Art institute of Phoenix grad Speedie wants to be very clear about what you wont see in his new film “Soulman” starring Greg Bronson. You won’t see ‘Barrio Indie’ or any tales from the crips. What you will see is a very personal story, scripted by a man who had wandered to the edge of the abyss and, with the help of friends and family, was gently brought back. Soulman premiered Thursday night to two sold out screenings at Farrellis Cinema Supper Club in Scottsdale. Sullivan (Bronson) wanders the alleyways of downtown Phoenix, beaten, defeated and coughing up a lung. Analepsis finds him working late and ignoring his wife and son. When he discovers he is out of a job, he drowns his sorrows at a local tavern. In a flash he tragically loses his family and all touch with reality. Words of wisdom from fellow alley dweller Gates (Eric Styles in his screen debut) and images of a family suffering severe abuse, help Sullivan realize that, even in the deepest depths of despair, redemption is still at hand. The photography in ‘Soulman’ is excellent, with a constantly moving camera gently gliding from scene to scene. Director Speedie maintains a linear, evenly aligned picture in every frame. Shadows harshly penetrate in multiple diagonal lines, while pipes and plumbing soothe in soft verticals. Early scenes are brilliantly extended, especially when Sullivan’s wife (Anne Gentry) sorrowfully extinguishes the flames of the outdoor fireplace. Muted sepia lighting accentuates the vastness of Sullivan’s wealth, punctuating the isolation and tragedy that is to befall his regal home. Dialog is delivered via ADR, utilized conservatively but still noticeable.
Original songs are great but the soundtrack definitely needs a do-over. Although appearing in his umpteenth role as a homeless man, Bronson delivers another superb indie performance, as he struggles to free himself from strictly comedic casting, and embrace the dramatic. Newcomer Styles definitely steals the show as the compassionate compadré with a big heart and a shopping cart. Local indie mainstay Ruben Angelo also delivers an excellent breakout performance as the abusive father. The entire cast seemed to be assembled by fate, as each brought their own shocking and powerful personal experience to their role. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Speedie’s film is the incredible momentum this virtual unknown was able to generate in such a short time. Within days, he was appearing on local television, promoting his film. Like a freight train to Alameda, Speedie had whipped up enough PR and media to sell out two shows in one night. I had to know how he did it. To Speedie, the answer was easy. This film was a story that he wanted to tell, and people wanted to see. He sold DVD’s on the corner on First Fridays, juggled TV appearances and interviews between work, and above all, proudly stood behind his project. ‘Soulman’ has already proven profitable for Speedie, who has taken the proceeds from his film and donated them to Run Drugs Out of Town. An organization to help young people avoid drug use, and make it possible for people like Speedie to tell their story.
Final Take – Soul. Full.