The best films are always feeding off cultural currents like water drawn from a well, and it’s common knowledge that real-life events sometimes trigger interest in a film that’s lucky enough to open at just the right time. Sometimes it’s hard to say whether events influence films or vice versa, or if “fears, ideas of joy and what’s happening on the horizon” (in the words of Film Society of Lincoln center honcho Kent Jones) are just swirling every which way and sticking to this and that surface. Everyone remembers how The China Syndrome, a 1979 film about meltdown threats in nuclear power plants, got a significant boost when the Three Mile Island nuclear accident happened less than two weeks after it opened. And if you ask me some of the potency of Tony Scott‘s Man on Fire (’04), an immaculate whoop-ass revenge film, came from a general feeling that deep down it was a response to 9/11 (i.e., Denzel Washington bringing great pain to a gang of fiends).
Likewise I have a slight seat-of-the-pants feeling that Mike Binder‘s Black and White, a racially-tinged child custody drama pitting a lushy, well-off L.A. attorney and grandfather, played by Kevin Costner, against his African-American in-laws, is going to somehow siphon the Ferguson after-current on some level. The film doesn’t dramatize police brutality or shootings or any of that, but it takes a hard look at responsibility and parenting and racial identity and who’s really feeling what, and if you ask me it offers one of the frankest discussions about the black-white racial divide since Barack Obama ‘s Philadelphia speech about Reverend Wright, and before that Spike Lee‘s Do The Right Thing (’89).