Art Museum offers a free peek at Stack's 'Harlem Diary'

February 09, 1996|By Stephen Hunter

Free movies, like free lunch and free money, are hard to find, but when the film in question turns out to be not merely free but also inspirational, it's hard to beat.

That's exactly the case with "Harlem Diary: Nine Voices of Resilience," which the Baltimore Museum of Art is showing for free tonight at 7:30.

The film, which was financed by and will later be shown on the Discovery Channel, examines the lives of nine young African-Americans in Harlem. It sees what one might expect from headlines and TV news: all the pathologies of the inner city, the random deaths, the lives lost to drugs, the fractured families.

But that is not the point, only the periphery. Rather, "Harlem Diary" focuses on nine young people who have made a commitment to self and community and have embraced something positive, despite the weight of what lurks around them.

The movie takes off from the work of sociologist Terry Williams, who wrote "The Uptown Kids: Struggle and Hope in the Projects," which celebrated, as does this film, the spirit of resilience.

But the film isn't at all sentimental. It watches the failure that is so much a part of effort, too. For example, Rasheem sees his way out through boxing and trains for a bout -- but not hard enough. He has to face the consequences of his lack of preparation.

Director Jonathan Stack really gets into his subjects' heads; there's a sense of being there that's really liberating -- and inspiring.

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