The Revolution will not be rushed

The Brother from Another Planet can serve as a lesson in low budget filmmaking, but what kind of lesson?

We open on a strangely stylized depiction of the arrival of our alien protagonist "brother", a disjointed experience that mainly serves as a means to disorient the audience much as our alien brother is at this point. The brother finds he is able to pass as an ordinary black man, nodding his head a lot since he cannot speak the language, and hiding his slightly odd feet.

The film is pretty clearly intended as a social commentary on racism in its subtle and not so subtle forms. I think the effort is mostly successful, but not cohesive, and a little confused in places. Mainly, the problem is the film does not stay on topic. It drifts around between various good ideas, in a way that would suggest all it wants to be is just a film about this stranded alien, but there are too many indications it wants to be more than that. We are in the paradoxical arena where aiming lower might have produced a more effective movie.

There is such a rich imagination behind this film, but the results are so drastically all over the place, it's a little hard to watch. The rules that are set up are not strictly followed. Certain bits of logic in the film just don't parse. It's perhaps the quintessential seventies movie, but on a low budget - look at the struggling sense of artsyness and a hesitant desire to push the envelope. The seventies were definitely an awkward period that had to be outgrown, but it doesn't mean it was all bad. The observation is all but moot for the fact this was actually made in the eighties.

What saves the film is its sense of humor. All successful films with this low a budget have to prove funny one way or another. The best parts are with the two white aliens who are tracking down The Brother, but the moments are sprinkled throughout. Some of the more seriously intentioned aspects actually come out as funny as well from the passage of time.

I'd have to call Brother from Another Planet an important film in terms of what it could have been. Give this one another month in pre-production to clean up some of the strangeness that shows up on camera, and another two drafts on the script to keep it focused, and it could have been a major cultural reference point. Unfortunately, we are left with a muddle.

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