Tuesday, Mar 02, 2021
Focus on the big picture

Watch Malcolm X Debate Sam Cooke in ‘One Night in Miami’ | Anatomy of a Scene

NYT, 22 Jan 2021
In a heated conversation onscreen, the way performers approach silent moments is as important as their dialogue. That is Regina King’s belief, and in her feature directing debut, “One Night in Miami” (streaming on Amazon), she extracts meaning from both the use of words and the absence of them.

The film takes place in 1964 on the night that Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) becomes heavyweight champion of the world. Afterward, he gathers at a hotel with Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge). The celebratory evening leads to passionate debate about, among other things, the ways that famous Black men should contribute to the civil rights movement.

In this sequence Malcolm criticizes Sam for not creating the kind of music that would more strongly support the cause, and sparring ensues between them. In her narration, King discusses how she built the scene to steer the audience from one perspective to another.

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