True Blue: When Color Matters and When It Doesn't

As a Chicagoan there is a special place in my heart for Blues music, so it comes as no surprise that a short film entitled "Blues" should catch my eye at the LA Women's Film Festival last month. The story is straightforward: two boys, a religious Jew and African-American, bond over their shared love of blues harmonica during the 1991 riots of Crown Heights, Brooklyn.


At face value the film, produced by Dena Greenbaum of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, could easily be packaged as a film about overcoming barriers between different races by recognizing a common interest in music, but to do so is to slight the music itself. The actual message of the film, like the actual message of blues music, is subtler than that. After all, blues music, as it's name suggests, springs from personal tragedy and in a way celebrates just how unfair life can be.

One of the characters (and I won't say which one- that would spoil it) suffers a personal tragedy he finds himself divided from his new found friend as a result. The film ends with him sitting by himself playing the blues for his loss. It is left to the viewer to decide whether it is the personal loss or the loss of the friendship that he mourns.

True to form, "Blues" does not have a 'happy ending' in the conventional sense, but neither does it give in to grief. Like the music itself, "Blues" suspends the conventional rules of sadness to offer, if not comfort, then at least reassurance. When our ideals fail us or drive us apart there will aways be the commonality of music to tie us together. In a film that seems to be about seeing beyond colore there is one color that everyone shares, and that color is blue.

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