(director/writer: Horace Jenkins; cinematographer: Gideon Manasseh; editor: Debra I. Moore; music: Roy Glover/Phillip Manuel; cast: Carol Sutton (Ms. Mathis), Richard Romain (Peter Metoyer), Tommy Myrick (Maria Matis), Ilunga Adell (Brother), Lloyd La Cour (Mr. Metoyer), Lolis Elie (Black lawyer), Barbara Tasker (Dominique); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Horace Jenkins; Oscilloscope Laboratories; 1982)
“A remarkable low-budget Black indie film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The 42-year-old Black filmmaker, a former Emmy-award winning television producer of Sesame Street, Horace Jenkins, makes his only film, a remarkable low-budget Black indie film, with an almost all-Black cast. It tells about star-crossed Black lovers in rural Louisiana and about Creole life near Natchitoches, Louisiana, one of the first places where the slaves were freed. Cane River never was released in 1982, as Jenkins died of a heart attack soon after making it. It was put in storage until a negative of the film was recovered in 2013 and in 2018 a digitally remastered version by IndieCollect was released as a DVD by Oscilloscope Laboratories.
Peter Metoyer (Richard Romain) is a light-skinned gentle Adonis-like college football star who turned down a chance to play in the N.F.L by not signing with the Jets who drafted him. Instead he returns to his Creole roots in Cane River to live on his family farm with his young adult sister Dominique (Barbara Tasker) and work on the farm with his hard-working widower father (Lloyd La Cour) while writing poetry.
Peter’s mixed-race Creole family of Catholics is compared with the other poorer Black Baptist family’s in the area.
Visiting his ancestors well-preserved 18th-century plantation that they once owned, he meets and falls in love with the joyful, ambitious, dark-skinned 22-year-old plantation museum guide, Maria Matis (Tommy Myrick), whose family were slaves on Peter’s family plantation. She’s reading the book “The Forgotten People,” a scholarly work by Gary B. Mills on the history and sociology of “Cane River’s Creoles of Color,” when he flirts with her.
We learn Peter’s ancestors included the white Frenchman Monsieur Metoyer, who built Melrose plantation and married a freed-slave Black woman and had 14 children with her.
The romance is a sweet one between the two nice youngsters, who must navigate over the country’s racism, its twisty politics and Maria’s embittered widowed mother (Carol Sutton) who is the possessive and bullying type, but is overjoyed that her smart daughter has a college scholarship to Xavier in New Orleans and has a chance of rising upward in status.
The film sparkles as Peter courts the feisty Maria, and must try and win over Maria and out-trick her mother and her hostile deadbeat brother (Ilunga Adell) in order to keep seeing her.
The scenes of the lovers on horseback riding in the country and talking naturally about themselves, their ambitions and the way things are for colored folks in America, were marvelous scenes–unforgettable moments in a great film. A warm film trying to show the love for each other between the races that was taken away by slavery and the country’s ongoing racism.
REVIEWED ON 7/28/2022 GRADE: A