There has been a reckoning over the last few years and finally we’re beginning to see black voices being given the opportunity to make the films they want to make. One such film-maker is Phillip Youmans. At the age of nineteen, the New Orleans born, New York resident made Burning Cane. Despite still being in high school, the young film student has made a strikingly mature debut.
Set in rural Louisiana, Burning Cane tells the story of a community in a small town. Reverend Tillman (Wendell Pierce) is a troubled Baptist preacher, who puritanical orations from the pulpit are at odds with his alcoholic homelife. Helen (Karen Kaia Livers), his mother, grapples with the cycle of abuse taking place within her family, struggling to reconcile her faith with the harsh realities of life.
Whilst Burning Cane is not entirely the finished article, it’s a raw and gritty treatise on Youmans’ perspective on life growing up in the South. His antagonism towards the church is evident but it’s the picture he paints of the connection between belief and abuse which captures the imagination. Burning Cane is an impressive achievement. It is going to be exciting to see where he goes from here.
Burning Cane screens again at London Film Festival on 12 October.