In its opening scene, this Depression-era drama appears to be the story of a prisoner’s return to society: The camera descends into the fields to introduce us to Homer (Beckford), who’s been unjustly jailed for stealing to feed his family. But once Homer relocates to a small Southern town, the focus widens to the ensemble. There’s Lucy (Washington), a seamstress who struggles to hold down a job in a factory that shows no mercy to its employees; Gracie (Whitfield), a widowed boarding-house proprietress who’s lost her sense of dignity; and Clarence (Turman), a ne’er-do-well who just needs a little confidence. The two men compete to perform in a weekly contest to be crowned “king of the evening” for the town’s African-American community. For them, it’s a way to stay optimistic even when they’re down-and-out.
A hit at last summer’s Black Harvest Film Festival, the movie resourcefully evokes its setting on a low budget, despite scoring that’s a little overbearing at times (and at least one plot thread whose outcome smacks of wish fulfillment). Modestly scaled and well-acted, the film gets a lot of small details right without winding up anywhere in particular.