September 17, 2020

SCREEN | Regina King Spends 'One Night in Miami…' x TIFF 2020

"This is one strange f*cking night."
Kingsley Ben-Adir Eli Goree Aldis Hodge Leslie Odom Jr. Regina King | One Night in Miami… | TIFF 2020
Toronto International Film Festival
Acclaimed actress Regina King makes her feature directorial debut (after extensive experience directing episodic television) adapting the 2013 stage play and work of historical fiction, One Night in Miami… written by Kemp Powers (who also penned the screenplay), into a sprawling African-American drama about the struggle of race and Black activism.

Starring Kingsley Ben-Adir as Nation of Islam minister Malcolm X, Eli Goree as a 22-year-old boxer Cassius Clay (right before he became Muhammed Ali), Aldis Hodge as NFL superstar Jim Brown, and Leslie Odom Jr. as singer Sam Cooke, the film (like the play it's based on) imagines what their conversations might have been on the famous evening where the four actually did gather together in real-life at the segregated Hampton House motel in the Black section of Miami (Overtown aka "Colored Town"), to celebrate Clay's surprise title victory over world champion Sonny Liston in 1964 during the civil rights movement.

Aside from a few scenes establishing where each of our four leads is in their lives and history, One Night expectedly takes place almost entirely within its hotel setting. King's confident direction resists the urge to show off outside locations or run from the story's inherently stage-like narrative. Instead, she soulfully frames our characters patiently through extensive conversations and dialogue about their struggles on the way to fame and notoriety in each of their professions.

Kingsley Ben-Adir Eli Goree Aldis Hodge Leslie Odom Jr. Regina King | One Night in Miami… | TIFF 2020
Amazon Studios / ABKCO Films
Almost everything about the adaption is a stark reminder of how these figures were human beings full of conflict and contradictions. Each performance is mannered yet performative, especially Ben-Adir and Goree portraying such well-known titans of their Black and Muslim communities as historical icons beyond what they were famous for.

King and Powers' reflective portrait is a powerful slice of both Black history and fiction. How One Night in Miami… characterizes four of our most famous African-American figures as deeply flawed yet endlessly talented men struggling to succeed in a white man's world while being true to their own struggle and brotherhood is truly powerful.

One Night in Miami… screened both live and virtually at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival online and will be available to stream on Amazon Prime Video starting January 15th.

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