LA TIMES REVIEW: The words of James Baldwin ring out in Harlem drama 'Chapter & Verse'

James Baldwin’s bracingly relevant writings, which inspired the potent “I Am Not Your Negro,” also resonate deeply in “Chapter & Verse,” Jamal Joseph’s tough / tender portrait of an ex-con attempting to find redemption in modern-day  transitional Harlem.

Having served eight years in prison for “being stupid,” reformed gang leader S. Lance Ingram (the film’s co-screenwriter, Daniel Beaty) is trying to do the right thing, living clean in a halfway house and landing a delivery job for a food pantry.

Despite his best efforts, Lance encounters potential minefields at every Harlem corner — including his amorous supervisor Yolanda (a fiery Selenis Leyva) — offering the constant reminder that any misstep could land him back in the Green Haven Correctional Facility.

Things take a turn through his friendship with Ms. Maddy (the always terrific Loretta Devine), a spirited widow with a wry sense of humor and a troubled teen grandson who is headed down a path Lance knows only too well.

Filmmaker and Columbia professor Joseph, and playwright Beaty, in his feature writing and acting debut, infuse the movie with an intense New York City realism and an evocative street poetry that conjure up early John Cassavetes and Spike Lee.

But ultimately, it’s the voice of Baldwin, who more than 50 years  ago observed, “All over Harlem, Negro boys and girls are growing into stunted maturity, trying desperately to find a place to stand,” that rings out clearly in this deeply affecting drama.

'Chapter & Verse

Rating: R, for language, drug use, some violence and sexuality 

Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

Playing: Cinemark 18, Los Angeles


Press

  • Black By Popular Demand! "The Day Harlem Saved Dr. King!'

    Shades of Truth Theatre and Voza Rivers/ New Heritage Theatre

    in association with The Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Community Center present

    The Day Harlem Saved Dr. King written and directed by Michael Green

  • Empowering a New Generation

    Republished from Captrust, Tuesday, January 29, 2019

    by Sylvana Smith

    From Black Panther and convict to writer, poet, producer, college professor, Academy Award nominee, and youth advocate, Jamal Joseph’s life has taken a circuitous path to the present. His is a story of perennial social activism, advancing lessons from his Black Panther days to empower a new generation.

    Excuse Me, Young Brother, I Just Did

  • NYS Senate and Assemby Honors New Heritage Theatre Group 55th Anniversary
    In celebration of Black Theatre and New Heritage's 55th Anniversary the New York State Assembly recently honored and recognized Voza Rivers and Jamal Joseph on the floor of the Assembly. Oscar nominated IMPACT members performed . 
      
     
    Robert Rodriguez, 68th Assembly District, Inez E. District 70th Assembly District, Al Taylor 71st Assembly District, issued the following signed statement:
    albany senate assemby honors New Heritage Theatre Group"We have an organization worthy of the esteem of both the community  and the Great State of New York." 
     Later that day Assembly Member Inez Dickens stated:
     

    "Special thanks to Voza Rivers and Jamal Joseph on 55 years of excellence and prosperity in the Harlem community through arts & culture for Harlem's youth! I especially want to thank IMPACT children for an amazing performance here in Albany.We wish them all the best!"

     

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