Eugene Ashe’s Sylvie’s Love was a gift from Amazon when the streamer released it during the December holidays. Aperiod old-school romancer starring Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha, the film was a nod to the Douglas Sirk-style romance movies of the 1950s and ’60s with one major difference: the leads are Black, which they almost never were during the period.
“I think Paris Blues was really the only one that had any Black leads at all, and if you look at the album covers from that time and you look at the music from that time, we were very much in play,” Ashe told Deadline recently during our Contenders TV panel. “But generally speaking, when we show that era with Black folks depicted in cinema, we’re primarily focusing on the civil rights movement and some sort of trauma or adversity that we were facing.”
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“The idea,” he continued, “was that my family photo albums and the records in my collection all showed a different picture of what life was life for Black people. Sure, those things were happening, but it would be like if we only focused on … we still have Beyoncé and Jay-Z today, you know, even though we have all of the things that are going on with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and all of these things. There’s a duality to it. if we don’t show the other side, it’s almost a way of erasing us.”
The plot tells the love story of Sylvie (Thompson), a young woman in the late 1950s who works in her father’s record store and wanting to become a TV executive, and Robert (Asomugha), a musician she meets when he takes a part-time job in the shop. It focuses its energy directly on the couple, combined for lush production values, songs from the era mixed with a jazz score, and a slew of costume changes for Thompson’s Sylvie (she puts it at about 50). Another nod to the past: much of the film was shot on studio backlots, including a scene where the pair slow dance on a street set under artificial light.
The pic premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was the second feature from Ashe, who also wrote and directed 2012’s Homecoming.
His Sylvie’s Love screenplay the latest in Deadline’s It Starts On the Page, a series that highlights the scripts that will serve as the creative backbones of the now-underway TV awards season. The scripts are all being submitted for Emmy consideration and have been selected using criteria that includes critical acclaim, from a wide range of networks and platforms, and a mix of established and lesser-known shows.
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