The Venice International Film Festival is known for premiering movies from newcomers and established veterans alike. However, like many film festivals, they are normally seen as white men clubs with only one or two features by more marginalized directors premiering.
That is probably why it is unfortunately no surprise that Oscar winner Regina King was the first Black American woman to have a movie premiere at Venice. However, according to critics at the festival, her debut One Night in Miami has easily become the movie to watch out for as awards season approaches.
The film is based on a 2013 play by Kemp Powers and chronicles the speculated events of a night between four icons of the 1960s: Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali and portrayed by Eli Goree), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), and Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir). While the February 25, 1964 meeting is accurate, the actual events that transpired during this fabled meeting are only truly known amongst the four core men. One Night in Miami is a movie that attempts to show one of the many possibilities of this night, while also sticking true to the racial tensions of both then and now.
The Guardian’s Jonathan Romney gives the film four stars in his review, saying that the film is “an immensely watchable evocation of a moment when Black America was on the verge of an upheaval that continues to resonate, in 2020 as strongly as ever.” IndieWire’s Kate Erbland echoes these sentiments, calling the film “an emotionally accurate telling, one that always endeavors to find the real people underneath the famous gloss.”
However, it is King’s direction that is truly engaging critics. The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney says “the conviction and stirring feeling brought to [the film from its evolution from stage to screen] elevate the material, making this an auspicious feature debut.”
One Night in Miami is one of the featured films to be screened at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival, so expect more reactions to the film very soon. In the meantime, Amazon has acquired the rights to the film but a release date is currently unknown.