Anthony Mackie plays Perry, who is at the centre of Brother to Brother. Perry is an art student going through a period of self-doubt about his creative choices. He volunteers at a homeless shelter, where he meets Bruce Nugent (Roger Robinson), who he finds intriguing. The two begin to have conversations in which Bruce relates the chronicles of his struggles as a young black author during the peak of the Harlem Renaissance. Perry learns about the distinguished figures who frequented Bruce Nugent’s circles, such as Langston Hughes (who appears in the film, portrayed by Daniel Sunjata) and Zora Neale Hurston (Aunjanue Ellis).
These stories are relayed in black-and-white flashbacks done in a vignette style that contrast with the colorized narrative of Perry; and what’s more, Bruce’s experiences echo the day-to-day modern racial encounters that Perry finds himself in as a young, black gay man who is civically engaged. Learning more about Bruce’s perspective as a homosexual during the 1930s, a pre-Civil Rights era, forces the confused Perry to scrutinize the nature of his interracial relationship with a fellow student, Jim (portrayed by Alex Burns), who is white, and who cozies up to Perry to give him a shoulder to cry on after a rough class in which he got into a shouting match with another black student about James Baldwin. The film is underlaid with a jazz soundtrack that calls up images of 1930s-era Harlem.
“Those interested in the Harlem Renaissance or contemporary sexual politics will want to check out this one. ”
— The Phantom Tollbooth
“Mackie’s Perry is a welcome addition to the depiction of Black men on screen.”
Did You Know?
Director Rodney Evans stated in an interview Windy City Times that Brother to Brother was very much informed by this historical research into the gay underground of the Harlem Renaissance. The title of the film was inspired by a collection of Black gay writings called Brother to Brother. Review our Gay Themed Films Here