© Universal Pictures International Germany GmbH

A Thousand and One
U.S.A. 2023

Opening 18 May 2023

Directed by: A.V. Rockwell
Writing credits: A.V. Rockwell
Principal actors: Teyana Taylor, Aaron Kingsley Adetola, Aven Courtney, Josiah Cross, William Catlett

Set in New York City, A Thousand and One is a beautifully filmed story about a decade in the lives of a Black family living there – and also about the transformation of the city itself between 1994–2005. It begins with Inez (Taylor), the lifeblood of this movie, which manages to be small in scope but powerful in its emotional impact. In the opening scenes, 22-year-old Inez is released from prison and returns to Brooklyn, hoping to put her life back together. But instead of starting back up as a hairdresser, Inez acts on an impulse and abducts Terry (Adetola), a 6-year-old boy she’s been reunited with, after she learns that he’s been injured in foster care. Inez and Terry set off to find a home, a process that shows how much energy and charisma is burning through Inez, a tough young woman determined to do anything it takes to build a life for herself and Terry together. Inez’s constant hustle reflects how much work and sacrificing it requires for her to eke out an existence in Harlem, where they end up in apartment number 1001, a place that offers shelter and stability for a decade. An old boyfriend, Lucky (Catlett), moves in, and the trio become a family. As Terry grows up, we encounter him at two different stages when he’s played by older actors – a 14-year-old in 2001(Courtney) and then as a 17-year-old young man in 2005 (Cross).

As Terry grows and changes, so does New York City, which is essentially a character in the film; the city lurches brutally through accelerated gentrification that threatens to undo all Inez, Lucky, and Terry have built. Harlem is transformed before our eyes as new businesses and residents move in and those who have established tenuous footholds are confronted by economic and social forces beyond their control. A Thousand and One is director A.V. Rockwell’s feature debut, and she has created an eloquent movie that weaves together documentary-like, context-setting footage of NYC with a cautionary tale that is driven by Taylor’s knockout performance. Taylor is best known as a singer, but this movie will establish her as an extremely talented actress, as much as it will establish Rockwell as a director to watch. (Diana Schnelle)

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