NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL 2020 REVIEW! I love it when a documentary adds some fictional aspects to it or vice versa. The Inheritance by Ephraim Asili is a hodge-podge of fiction, reality, and performance that leaves you knowing more about black history than when you went in (most likely).
Julian (Eric Lockley) inherits his late grandmother’s house in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the beginning, he has already repainted the house in vivid reds, glues, and greens. Gwen (Nozipho Mclean), his soon-to-be partner, helps him move a trunk full of Julian’s grandmother’s old books. He asks Gwen to move into the house with him. She ends up agreeing, but it turns out to be more than just her who moves into the house. Gwen has the idea to start a collective, so Julian’s late grandmother’s house is now known as The House of Ubuntu. The rest of the roommates are mostly like-minded folks: Patricia (Nyabel Lual), Old Head (Julian Rozzell Jr.), Jamel (Timothy Trumpet Jr.), Stephanie (Aniya Picou), Janet (Aurielle Akerele), and Rich (Chris Jarrell) are the new inhabitants. Rich is the only one who is not overly politically motivated or even really into communal living all that much. He is a childhood friend of Julian’s who needed a place to stay. He sticks out a bit like a sore thumb with the others.
“…Julian’s late grandmother’s house is now known as The House of Ubuntu.”
The House of Ubuntu focuses on building community and learning about history, so the audience learns everything that they end up learning by proxy. One of the things that I never knew about was The MOVE organization based out of West Philadelphia and ran by a man named John Africa. The Move organization had its fair share of trouble with the police, as most black political groups do. Their house was bombed by the cops, which resulted in 13 deaths and 60 other homes being destroyed. Members of Move got sent to prison for sentences from 30-100 years because of their troubles with the law. We meet Debbie Africa, Michael Africa Senior, and Michael Africa Junior. They detail their difficult history to the group.
Other than this, there are passages read from books about African socialism. There is footage from an actual Shirley Chisolm speech and interview with the press, famous Philadelphia based poets Sonia Sanchez and Ursula Rucker read for the group. The Inheritance is a celebration of black culture in America that reminds me of something William Greaves might have made were he still alive. It’s an avant-garde docufiction that will educate and entertain you. The production design and cinematography are so life-like, you feel as if you’re living in the house of Ubuntu for an hour and forty minutes.
If you are interested in black culture, particularly regarding its art and history, you should watch this movie as soon as possible. Like the James Brown poster on the House of Ubuntu wall, this movie says it loud that it’s black and it’s proud, and I’m all for more of that in cinema these days. If you are too, then check out The Inheritance, not to be confused with the five million other movies with the same title. This one certainly stands out on its own, for sure.
The Inheritance screened as part of the 2020 New York Film Festival.
"…avant-garde docufiction that will educate and entertain you."