2020 has been a strange year thus far. It’s also been interesting and enlightening, in real life and on-screen, one example being the One Night in Miami. Directed by Academy Award winner Regina King (I love typing that), and written by Kemp Powel who wrote the original stage production, One Night in Miami depicts a fictional scenario where four Black men spend a night sharing, lecturing, educating, and commiserating with each other about the struggles of Black people in America. These four men are none other than icons Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke, and Jim Jones who, through their different backgrounds, careers, and political views give voice to the concerns they have as Black men doing the best they can to survive in a world where their race is both their pride and the obstacle to success in white spaces.
In this episode of Carolyn Talks…, film critic and journalist Kathia Woods and I get into what makes this film our personal favorite of TIFF 2020, and how we related to many of the points and observations made throughout the night.
It’s February 1964, professional boxer Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) is arrogant, sure and filled with the ego of a 22 year old who believes his own hype. He’s confident that he’ll win this match against his white opponent, but he pays too much attention to the audience, suspicious of what’s being said about him. A camera flashes and he’s knocked down. He loses. Singer Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) performs “Tammy” to a disinterested and disrespectful audience at the famed The Copacabana. It’s always been his dream to perform there and it was his first time. But that doesn’t matter, because to the audience they would’ve preferred a white singer.
Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), famous Cleveland Browns quarterback visits an old family friend on St. Simons Island, his birthplace in Georgia. He and this white man exchange pleasantries and everything is good until Jim offers to help move a bureau. In an instant, the hood that was invisible becomes apparent, as Jim is told that Black people aren’t allowed in the house. It’s a startling reminder that many white people wear civility as a mask to hide their hatred and bigotry. Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) arrives home after delivering a speech. He greets his wife Betty (Joaquina Kalukango) and asks after their young daughters, sorry that’s he’s missed their bedtime but promises that he’ll make it the next day.
There’s a sense of disquiet felt as this scene nonverbally implies that for him, “tomorrow” won’t come as it brings to mind the memory of his fate just two years later. Betty questions him about his plans to leave the Nation of Islam, worried their family could lose everything when it happens. Though Malcolm is indeed concerned about the fallout from this decision, he’s confident that things will work out.
All images courtesy of TIFF. For more TIFF20 festival and organization announcements visit, TIFF.net. You can follow Carolyn on Twitter and Instagram @Carriecnh 12.
Carolyn is a Freelance Film Critic, Journalist, and Podcaster – and avid live tweeter. Member of the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), her published work can be found on But Why Tho, The Beat, Observer, and many other sites. As a critic, she believes her personal experiences and outlook on life, give readers and listeners a different perspective they can appreciate.