Compensation

92 minutes 2013

Shot on the cheap in Evanston and Chicago, this 1999 drama by Zeinabu Irene Davis manages to surmount its budget limitations through the beauty and symmetry of its narrative. In the early 20th century a deaf black woman (Michelle A. Banks) struggles to overcome the three strikes against her, even as she falls for a hearing but illiterate stockyard worker (John Earl Jelks); interspersed with this tale, and starring the same actors, is a modern story about another deaf black woman and her hearing boyfriend. Davis shoots in black-and-white, using archival photos to establish the turn-of-the-century setting, but they're so evocatively deployed that you might forget they're a money-saving device. The storytelling is pointedly visual, modeled after the silent cinema, and the resulting purity of emotion elevates even the modern-day love story.

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