Before the screening of his film began director Matthew A Cherry took the stage to say a few words and made it clear that his first feature film The Last Fall wasn’t a sports movie – it was the story around that. A former professional athlete himself, Cherry’s inclusion of his own experiences in the American football world gave the film a personal approach, which allowed the viewer to relate to the story.
The Last Fall takes a look into a side of the sports world that many don’t see when 25-year-old Kyle Bishop (Lance Gross) faces the possibility of an early end to a budding sports career (which surprisingly is the case for 84% of players in the NFL). The film follows Bishop as he returns to the reality of home life, moving back in with his mother and coming to terms with life after sports. The film charts the weeks following an unfruitful meeting with his agent and see Bishop reconnecting with close friends, lost loves (in particular his high school sweetheart Faith, played by Nicole Behari) and also a distant relationship with his father.
Speaking about the filmmaking process, Cherry referenced the filmmaking styles of Barry Jenkins (A Medicine for Melancholy) and Ava DuVernay (I Will Follow) and their ability to tell stories of the black experience in a minimalist fashion. This was evident throughout the film.
The stylistic approach to certain scenes in the film were also a clear relation to Cherry’s work as a music video director having shot videos for the likes of Jazmine Sullivan, Kindred The Family Soul, N’Dambi and The Foreign Exchange – it was elegantly done without the effects taking over the film’s subject matter.
He also mentioned throughout the Q&A that followed about the prevalent issue of negative images and characters in many black films and his purposeful intentions to go against this, something that both myself and many of the audience members commented and commended him on.
In particular a scene in the film where Kai goes to dinner at Faith’s parents house. Their openly affectionate behaviour something which Kyle never experienced in his own household warrants a Cosby Show reference. The relationship between Kyle and Faith’s young son Von was also another commendable effort made Cherry in showing positive relationships between two generations of black males.
Having distributed his first short film ‘ This Time’ on the Internet which was featured as part of NBC’s ‘African-American Short Films’ series, Cherry championed the use of social media to promote and distribute his films, which lead to the successful funding of The Last Fall via Kickstarter.
I’m excited to see not only Cherry’s next feature films but also the journey that he’ll take from his experience at the SXSW film festival as he spoke of an interest from buyers. I believe he’s definitely one of the new directors that are seeking to narrate alternative yet refreshing stories from the black experience. I’d love to see this screened in the UK.
The video from the Q&A and an interview will be posted up once I get back from the madness that is SXSW.
photo by @MatthewACherry