Chasing Shakespeare: more cute than controversial

Theatre aficionados seeking hard-hitting documentaries and other flicks can check out any of MIBFF’s other presentations until Sept. 29. Press photo.

The movie, Chasing Shakespeare, falls so short of pushing the envelope that it actually creates more stereotypes than shatters them.

The feature about a Native American woman and a black man falling in love in Arkansas in the ‘70s kicked off the ninth annual Montreal International Black Film Festival (MIBFF) on Wednesday Sept. 18, at Imperial Cinema.

Theatre aficionados seeking hard-hitting documentaries and other flicks can check out any of MIBFF’s other presentations until Sept. 29. Press photo.

“The goal of the [MIBFF] is to bring audiences the most beautiful and the most amazing new Black films, while creating a space to debate major cultural, social and socio-economic issues,” explains the festival’s website.

Considering this years festival falls on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, one was expecting one hell of a cultural debate.

But the most boundary-pushing Chasing Shakespeare gets is when some brunette bimbo calls Venus Red Hawk, played by Chelsea Ricketts, a (brace yourselves) Indian.

Which, yes, is politically incorrect but isn’t the smashing controversy I was gearing up for.

The movie features the duo of young Venus and William (played by Mike Wade) falling in love and then parting ways as an elderly couple (played by Tantoo Cardinal and Danny Glover).

Venus is a descendant of the Lightning Clan, meaning the power of love exists within her in the form of electricity, which she passes along by shocking people. That, and she can summon storms, call upon winds to save her from falling off roofs, has the ability to manipulate fire, and will die from a lightning strike and then appear as a beautiful glittering ghost afterwards. She’s a real-life Pocahontas in a ‘70s miniskirt with a mean yearning to perform Shakespeare on a Broadway stage.

Fortunately, the scene quickly flips to sunny Arkansas in 1972 where the young lovers are meeting for the first time as Venus tries out for the role of Juliet in the school’s play. But she gets rejected because she doesn’t have the right “look” to sell tickets (please apply ice accordingly to that burn).The opening scene is mashup of The Notebook’s bittersweet love and UP’s kick-in-the-soft-place emotional blow as Glover tearfully bids farewell to his better half while lightning rips across the sky.

Flash forward to William, old and reeling from the death of his wife. He is alone, he is heartbroken and he is hated by his floppy-toque-wearing bratty son for wheeling the dying Venus out into a storm where she is struck by the lightning that kills her.

Flash back to him young and happy. Now he’s old. Now he’s young and shirtless (the audience at Imperial Cinema broke out into applause for Wade’s muscular, shining torso). The movie rapidly flips between the then and the now, dragging you along an exhausting rollercoaster of love so cute you need to hug something and moments so heartbreaking they elected collective cries from the audience.

Chasing Shakespeare is strictly a romantic drama with some lightning and First Nations stereotypes thrown in. But the adorable love story, Wade’s washboard abs and Glover’s ability to break your heart makes the audience love it. This movie gets  two thumbs up. Just remember to pack some tissues before you watch it.

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