California Studies Association

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FILM: Barry Jenkins’s “Medicine” Takes on Race in San Francisco

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The San Francisco International Film Festival began on April 24 and lasts until May 8th.

The festival website gives a plot summary of Jenkins’s “Medicine for Melancholy.”

“After hooking up at a party, Jo (Tracey Heggins) considers her alcohol-fueled one-night stand with Micah (Wyatt Cenac) history, but he is eager to explore the possibility of a deeper connection. On the surface, they have little in common other than both being twentysomething and African American. For Jo, self-assured but still trying to find her place in the world, race is just one lens through which to see the world, while Micah proves obsessed with the subject. After Jo eventually agrees to spend her Sunday with him, afternoon turns to evening as the initial sparks flare once more. Their intimacy grows, along with an air of pensive reflection as each challenges the other’s assumptions, core beliefs and sense of identity. Gorgeously shot in muted tones on the streets of San Francisco, through neighborhoods ranging from the tony Marina to the gritty Tenderloin, what begins as a bittersweet, erotic romance between near strangers evolves into a complex tale with wider implications. The couple’s visit to the Museum of the African Diaspora becomes richly ironic, especially for Micah, who is only too aware of the ongoing African American exodus from the city. As they wander around town, their conversation encompasses the personal and political, touching on issues of race, class, assimilation and gentrification. It is part of the strength of Barry Jenkins’s thoughtful feature debut that these larger issues never dwarf Jo and Micah’s own journey, one that over a scant 24 hours leaves them both reflective and bursting with new perceptions.” —Pam Grady


Wed, Apr 30 / 9:15 / Kabuki / MEDI30K
Sun, May 4 / 8:15 / PFA / MEDI04P
Wed, May 7 / 3:30 / Kabuki / MEDI07K


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