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Inaugural Coolidge Breakthrough Artist Award goes to visionary filmmaker Elegance Bratton

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Inaugural Coolidge Breakthrough Artist Award goes to visionary filmmaker Elegance Bratton
Filmmaker Elegance Bratton PHOTO: MICHAEL ROWE FOR IMDB

On Jan. 27, the Coolidge Corner Theatre awarded groundbreaking filmmaker Elegance Bratton the inaugural Coolidge Breakthrough Artist Award for his visionary film “The Inspection.”

Jeremy Pope in “The Inspection.” IMAGE: COURTESY OF A24

“The Inspection” is Bratton’s first narrative fiction film and it establishes him as a creative force to be reckoned with. The film is based on the story of Bratton’s own life. After spending a decade homeless due to his mother’s rejection of his sexuality, Bratton joined the Marines, where he found a new purpose and a new community. It was as a Marine that Bratton began making films.

Ellis French, the protagonist of ‘The Inspection,” played by Jeremy Pope, follows a similar path. Most of the film centers on his time in boot camp, focusing as much on the development of his relationships with the other trainees as on the physical trials of the experience. Utilizing the lens of a Black queer man in the military, the film offers a broader vision of masculinity.

Elegance Bratton on set. PHOTO: JOSIAH RUNDLES

“The whole point of the film is to include in that acceptability the ideas of forgiveness, empathy and community-building as being also emblematic of true manhood,” said Bratton during a Q&A at the award ceremony.

The Coolidge Breakthrough Artist Award is meant to identify and celebrate the next generation of filmmaking talents. Partners and co-presenters of the award include Chlotrudis Society for Independent Film, CineFest Latino Boston, Independent Film Festival of Boston (IFFBoston), RoxFilm and Wicked Queer.

Jeremy Pope (left) and Raúl Castillo in “The Inspection.” PHOTO: PATTI PERRE

Coolidge Corner Theatre Executive Director & CEO Katherine Tallman said, “As we look to our future … we want to shine a light on the bold and innovative film artists who represent the future of cinema. ‘The Inspection’ definitively establishes Elegance Bratton as one of the most exciting and distinctive voices working in film today.”

For Bratton, “The Inspection,” was not only a way to work through his own story, but also was a way to recognize others going through similar challenges and provide the representation that he never found in film.

“I love movies, and I think part of what we pay for is to see aspirational versions of ourselves. It’s very rare that you see Black queer heroes at the center of films,” he said. “I just really wanted to remind people of the essential value of Black queer people in this world. We absolutely need characters like Ellis French to remind people that they deserve to be here and that they’re wanted here, they’re valued here.”

Bratton is currently in post-production for a documentary film called “Hellfighters,” which tells the story of James Reese Europe, an African American jazz pioneer and lieutenant in the Harlem Hellfighters, a World War I Black military unit.

“The Inspection” can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and Apple TV.

arts, Coolidge Corner Theatre, Elegance Bratton, film