Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Raise Your Hand - Movie Review

The Movie: Raise Your Hand

The Director: Jessica Rae

The Cast: Jearnest Corchado, Hanani Taylor, Joel Steingold, Gregory Scott Cummins, DaJuan Johnson

The Story: Gia and her best friend, Lila, try to survive a rough childhood in a neighborhood where every kid has a sad story to tell. As teenagers, their problems become more complicated, and the stakes get raised.

The Review:
When I watched this movie, I found it hard to believe that this was Jessica Rae's first feature film as a director because the story telling is bold and it feels like such a polished work of art. It's clear that this is a very personal project for the director, who also wrote the story, as it covers some pretty heavy and intense topics that are as relevant today as when the movie first went into production several years ago. From the Me Too movement to the 2020 protests against police brutality and everything in between, there is something in this movie that shows how all of those issues affect real people.

Jearnest Corchado and Hanani Taylor star in the movie as Gia and Lila respectively and each of them manage to provide incredibly authentic performances which is even more impressive when you realize this is the first feature film for each of them. Their characters' friendship is put to the test in just about every way and how the two handle everything they are asked to do both together and individually is a testament to their abilities and also to the director's eye for casting her movie. Oh and I didn't even mention that both of these women are equally talented singers and Taylor even wrote and performed the title song for the film.

You ever watch a movie and think to yourself that the person you are seeing on screen is destined for stardom? May I present to you Jearnest Corchado. This young woman who, as I mentioned plays Gia in the movie is an amazingly talented woman who of course can act but she is also a singer and I imagine anything else she decides to put her mind to. For her to take on a role of this caliber and make it her own with a knock out performance is an achievement for anyone let alone someone who is taking on the lead role in their first feature film. Just watch the movie, you'll see what I mean.

As I mentioned, this movie covers a lot of challenging topics and the filmmaking team takes great care in not presenting it in an overly graphic way which makes it feel more like a dramatic documentary than a stylized narrative feature. I think that comes from Rae's ability to put her characters on screen in such an intimate way and she puts you right there with them to where you feel what they are going through in real time rather than feeling like you are watching something that happened from a safe distance.

I think that intimacy is what made this movie work so well for me. It's a very authentic story that opens up a lot of conversation within the movie, inside your own mind, and hopefully among friends, families, and other groups of people. These are topics that need to be discussed and the movie lays it all out in a way that creates opportunity for discussion. Every single character in this movie has a story to tell and I believe any viewer will find themselves in at least one if not multiple characters because we have all been through what we see these kids, and the adults for that matter, go through.

The Verdict:
Raise Your Hand raises relevant topics and hands them to the audience in a way that is eye opening and opens up possibility for conversation. This movie is basically the best, most hard hitting after school special you will ever see. Congratulations to writer, director, producer Jessica Rae on an achievement that has been years in the making and will have an impact for years to come.

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