Chapter & Verse
Chapter & Verse is the powerful new independent feature picture from the Harlem Film Company.
Starring Daniel Beaty, Loretta Devine and Omari Hardwick (the Starz series Power), the film centers around Lance (Beaty), a former gang leader who returns to Harlem after 8 years in prison.
With the support of his best friend Jomo (Hardwick) and a strong-spirited grandmother named Ms. Maddy (Devine), Lance (Beaty) tries to rebuild his life. But in order to save Ms. Maddy’s grandson, Ty, from going down the same path he did, he must battle the system, the streets and his past.
Already being heralded as one of the best independent films of the year – with special praise around the colorful performance from Devine – the movie was an official selection at this fall’s Urbanworld Film Festival in New York and is opening the BronzeLens Film Festival in Atlanta this Thursday.
Noted for it’s realist depiction of the urban street life, the film is directed and co-written (alongside Beaty) by Jamal Joseph, who has first-hand experience with his subject matter.
“I grew up in Harlem and spent 9 years in prison as a result of my membership in the Black Panther Party,” says Joseph, who has also worked as a community educator and artist. “So many black men in Harlem have been to prison or are headed there because of America’s policies of mass incarceration… One in three black men will go to prison in their lifetime. This is a film about that third man trying to rebuild his life in the midst of gentrification, gangs and a broken past.”
“[Chapter & Verse is about] a black man trying to be a whole, living breathing human being in society that believes that he is ‘less than’ because he is black, poor and formerly incarcerated,” says co-star Hardwick, who also plays the main character in the Starz series, Power. “Young black men have wings on their shoulders and targets on their backs. I hope people will think about how we help our young men soar. There are too many funerals and not enough graduations in our communities.”
The film is so realistic, in fact, that it sometime blends with reality itself. As producer Cheryl Hill tells, “In the middle of shooting in Harlem, people in the community were resisting the arrest of a young boy and a real-life riot broke out. Rather than stop shooting we made the decision to incorporate reality into a scene which underscores the scripted protest scenes.”
The soundtrack of Chapter & Verse is designed to be a soundscape for all of Harlem.
“We roll from jazz to gospel to hip-hop,” says Hardwick, who made us this exclusive playlist inspired by the film. “Each character has a theme that reflects the music he or she grew up with. For my character, Jomo, it’s jazz and those golden hip-hop years in the nineties.”
Citing of the film’s varied track selection, Joseph tells, “‘Smoke Drink,’ a hip-hop song produced by Eric Mobley shows the rage and numbness of young heads trying to get their drink on. ”Wait” by Jindai is a hopeful moment when young Ty falls in love. ”Gunshots” is a jazz/R&B song performed by Chapella that talks about bullets flying in the hood, not just from Cops but from gangs and street soldiers.”
The film’s powerful writing and acting come from a deep personal investment by all those involved in it.
“Everybody in the cast had a family member or close friend who had been to prison and who had struggled to find their second chance,” says Joseph. ”Daniel, Omari, Loretta, Selenis and our young stars Justin and Khadim went beyond giving great performances. They channeled the struggles and hopes of their loved ones, which made people on the streets of Harlem stop while we were filming and go: That’s me right there. That’s my story.”
Connecting the film’s universal and timely relevance, Joseph continues, “This Harlem story is the story of black and brown communities all around the world. It leaves us thinking about the question, how do the broken love each other? The answer: the best way the can, in pieces, one day at time.”
Echoing that sentiment, Hill says, “[Chapter & Verse] sheds light on what disenfranchised youth are going through, not only in Harlem or Bed-Sty, but all over the country and in far away places like El Salvador and Johannesburg. Young men trying to find their way in an unjust world, and the effects on the family, and ultimately on the whole society. We’re all interconnected even when we don’t realize it.”
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