No Name in the Street

Love him and lethim love you. Do you think anything else under heaven really matters? –James Baldwin

Say My Name is a complex exploration of black male sexuality.

 “Mans need to have bitches,” Ricky explains in Say My Name, the remarkable film short from writer/creatorKofi Agyemang.“We have to know when and how to switch.”

This, he says to his clandestine lover, Chris, is the onlypractical way for two men—especially two black men from the rough streets ofEast London—to love one another under the watchful gaze of a homophobicsociety.  His argument is compelling: Whyrisk losing family, friends, and loved ones when deception permits you to havethem all?  For Chris, the answer issimple: because truth matters.

Some viewers may have some difficulties understanding thebrogue (which sounds like a cross between East Coast urban slang, MiddleEnglish, and Jamaican patois), but the struggle is well worth it. Other thanthe sublime and severely undervalued The DLChronicles, no other body of work has managed a nuanced examination ofthe so-called down low. The film does not condone Ricky’s behavior, but it doesnot condemn it, either.  This is simplythe story of two men in love who possess different ideas about how that lovemight survive in a lonely, hostile world.

Chris and Ricky don't see eye to eye.
 What sets Say My Nameapart, and perhaps above, the other genre films, is its fearless investigationinto how race informs one’s ideas about sexuality. After Chris insists that livingdishonestly would do more damage than living openly, Ricky chastises him forregurgitating “the white man’s politics.” This articulates an emerging notion in communities of color that “comingout” is a largely European invention, one that mistakenly privileges thedesires of the white, wealthy homosexual over those of other homosexualidentities. The key to the film’s success is the tension between that and theopposing view: that all homosexuals, regardless of race, should be free to livetheir lives as authentically, shamelessly as heterosexuals. 

Kofi Agyemang (pictured) says that Say My Name is the first installment in a planned twelve.
 Agyemang’s writing here is crisp, genuine, hip, and poeticwithout being overly sentimental. Adaora Nwandu’s direction helps make the small apartment inwhich the film takes place feel as large and tumultuous as the outside world. AyoFawole (Ricky), who also appeared in Nwandu’s Rag Tag, is acalming presence whose confident sensitivity and unselfconscious swagger makehim a convincing, three-dimensional thug figure.  But the big draw here is newcomer Nahum Bromfield (Chris), whom the camera adores. With aprominent brow; dashing, bedroom eyes; and pouty lips, he exudes the same kind of boyishcharm and rugged allure that made actors like James Dean and Marlon Brando suchenduring and irresistible symbols of masculinity. 
Say My Name is amust see.