Ashes and Embers ★★★

You can watch Ashes and Embers for free on Sankofa TV, as well as other films from Haile Gerima and Shirikiana Aina such as Bush Mama and Footprints of Pan Africanism. All you need is a free account, which takes about 5 seconds to make.

To be brief with my thoughts, while I conceptually connect with Gerima’s approach of weaving lived dreams, memories and realities into one, I think that this films execution is threadbare at points and relies too heavily on the intercutting to make it work. It’s (very) possible that I’ve been spoiled by Passing Through, but I undoubtedly find that film to be a cut above in this regard. I rarely feel a complete sense of spatial, temporal, or auditory unity/discord between adjoining narratives—elements collide but don’t quite blur. The character element here also oscillates between powerful personal testimony (Ned’s church visit) and polemic (Grandma, mostly), but strikes a brilliant balance at certain points (Ned’s berating of the chin stroking theorists) even if it does so unevenly. I’m kind of on the fence about Ashes and Embers. I think ultimately I appreciate and agree with it, but didn’t find myself immersed within it. Perhaps because, familiar as I am with it’s ideas, I couldn’t quite see my fathers story in it.