Finding Me

TLA Releasing,

Roger S. Omeus Jr.

RayMartell Moore,
Eugene Turner,
J'Nara Corbin,
Derrick L. Briggs,
Ron De Suze,
Maurice Murrell,
Carl Garnett

Unrated, 115 minutes

Finding Faybien
by Michael D. Klemm
Posted online, April, 2009

Finding Me is a new independent film, by first time writer/director Roger S. Omeus Jr., that examines queer identity from an African American perspective. RayMartell Moore stars as Faybien Allen, a young gay man of Haitian descent, who doesn't know who he is and questions his place in the cosmos. Faybien is a major league slacker who still lives at home with his father and works at a dead end job selling shoes. His father is a nasty man who berates his son's lack of ambition whenever he can; his temperament is established in the very first scene when Faybien oversleeps and is late for a job interview. He is also fiercely homophobic and Faybien is afraid of him. While trying to prove to his old man that he can make something of his life, he remains locked in a closet of his own making.

Finding no love at home, Faybien - like many gay men and women in the same situation - creates an alternative family through his friends. Greg Marsh (Eugene Turner) is a free-spirited bisexual, with a preference for men, whose main focus in life seems to be his next lay. Amera Jones (J'Nara Corbin) is a sassy, aspiring singer who has dubbed herself an honorary gay man. Though she has a big heart, her diva-like tantrums provide much of the film's comedy. Jay Timber (Maurice Murrell) is Greg's new lodger. A flamboyant but seedy character, Jay is turning tricks in the apartment behind his roommate's back; he is generally a bitch and delights in causing trouble. He is everything that Faybien fears that he might become if he doesn't get his act together.

Faybien has a chance for love when he meets Lonnie Wilson (Rasheed Thompson), a young, workaholic businessman and political activist. They meet cute one day at a bus station and seem perfect for each other, if only Faybien would get over his self-esteem issues. Lonnie is openly gay and attempts to help Faybien conquer his fears and come out of the closet.

Finding Me is a cute love story. Our young sweethearts enjoy many romantic, and steamy, scenes together. The chemistry is there so why does Faybien keep playing hard to get throughout the whole movie? Faybien the shoe salesman thinks that he isn't good enough for the more successful Lonnie, and he is unable to get it into his thick head that his beau doesn't care. Initially, Faybien doesn't return Lonnie's calls; he avoids him in a bar when he is out with his friends; frets about having sex with him; and then, when he does have sex with him, he thinks it can't be love because they didn't wait longer. At first it's cute, but then you want to smack Faybien upside the head and tell him to stop obsessing and just go for it.
Lonnie's comfort level with being gay does little to help Faybien's feelings of self acceptance either. A terrified Faybien pushes Lonnie's arm away when they walk through the hood. This was an honest and realistic scene. "Who is doing this to you?" Lonnie asks and the answer boils down to Faybien wanting to be accepted by both his father and by the black community. With his father comes a double whammy - Dad comes from "the islands" where anti-gay bigotry is known to be virulent. Lonnie's symplistic, yet nevertheless heartfelt, answer is for his timid boyfriend to scream "accept me!" from a hill that overlooks his neighborhood. Faybien does so, but remarks that he feels like he's in a Spike Lee movie.
This film offers a few interesting twists on sexuality. During a catfight between Faybien's friends, Amera "insults" Greg by calling him a bisexual. Her rationale for using that word is that Greg is unable to commit to anything - including a gender. Later on, Faybien is about to interview for a job and he is sitting next to another man of color who is even less prepared than he is. The young man casually remarks that is brother is gay but explains that he doesn't identify himself by that word - he is SGL: Same Gender Loving.
This writer found it quite agreeable to be watching a queer Black film for a change. Let's face it, most of the new American releases that I get to review tend to be strictly Caucasian (with a token Black, Latino or Asian friend sometimes thrown in for good measure). Finding Me is a pleasant diversion but, unfortunately, it could also use some serious editing. For starters, the film is too long. The dialogue often rambles and many scenes need to be tightened. The previously cited catfight between Amera and Greg comes dangerously close to turning into a 1970s sitcom. The camerawork and editing is a little rough but, as I've written before, I can't hold a small budget labor of love to the same production standards as a Steven Spielberg film. In the plus column, the movie is smartly acted by the principals and all of them are likable. The movie is also blissfully free of both rap and club music, and opts for a fairly unobtrusive elevator style of R&B tunes.
In closing, Finding Me doesn't really break a lot of new ground but it has much to say about what it means to be queer and coloured, and it was a refreshing reminder that not every gay person in the world is out and proud and being fabulous. The film gets points too for not tying up all the plot strands into a nice ribbon, and for not ending the way that I thought it would. Director Omeus isn't Spike Lee, or Sidney Potier, but give him some time to hone his craft. With a little more focus and some judicious cutting his next film should be a powerhouse. All quibbles aside, Finding Me is a worthwhile film to curl up with on the sofa with a bowl of popcorn and your loved one.