My Brother’s Wedding (Burnett, 1983)

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Charles Burnett’ brilliant sophomore effort unravels at a leisurely place, revealing a beautiful and non-judgemental quality to human interaction and reaction. Burnett focuses on Pierce (Everette Silas), a 30 year old African American man living with his parents whose main concern stems from his older brother’s marriage to a wealthy younger women, whom Pierce greatly resents. Pierce must also deal with the impending prison release of his childhood friend Soldier, and the accountability he feels toward saving him from a life wasted. Burnett paints Pierce with a tender yet conflicted brush, showing a man caught between a changing reflection of race and the evolution of male responsibility in the community.

My Brother’s Wedding deals directly with the consequences of such social quagmires, highlighting various persons caught in similar binds of identity and place and relating them through Pierce’s point of view. Most of all, Burnett’s masterpiece shows how the small decisions of our lives add up to a greater complexity worth being contemplated via moving pictures. In the film’s final, heart-breaking sequence, Pierce tries to express both his loyalty toward family and his guilt toward a fallen friend, once again caught between responsibility and identity with little hope of fully addressing either.

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