Mariama Diallo’s feature debut with Regina Hall – Deadline

The monsters on campus aren’t as scary as those on black christmas Where sorority row, but they are nonetheless an insidious presence in Master, as discriminatory remnants in the past of a long-running girls’ school continue to haunt the lives of modern students. This feature debut from writer-director Mariama Diallo has a veneer of intelligence, class and lofty purpose that separates it from most movies about a “haunted” thing. Unfortunately, despite its clever dialogue and sometimes comedic approach, the film is also preachy and obvious in its stance, which will appeal to like-minded people but might feel heavy and familiar to others. After appearing at the Sundance Film Festival tonight in the US Dramatic Competition section, Master will be released globally on Amazon Prime.

Deadline

Short film by Diallo Wolf Hair won a Jury Prize at Sundance 2018, while his most recent short film, white devil, has not been heard from since it aired in Toronto last year. Most of the cast and crew in the new feature were female and the exteriors were shot at Vassar College, an all-female former school that bears a close resemblance to the facility where the action takes place, here dubbed Ancaster College.

At the center of things is Professor Gail Bishop (of the fearsome Regina Hall), a longtime scholar who now enjoys the distinction of having been promoted to Master of Residence Hall. Excited and excited about her new opportunity, which has never been granted to any black woman before, she is also nervous about it, and with good reason, of course.

Jasmine Moore (Zoe Renee) is a generally optimistic and excited freshman, as she might be, except for the fact that she was assigned to the “haunted” play, which has a notorious history. suicides, starting with that of the first black woman. never admitted to school years earlier. For reasons of her own, literature professor Liv Beckman (Amber Gray) resents Jasmine and fails her in class, which predictably causes the student’s morale to plummet.

To put it mildly, this highly sought-after school turns out to be an extremely malevolent institution that at best threatens and at worst eradicates those who do not fit into the privileged white upper class. On the plus side, Diallo has a lot of fun with ironies tied to the institution’s past and present, and the lead performers handle some of the zingers the writer weaves into his dialogue well.

However, once the doors are open, the writer-director seems constrained, both by the nature of the film’s format and by his ideological arguments, to push the story to its limits, which does not really seem out of place. even in this deliberately exaggerated scenario of the film. As the situation escalates, Diallo’s story goes beyond fantasy to the outer limits; some will no doubt find it all perfectly plausible, while others will see a dramatic derailment.

Diallo’s uncertain control over the comedic tone, which starts off well but becomes increasingly inconsistent as the story charts a course into deeper waters, doesn’t help matters. It’s a ghost-laden story, which naturally leads to the question of whether we’re stuck with them forever or if they can eventually be cast aside. Despite her frequent witticisms, Diallo insinuates that the past is still with us, and she uses this dark period in history to make her case. But can Master to be appreciated in spite of that? Only up to a point.

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