How far would you go to provide a child with the life that you believe they deserve and, hopefully, redeem yourself in their eyes and your own? That being said, what consequences would you be willing to put yourself at the risk of suffering as a result? The challenging topics that these questions are rooted in are addressed in the acclaimed, 2023 hidden gem, A THOUSAND AND ONE.
Yet, the topic of parenthood is not all that inspired writer and director A.V. Rockwell to make her feature-length debut with A THOUSAND AND ONE. There are also a variety of reasons why the film is being recognized as a work of cinematic Black excellence this year by AMC’s Council on the African American Experience. See why this powerful drama has people raving – and why you should consider experiencing it when it comes to AMC Theatres this March – in our breakdown below.
A Story Of Mother And Son
Winner of the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, A THOUSAND AND ONE is – according to The Hollywood Reporter’s review – the story of Inez De La Paz (Teyana Taylor), who is struggling to find work as a hairstylist in early 1990s Brooklyn after completing her recent prison sentence. It is then when she has an encounter with Terry (Aaron Kingsley Adetola) and begins to reconnect with him through visits at his foster home, despite his initial reluctance to trust her again.
Hoping to earn her son’s love and become the mother she desires to be for him, Inez decides to kidnap Terry from foster care and raise him herself in Harlem, with help from her on-and-off boyfriend, Lucky (Will Catlett). The film traces the next 15 years of their relationship as threats of Terry’s abduction being discovered and dramatic changes to the community that they call home put a strain on their lives and their sense of identity. The A THOUSAND TO ONE cast also features Aven Courtney and Josiah Cross at two different stages of his teenhood.
A.V. Rockwell’s Directorial Journey
A.V. Rockwell’s win for U.S. Dramatic Grand Prize for writing and directing A THOUSAND AND ONE is one of the most inspiring stories to come out of the Sundance Film Festival in 2023. However, her story leading up to her feature-length debut – as most stories about inspiring filmmakers are – is one of humble beginnings.
Rockwell got her start in 2012 directing music videos – the most recent being one for Swedish pop singer Zara Larsson’s 2015 single “Uncover.” She would also receive attention and acclaim for some of her short films, such as her 2016 collaboration with Alicia Keys on “The Gospel” – which was nominated for Best Narrative Short at the Tribeca Film Festival – and the 2018 coming-of-age drama “Feathers,” which earned her attention from Sundance. In 2019, she was tapped to direct an episode of BET’s series sequel to the 1992 film BOOMERANG.
Teyana Taylor’s First Lead Role
A THOUSAND AND ONE also marks a major career milestone for Teyana Taylor, who would rise to prominence as an accomplished R&B singer and dancer whose work as the director of her own music videos and that of other artists earned her a BET Award in 2020. Her acting career would take off in 2010 with a part in a straight-to-video sequel to STOMP THE YARD before Tyler Perry cast her in MADEA’S BIG HAPPY FAMILY the following year.
She would go on to star on two TV shows about the music industry in 2017 – VH1’s original series “The Breaks,” and co-creator Lee Daniels’ “Star,” with Queen Latifah – before being cast alongside Eddie Murphy in COMING 2 AMERICA as Bopoto Izzi and voicing a boxing instructor in Kid Cudi’s Netflix original animated film, ENTERGALACTIC. Taylor is earning rave reviews for her performance in A THOUSAND AND ONE, which is her first time scoring a lead role in a movie and, likely, the first of many.
New York Gentrification Inspired The Story
As many filmmakers can claim about their own feature-length debuts, A THOUSAND AND ONE is a film that A.V. Rockwell is personally attached to. The story is not only very important to her as a woman of color, but as a native of New York City – which, itself, is said to be treated very much like a character in the film and was very pivotal to its development.
In an interview with IndieWire, the filmmaker shared how the root of the movie’s story came out of her own feelings about the gentrification occurring in New York, which caused her to feel like predominantly Black neighborhoods, specifically, were being targeted by it. It made her feel as if the city that she loved did not love her the same way and she channeled her experiences – as well as those common for Black women that often go overlooked by society – into the story of Inez.
With a story rich in deeply relevant themes of race, identity, and family, a stunning lead performance by Teyana Taylor, and one of the most coveted awards in the film festival circuit, it is safe to say that A.V. Rockwell has knocked it out of the park with her feature-length debut. Witness what is destined to be remembered as one of the year’s best films when A THOUSAND AND ONE to an AMC Theatres location near you.