Film reviews

Edinburgh International Film Festival: My Name is Myeisha

My Name is Myeisha is unlike anything I’ve seen at the cinema or even a film festival before. Director Gus Krieger’s second feature takes the two person play, Dreamscape by Rickerby Hinds who also writes on this film, and manages to succeed in making something that is both partly experimental and most importantly cinematic. The film follows Myeisha Jackson, a black woman on a night out on the 28th of December 1998. Where something life changing and heart-breaking takes place. She was involved in a police shooting. The film and the play are based very heavily on the shooting of Tisha Millers on the same date and place. Her tragic story is almost identical to that of Myeisha however, Myeisha and her backstory are completely made up. The event in the movie, which in real-time takes about 5 minutes, is expanded in the dream as we go on a journey with Myeisha to discover what happened and learn about her, and her culture.

I knew nothing about it before entering the screening. I had seen the name and thought racial drama in America. The film does begin like it could go that way. When we are introduced to Myeisha, her cousin Rony and her best friend Kai, getting ready to hit a club and dance, so far so normal. They get a flat tire on their way there and have to stop at a gas station. So far so normal. While her friends go and make some calls, she falls asleep in the car and pulls out a gun onto her lap for protection1. This is where the film truly begins.  It is hard to tell you’re going to experience something as cool and as crazy as you do. She becomes trapped in her dream. Seeing visions of her clothes and police tape around it. Then she begins to rap, poetically explain her actions with her beatboxing sidekick, the policemen who shot her. This shift in style was an unexpected turn for me which made the next hour completely enthralling.

The movie is so stylish and slick. Sound and editing work together in harmony. Each new part of her life or event that she goes to in this dream has its own unique style and importance to it. The always stunning, visual style changes depending on the mood of the song/scene that is being performed. Written expertly and delivered with such power from Rhaechyl Walker who plays Myeisha. Each of these scenes providing great chunks of imagery and detail to paint this picture of a human life. Story’s about her first time, her athletic prowess, her unique family. Even her hair is given its own small segment. A hip-hop song which is hilarious but also (I assume) deadly serious, dedicated to men who want touch black women’s hair and how that is a massive don’t. Each of these small details make the emotional punches that this film has earned more devastating.

The theatrical cogs can still be seen in places. There is a section of the movie which is a black screen and different colour light hitting the actress as she raps about her struggle, one of the few sections of the movie which does feel like you’re viewing an amateur theatre production. Obviously styled that way purposely since you see these lights change colour, but it felt like a slowdown from what was a great way of adapting. But for the most part Krieger has done a great job adapting this piece into something that has cinematic value. A good sound system in the cinema being crucial to that to get a great experience from this musical experience.

My Name is Myeisha is without a doubt emotional and powerful. An important film made even more poignant in today’s political climate. Gus Krieger adapts what I assume would have been a challenging play to translate with some problems, but many can be overlooked when considering just how good the rest of the movie is. From cinematography to smartly written lines/lyrics delivered powerfully. The film will make you actively find ways for her to get out of the cruel situation and go on to break your heart.

Check out the trailer from the Film Festival below:

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