There is a deceptive beauty to James M. Johnston’s gripping short film Melville. At first the film appears to be a quirky indie comedy as the viewer witnesses a sullen Marcus (Chicago-based rapper Rodney “F.Stokes” Lucas) abruptly interrupt a man smoking in his car, with a young child in the backseat, to comedic results. However, as the story unfolds it is becomes evident that Marcus’ life is no laughing matter. Giving up his hip hop dreams for the family life – he and his wife are expecting their first child – something is weighing heavily on his mind. Like a bottle of champagne shaken to its core, it is only a matter of time before the wave of emotions he has been internalizing erupts uncontrollably.

Skillfully capturing the fear, sadness, and anger that boils within Marcus, Johnston constructs a short film that delivers one heck of an emotional punch. Lucas’ strong performance helps to convey Marcus’s everyman status. His pain runs so deep that it is a wonder he is able to function at all with the burden he carries. When he decides to pick up the microphone once again, it is not a moment of triumphant, but rather one of desperation. Melville is a film that effectively highlights the cathartic power of art. Johnston shows that art, regardless of the form it takes, will always serve as the voice for those who cannot express themselves in any other way.

Director: James M. Johnston / USA / 2015 / 16 minutes
Starring: Rodney Lucas, Ammie Leonards, Phyllis Cicero, and Cliff Watkins