Film / TV

‘nine days’ shows big black men are allowed to feel

February 3, 2020
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The final scene of Nine Days by writer/director Edson Oda will warm your heart as it breaks it. It reminds us that when you lose your faith, love from others can restore the courage you need to find what has been missing.

Nine Days has an ambitious premise. The film follows an interview process that determines which human soul should be granted a chance to be born. It delivers what is implied: a look into the human psyche and the emotional criteria a person needs to survive a world that does not care about how you are wired or how you need to be watered. The decision maker for this grand task is our protagonist Will, played by Winston Duke. He is a once-undisguised human who devoted his life to the vulnerable before being knocked down one time too many times by the world’s inability to allow softness for anyone aside from the societally decided chosen few. Sweeter and more beautiful than the world could grasp from a body like his (big, Black, masculine), he closed himself off in more ways than one, a habit he has maintained in the afterlife. 

Similar to his life’s purpose as an actor is his afterlife’s purpose as fate decider. Both jobs require the ability to internalize another’s pain, for it is him who must watch these souls disappear if not chosen. Staying true to the difficult lessons learned on earth, Will approaches this task with a hardness he finds necessary to survive. It is only when a soul must be taken away that we catch a glimpse of Will minus his armor. Unlike the other decision makers, Will gives these souls a proper goodbye by granting them a final wish before they go.

As you join someone’s life, you allow them to join yours. Aside from his own experience as a human being, Will has televisions in his home monitoring the lives of the souls he has birthed through their eyes. He takes in the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. He must wear a protective layer in order to shield himself from all the emotions that come with being someone’s partner through thick and thin. Once they are on earth, he can no longer interfere and help, he must just watch.

Through the deconstruction of the souls he interacts with, Will is finally able to confront himself. With the help of his right hand man Kyo — who was never a human but once upon a time chose to send Will down to earth — and the souls he encounters, Will is able to honestly look at himself and begin the process of healing. This process starts when he meets Emma, played by Zazie Beetz, whose innocent wonder and unrelenting questioning helps him finally find hope again. In order to fairly assess who is ready for life on earth, Will finally understands he must be fair to himself. 

The freedom embodied in Will’s mind, body and spirit once he finds himself is remarkable. Have you heard the news? Big Black men can be free, happy, goofy, dainty, artistic, classy, messy, passionate, intense, light, anything they want to be. What a gift to see on-screen.

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