Bechdel Test Fest presents a special screening of Gina Prince-Bythewood's acclaimed music drama. The film will be followed by a panel discussion Beyond 'Black' Film with lead actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ackee and Saltfish/Strolling director Cecile Emeke and film journalist Simran Hans (Little White Lies, Sight & Sound), hosted by Jasmine Dotiwalla.
The cinema release calendar is more crammed than it has ever been, yet good films still slip through the cracks on an alarmingly regular basis. Not even an Oscar nomination and a recent Edinburgh film festival premiere could save Gina Prince-Bythewood’s throbbing, neon-hot musical soap opera Beyond the Lights (Universal, 12) from direct-to-DVD ignominy here, echoing the fate of far too much vital African American fare on our shores. It deserves more generous exhibition, not least as a star-sealing showcase for British ingenue Gugu Mbatha-Raw, whose livewire turn as a Rihanna-esque pop star on the brink of self-destruction marks a more emphatic arrival than last year’s Belle.
There’s nothing here you haven’t seen in countless backstage dramas dating back to the pre-sound era: she’s the supernova for whom money can’t buy inner peace; Nate Parker is the good civilian who might yet be her saviour; a peak-form Minnie Driver is the merciless stage mother driving her to the edge. The devil (or the diva) is in the details, as Prince-Bythewood perceptively probes modern-day definitions and demands of class, race and celebrity within the grand, velvety framework of Hollywood melodrama. Like the star at its centre, it does not suit being ignored.
Here (and above) is the trailer.