‘Nothing but a Man’, originally released in 1964, set out to do something rarely before seen in American cinema – portray multi-dimensional, complex black characters. The plot follows railroad worker Duff (Ivan Dixon) as he falls in love with teacher Josie (Abbey Lincoln). Along the way Duff has to deal with his relationships with his drunken father and four-year-old son. Add to the mix Josie’s steely preacher father, and you have some intense family drama.
With its ‘kitchen sink’ sensibility, the film manages to deal with racism, broken families and more in 95 minutes. Not a word of its succinct, realistic dialogue is wasted, and in every case, less is more. The performances and script are so believable and lifelike they cement the place of ‘Nothing but a Man’ as a seminal film in the history of American cinema.