Review: Riding with Sugar Makes an Appearance at the Three Rivers Film Festival; A Foreign Film for the Black Community about Identity and Self-Perseverance

by Merecedes J. Williams, Movie Scene Queen™

Sunu Gonera, a film director from Zimbabwe, crosses country lines with the 2020 drama “Riding with Sugar.” The movie is about a young refugee, Joshua (Charles Mnene), whose escape from the life of a child soldier lands him on the streets of South Africa’s Cape Town. A talented bike-rider, he dreams of winning a cycling championship as a way out of poverty. He finds more than shelter after a terrible accident derails his BMX racing career. Under the wings of a trusted advisor, Joshua is forced to balance education, love, health, and trauma to meet his goals.

According to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, more than 32 million Africans are either internally displaced, refugees, or asylum seekers. Imagine being young with no family, no formal education, and nowhere to go. Gonera paints this picture so vividly through his cinematic release.

He shows us the few impoverished options for young Joshua and the other millions of African who seek the same safety and relief. 

The turbulent struggles and murky waters the main character navigates through is a creative glimpse into Gonera’s film making process. The final product is colorful yet dark, making every life turn that much more relatable for the audience.

The beauty of “Riding with Sugar” lies within its adaptability and how even in a different country, on a different continent, the troubles of young Joshua are the same troubles Black youth face here in America. The journey to find oneself and not succumb to gangs, drugs, and other illicit behavior is boundless, impacting both Africans and African Americans.

The cast, which includes Mnene, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Simona Brown, and Hlayani Junior Mabasa, was phenomenal. The only woman to grace the main slate is Simona Brown, who plays Joshua’s beau, Olivia.

Brown is effortlessly radiant. But that’s to be expected. She brings a calm yet complex demeanor to all of her roles. Most recently, she starred in the Netflix thriller, “Behind Her Eyes.” The British actress is racy, delicate, gentle—pretty much the ideal love interest for every flick. 

She breaks up the male-dominated film with her quirks of legitimate care and concern. Brown also debunks all the stereotypes that foreigners hold about African women. She’s smart, capable, healthy, and wealthy. 

“Riding with Sugar” takes you on a journey. It is more than a coming-of-age story. There’s a piece of Joshua in all of us; an inner child who battles with identity, self-sufficiency, and belonging. 

Both Black and African films, such as “Riding with Sugar”, are vital to the fabric of telling stories of the untold and bringing awareness to the vulnerable population of refugees.

“Riding with Sugar,” the winner of six South African Film and  Television Awards including Best Picture, is available for in-person and virtual screenings at the 2021 Three Rivers Film Festival. 

Schedule:

Friday, November 12, 7:15 PM at the Waterworks Cinemas  

Saturday, November 13, 4:45 PM at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater 

The film is available for virtual viewing November 11-17 in PA, WV, and OH only.

Please check theaters COVID-19 safety policies.

Need tickets? Film Pittsburgh is teaming up with Motor Mouth Multimedia to increase diversity and access to both the Three Rivers Film Festival and the Pittsburgh Shorts and Script Competition, which feature nearly 40 Black films shown in-person and online. Enter the discount code LOCMM50 for 50% off the All Festival passes, and LOCMM2OFF for $2 off all individual tickets.  Visit filmpgh.secure.force.com/ticket to purchase tickets.

The Good Lie

the-good-lie-poster

The Good Lie is a biographical film directed by Philippe Falardeau about the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Starring Reese Witherspoon, Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, Emmanual Jal, Corey Stoll, and Sarah Baker, the film features Witherspoon as Carrie Davis, a staffing agent who helps Sudanese refugees relocate to the United States.

While roughly 2.5 million people were killed during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983–2005), the Lost Boys of Sudan- groups of over 20,000 boys who were displaced and/or orphaned- took their chances of relocation to the United States with a lottery. Paul (Jal), Jeremiah (Duany), Mamere (Oceng) and their sister, Abital (Wiel) were lucky enough to get on the list.

Their inevitably challenging transition shows the difficulty of simultaneously adapting to American customs, getting a job, daily living as an immigrant, and coping with the trauma from their previous experiences. That is no easy task!

The true stars are not the big Hollywood actors like Reese Witherspoon or Corey Stroll, but the actors who played Sudan refugees. Emmanuel Jal, Ger Duany, Arnold Oceng and Kuoth Wiel are actual Sudanese refugees. It was clear that the actors used their firsthand knowledge and accounts to effortlessly excel in these roles. They were compelling, convincing, and remarkably powerful. To see real Sudanese refugees tell their stories through this movie was the most rewarding experience.

The Good Lie is a tearful journey and carefully illustrates the horrific scenarios young Sudanese children experienced. Equally important, the movie provides hope for all.

Warner Brothers Pictures and Movie Scene Queen invited members of the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation to The Good Lie screenings. Hundreds of movie goers packed the Homestead theater and PBMF members receive VIP treatment, enjoying the movie weeks before its Pittsburgh release.

PBMF The Good Lie Screening

Pittsburgh Black Media Federation members at the October 14th screening of the Good Lie: (left to right) Sheila Beasley, Tory Parrish, Brian Cook, Merecedes Howze, and  Clarece Polke.  (Photo by B.Cook/Golden Sky Media)

PBMF President Tory Parrish thought the movie provided “insight into both the brutality of war and the resilience of the human spirit. It’s a thought-provoking film that stays with the viewer well past the duration of the movie. It was sobering and heartening.”

Sheila Beasley, the organization’s Soul Café Subcommittee Chair, attended the movie screening with her mother. “The movie, The Good Lie, was a great story that needed to be shared to bring awareness to the horrendous journey of Sudanese refugees and the nuances settling to American culture. This movie stays with you!” says Beasley.

4 STARS: As Americans, I believe we so easily overlook the more sensitive needs of less fortunate countries. The Good Lie not only opens blind eyes to the destruction and civil war aftermath in Sudan, but the movie also sheds light on the need of compassion for others- regardless of race, sex, or economic status.

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