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Toronto Black Film Festival Review: “White Water” (2015) ★★★★


There was a time, and quite an unpleasant one, when we lived in a world divided in two categories: white and colored. In spite of the limitations “colored” people should have face back in 1963, Alabamian boy Michael kept thinking of only one thing: what is the taste of “white water” like? In order to be able to answer his question, the young boy embarks himself to do something unthinkable: drink from “a white fountain”.

Film begins with the narrated grown up voice of Michael, who tells his story in a humorous way. And he starts with the bus stop scene, where we find a 7 year-old Michael (played by twin brothers, Amir and Amari O`Neil) with his mother, Annie (played by Sharon Leal). Even though they both appear at the bus stop first, Michael explains us t the time the policy of “first come, first serve” would never work at all if the person who comes first is “colored”. Of course, the mind of a child can’t comprehend the difference between the two. But when he and his “white” friend from the bus approach the water fountain, everything changes for him fundamentally.

Michael finds himself astonished when his “white” friend continues drinking water, labeled for white people, while he stopped drinking it a while ago. As he’s continually watching him, he questions himself, whether the water given to white people taste differently. Shortly after, when Michael shares his dangerous plan to drink from a white fountain with his cousin, he quickly made sure he won’t be quiet about it at all unless Michael gives him something to keep his mouth shut. What else could the poor boy do, when he got a cousin who learnt to blackmail at such a young age?

This is quite amazing to see how the filmmaker, Rusty Cundieff, turns such a serious subject into comedy. Some scenes are charged with hilarious moments, largely due to believable performances delivered by Sharon Leal and the twin brothers. It’s fascinating how they understand each other, leaving unspoken scenes to talk for itself through their performances. WHITE WATER is amusing, engaging, and an absolute fun film to watch. The character development, the way the story unfolds, and directing is flawless. Cundieff’s job leaves nothing to complain about, while the voice behind the camera leads the entire film in a way you even forget about the time.


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