The film Blackbird, directed by Patrik-Ian Polk, is set in a small southern Baptist community. Throughout this film we see an extensive deviation from the standard story of heterosexuality, whiteness and lasting marriages, however by the end of the film is it all for naught? The story line follows a young black male, Randy Rousseau, played by Julian Walker and his struggle with his sexual identity. Randy as the main character has a variety of problems including closeted homosexuality, separated parents, strange premonitions and the disappearance of his sister.
In Blackbird, Randy is surrounded by a group of misfit friends who all seem to know he’s gay except for him. Randy is portrayed as sexually confused and not wanting reveal his homosexuality to even himself, despite his same-sex fantasies and obvious attraction to his friend Todd, played by Torrey Laamar. Randy’s friend Efram is a flamboyant homosexual who using sly jokes and one liners attempts to move Randy away from his binary thinking of gay is wrong and straight is right and be more open about his sexuality. Randy also befriends an actor, Marshall MacNeil, who expresses romantic interest in Randy and causes Randy to consider his sexual identity as more than just a phase and not something that religion can fix, as he might want.
The relationship between Randy and his mother Claire Rousseau, played by Mo’Nique is extremely complex and often mirrors the state of his mother’s mental health. In the film, it is eluded that after the disappearance of Randy’s sister, Chrissie, Randy’s parents separated and Randy’s mothers mental health deteriorated significantly. Claire Rousseau’s behaviour throughout the film can’t help but be viewed as sacrificial motherhood. Within the film we see Claire sacrifice her mental health and her relationship with Randy over the loss of her daughter Chrissie. As Claire continues to search desperately for her daughter it would appear that her mental health only deteriorate and thus her relationship with Randy as well. Claire and Randy’s relationship also further deteriorates when she realizes that Randy is a homosexual, she further goes on to blame Randy’s “sin” for the disappearance of Chrissie.
As discussed above it is clear that throughout Blackbird the ideals of society are tested and challenged through failed marriages, homosexuality and going against religion. However as the movie concludes we find that all this forward thinking seems to go to waste and be all for naught. As the movie concludes we see that Chrissie is returned home, Randy’s parents get back together and Claire accepts Randy’s homosexuality. The wrap up of the film seems almost rushed and as though there were too many issues and sub-plots that there simply wasn’t time to give the proper attention to and so as a result a standard happily ever after ending was placed rather non-chalantly at the end of the film.
One scene in particular that stood out for me from Blackbird was when Randy came back to his room from church after his friends Leslie and Todd had used his bed to have sex for the first time. As Randy notices a thank you note on his bed he places his hand on his sheets and envisions blood coming back on his hand and spreading across his bed. This image of blood on the white sheets symbolizes the Cult of the Virgin. By showing the blood on the sheets this shows that Leslie lost her virginity on that bed and symbolizes the sacrifice of her virginity. However, this scene also provides some foreshadowing into Leslie’s future in the film. As the film progresses, we see that Leslie gets pregnant, gets an abortion then due to complications dies. I believe that by showing the blood on the sheets the film was eluding to Leslie’s dark future. This scene follows the themes present within the film by going against the standard story through showing 2 young people having sex before marriage. I also felt that this scene possessed a lot of irony as both Leslie and Todd were supposed to be in church while they were having sex.
Admittedly going into Reelout I really had no idea what to expect. I have never before seen an advertised queer film or attended a film festival before. I thoroughly enjoyed the intimate setting that Reelout provided and really allowed me to connect with the movie. Although some more comfortable seats at the library would’ve been appreciated, I have nothing but a positive outlook on the film festival and my experience with it.