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Director: Rashaad Ernesto Green
Presented by: Zora Howard
Starring: Zora Howard, Joshua Boone, Michelle Wilson, Alexis Marie Wint, Imani Lewis, and Tashiana Washington
2019, USA, 89 minutes, Digital, NR
Bursting open on the platform of a hot NYC subway station, Premature immediately asserts itself as a rapid coming-of-age saga that, even with its cooled down scenes of patient artmaking and non-verbal conversations, winces with the nostalgia of that special summer that went by way too fast. Shot on 16mm over the course of just three weeks in September of last year, before being edited in only two, the film retains the ecstatic immediacy of its very freshness, whilst feeling fully considered and radically familiar. Director Rashaad Ernesto Green’s story of romance speaks to the universality of young love—its carnality, obsession, heartbreak, and enduring effects—through the individual story of a young poet carrying herself through personal struggles during a fleeting summer in a changing Harlem.
In a truly stunning performance where scenes imbued with anger or agony resonate fuller due to the warm tranquility that preceded them, co-writer Zora Howard plays Ayanna; a 17-year-old poet, drifting through her final summer before college. She’s one in a pack of friends, who exchange endless, oft hilarious banter, as they saunter through the subway or ogle men at basketball courts. This is where Ayanna first eyes twenty-something Isaiah. He’s a musician and jazz connoisseur with smooth, enrapturing candor, who quickly earns her heart on a walk home from the laundromat. Their romance escalates rapidly, enjoying a flash of bliss, before surprises just as suddenly rock the course of their relationship and Ayanna’s plans.
Captured on film and composed of brilliant naturalistic dialogue, Premature sits among summer-in-the-City independents like Rhythm Thief. However, Ayanna and Isaiah’s first stroll together feels like the film’s core, and that scene instantly recalls the Before Trilogy films that influenced Green, or Sara and Duke’s walk in Losing Ground. They haven’t devoted themselves to each other yet, but it becomes obvious they will, and that this compelling romance—theirs and the film itself—is important. (Mitchell Goodrich)
Sundance Film Festival
Maryland Film Festival