History in the making

Tanya Hamilton chose a curious setting to explore the Black Panther movement: 1976, Germantown, Philadelphia.

“I definitely was interested in the post-Black Power period, in the waning days of it,” explains the filmmaker. “I really wanted to work through this idea that I had of people coming home from a war. I think it isn’t looked at often. It wasn’t a sensational or a very sexy time — but I think it’s something that resonates now.”

Opening Friday, “Night Catches Us” follows former friends (Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington) navigating new lives together after their involvement in the tumultuous dawn of the Black Panthers.

After moving to Philadelphia in 2000, Hamilton realized it was the perfect setting for her in-the-works story that involved fierce loyalties, just-as-fierce grudges and historical tension.

“I wanted to make a film about the smallness of a neighborhood, about the smallness of three blocks,” she says. “I think in an odd way, as the story evolved, as it became more about the political subtext, I really desperately felt like it needed to be in Philly. Philly has these really interesting stories and conflicts.”

Putting Roots down

“Night Catches Us” features a score by The Roots, and not only because they’re from Philly.
“I was looking for a sound that was modern. We needed to have some sense of the relevance of today, to link it to the progression of the people in the future — or not,” says Hamilton. “We definitely wanted to make a movie about people of color reacting to their surroundings, reacting to one another in this eternal kind of way. And I felt like [The Roots] were so extremely authentic.”

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