First-time feature AV Rockwell sends a heartbreaking letter to New York in this year’s Sundance Grand Prize winner.
Celebrated screenwriter and playwright Jeremy O. Harris broke down in tears as he presented the festival’s Grand Jury Prize to “A Thousand” on stage last month as a member of the Sundance 2023 Dramatic jury. AV Rockwell’s gritty and beautiful drama set in Harlem follows the coming of age of a boy in the care of the mother who kidnapped him from foster care, played by Teyana Taylor. The R&B superstar and actress delivers a commanding, breakout performance in a film whose award-winning streak isn’t expected to end at Sundance. Watch the official trailer for the film below.
“There’s more to life than fucking beginnings,” Inez (Taylor), a New York woman living life on her own terms, tells her young son Terry (Aaron Kingsley Adetola) as the film opens. He took her out of the foster care system that separated them at Rikers Island starting in 1993 and now hopes to give her a better life. But at the end of the film, after a decades-long, bittersweet bond develops and heats up between them, and shocking revelations are made, he tells the older Terry (Josiah Cross), “I fucked up. Life doesn’t stop. So what?”
“A Thousand and One” depicts a fast-changing New York over 20 years, from Giuliani to Bloomberg, as the city’s black residents fend for themselves against the winds of gentrification.
“I feel privileged as a New Yorker to be able to make a film about the city the way other filmmakers I admire like Spike Lee, Scorsese, Woody Allen,” Rockwell told IndieWire. “They’re just known as New Yorkers making New York movies, but I wrote a heartbreak letter rather than a love letter. I didn’t really feel like I had a lot of examples of this in my own way to criticize. New York broke my heart.”
The film’s first look doesn’t give away its secrets: “A Thousand” culminates in a gut-wrenching conclusion that turns the entire film on its head, a sobering reminder that fucked-up beginnings can hopefully lead to better endings. Taylor’s obvious kinship with Rockwell (and Taylor’s own history as a New Yorker) indicates some major directing and acting talent to keep an eye on for the rest of the year and beyond.
On March 31, Focus Funktions will open “Ezeregy” across the country.
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