In celebration of Black History Month, we’re making daily movie recommendations, presented in chronological order of the films’ stories.
Stay tuned to Noovie every day as we highlight an original, landmark film worth revisiting or discovering for the first time.
February 6 – Eve’s Bayou (1960s)
Before debuting as the director and writer of “Eve’s Bayou,” Kasi Lemmons was better known as an actress, appearing as Jodie Foster’s roommate in “The Silence of the Lambs,” as well as supporting roles in Spike Lee’s “School Daze” and '80s television shows like “Spenser for Hire” and “The Equalizer.”
With help from producer-star Samuel L. Jackson, Lemmons made the transition to full-fledged filmmaker. Her ‘60s set Southern drama stirs up a potent brew of mysticism, infidelity and dark family secrets – told through the memories of a unique 10-year-old child named Eve (Jurnee Smollett). It was universally acclaimed by critics and audiences alike and set Lemmons down a career path that’s still flourishing.
Her most recent project is the 2019 Academy Award nominated “Harriet.”
Set in the fictitious town of Eve’s Bayou, Louisiana, in 1962, the film tells the story of a wealthy family descended from the city’s founder, a freed slave named Eve who had 16 children with her French benefactor. The Batiste family includes patriarch and locat doctor Louis (Samuel L. Jackson), his beautiful wife Roz (Lynn Whitfield), and their three children: Cisely (Megan Goode), Eve (Smollett) and Poe (Jake Smollett).
Middle child Eve, who at 10 years old possesses a special ability to foresee past and future events, lives a fragmented childhood, aware in some way that her philandering father may also be sexually abusing her older sister. She confides in her Aunt Mozelle, who has magical abilities herself, but is confounded by her relative. Neither Mozelle, who chooses not to acknowledge Louis’ bad behavior, or Roz, who’s unable to stop her husband’s affairs, provide any lasting comfort for Eve.
It’s only after the youngster turns to local fortune teller and mystic Elzora (Diahann Carroll) that real action is put into motion. Elzora curses Eve’s father, and eventually, by that or simple inevitablity, one of his affairs (with the wife of his best friend) is brought to light. Louis pays the ultimate price, and sisters Cisely and Eve are left to try and find comfort in each other.
Director Lemmons’ intoxicating drama is full of stylish details that bring the time period to life. The themes are indeed disturbing, but the melodrama is highly watchable, from the script to the direction to the visuals of rookie cinematographer Amy Vincent.
Where to Watch
Drama / 1997 / R
Synopsis: Over the course of a long, hot Louisiana summer, a 10-year-old black girl, Eve Batiste (Jurnee Smollett), discovers that her family's affluent existence is merely a facade. The philandering of her suave doctor father, Louis (Samuel L. Jackson), creates a rift, throwing Eve's mother, Roz (Lynn Whitfield), and teenage sister, Cisely (Meagan Good), into emotional turmoil. Eve, though, manages to find some solace with her quirky psychic aunt, Mozelle (Debbi Morgan).