Film buffs who can hardly wait for SIFF should head to Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center. For one week, starting Friday (5/4-5/13), Restless City is returning to Seattle (since its debut at Langston Hughes African American Film Festival) for a local theatrical release, thanks to LHPAC's ongoing affiliation with AAFRM (African-American Film Release Movement).
Directed by Andrew Dosunmu, the film was named the "Official Selection" of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and has generated some well-deserved buzz.
About a young Senegalese immigrant balancing humble employment and big dreams of becoming a recording artist, Restless City studies life in an African immigrant neighborhood in present-day New York City, where the streets pulse with the typical high-adrenaline anticipation fed by the "American dream."
The idealist buzz doesn't last for but a few sun-drenched closeups as violence and sex reveal themselves to be dominant currencies in a lawless, underground market.
There's no easy "good" or "bad" side to choose between in the film's cast of characters. They all grapple with blurred ideals of morality and love, both declining in value at the same rate as a box of bootlegged CDs.
Taxi Driver comes to mind in a few scenes, especially as the main character scoots around on his Vespa with beautiful vistas of the city drifting behind him like an ominous dream sequence. The hero in Restless City (played by Sy Alassane) isn't insane, mind you. But our connection to his character deepens, tragically, right as he begins to move farther into the dark sides of the city where he shouldn't go.
While spare in dialogue, the film says plenty in a wonderful made-up language of camera angles and stunning visual compositions created by cinematographer Bradford Young.
The story will trample all over your heart, but I promise it's worth it - just to see how beautifully it does it.
5/4-5/13. Times vary. $6.50-$9. Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center, 104 17th Ave S; 206.684.4757; langstonarts.org. Tickets via Brown Paper Tickets
Watch the trailer:
This post has been edited since its original publication.