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‘Residue’ review: Merawi Gerima’s look at identity and preservation

Residue paints a picture of living with the ghosts of the past

It is not uncommon to find a story about a person who has left home for a better life only to find out they are much different from the person they used to be when they return. But what about a story about a person who has left home only to return and find that it is home that has changed? Written and directed by Merawi Gerima, Residue tells the story of Jay, an aspiring filmmaker, who has returned home to his old black  neighborhood in Washington D.C  to find it gentrified and unrecognizable. Interesting directing and compelling storytelling, Residue paints a picture of living with the ghosts of the past. 

Gerima’s directing style is creative in its use of memory, fantasy, and blurry images to depict the chaos of memory. Jay’s memories of the old neighborhood are hazy images that veer from celebration to havoc as it depicts the conflation of both good and bad memories. This directing style is poetic as it intermingles with Jay’s inner thoughts of self doubt and feelings about home. Jay aspires to make a film that will change the way his home and culture are depicted and hopes to help the people of his neighborhood. A lot of imagery is used to depict the reality of the neighborhood. Blood on concrete as it pours under the table of brunching ladies drinking mimosas, shows the long painful history while highlighting how it’s merely aesthetic for white hipsters. 

Obinna Nwachukwu plays Jay. Nwachukwu gives a standout performance. His reaction to his new neighborhood changes the tone of the film as he reacts to the new surroundings. He is treated like an outsider by the people he knows and he is treated like a criminal by the new neighbors. Facing prejudice in each direction, Jay becomes more troubled and confused about his identity and place in the world. Residue is a drama that shifts to mystery as Jay frantically searches for missing pieces from his past. 

Residue shows how the outside appearance of something may change, but there is always something left behind.  Residue is released as part of Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY and will debut on September 17th on Netflix and select theaters.

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