with its ambition that it struggles the most. The first episode is shot beautifully, from gorgeous overhead shots of Jon Hill’s daughter Laurie (Maggie Scrantom) lying whistfully in a cornfield, to the mythical flashbacks to 1857, the visuals are haunting and add to the more horror feel of the story. The acting is solid, even with characters spouting monologues rife with heavy ethical concepts and corporation jargon in every scene. The writing is intriguing, fast paced, and finds a way to make sure no amount of information is overlooked. It feels like Twin Peaks, meets The X-files, meets House of Cards, and that’s where Convergence falters. It is trying to be, and say, so many things at once.

With so much going on in the plot, the story becomes overwhelming and cliche at times, but it almost has to be a little corny just to keep people from getting lost. Convergence has a really cool concept going for it, and that is the taking of children coinciding with the death of the planet. It’s a familiar theme in science fiction, but now it’s been stripped down to the basics and set in our very modern, very real times. Convergence is off to an entertaining and strong start. Here’s hoping it finds its right footing and continues to develop its intriguing story.

Photo by Brooke Hawkins  Pictured: Director of Photography Max J. Heiligman. 

Photo by Brooke Hawkins

Pictured: Director of Photography Max J. Heiligman.