This weekend, I had the pleasure of screening Antoine Allen's new full-length film, LOLA. From the opening scene, I was intrigued and captivated as Allen tells the story of a female boxer's fight for glory. The film's title character, Lola Williams is played by Taja V. Simpson (Tyler Perry's Boo! 2 & Tyler Perry's The Oval). Through the journey of Lola, Allen courageously shines light on issues that often get swept under the rug in the African American community. It is definitely a must see as it unpacks a lot.
In the opening scene, we meet Lola Williams, a lean athletically built young woman who gets kicked out of her family's home by her abusive father after she's found in bed with her female lover, Stephanie. After things go sour with Steph, it only gets worse for Lola after she's attacked at a nightclub. But after facing enough rejection and abuse, Lola decides enough is enough and enrolls in a self-defense class. This is where she meets an amateur boxer named David. What started as a self defense class emerges as an opportunity for a fresh start; Lola dives into the world of amateur boxing with the physical and emotional support of David and the tough guidance of his mom, Diane. Things become steamy and intertwined as Lola is torn between the woman she used to be and the woman she is becoming.
With LOLA, Allen hits the mark cinematically. The diversity of landscapes, the beautiful angles; it's a visual joy to watch. And he perfectly captures the deep connection that develops between Lola and David. Aside from the triumphant story line, things I love about this film include the diversity of blackness.. from first generation African to Afro-Latinx, this film beautifully showcases the broad spectrum of the diaspora.
Beyond the cultural relevance, the film addresses real-life issues like interracial/intercultural dating, the queer spectrum, and the often skewed gender roles/norms in the black experience. Allen masterfully shows a range of interesting conundrums that are sure to spark some healthy post-film dialogue.
The award winning filmmaker made his directorial debut in 2010 with Split Decision, a narrative short film exploring love, rejection and motivation, which he also wrote and produced, eventually launching a highly successful social media campaign. The trailer alone received over twenty-one thousand views on YouTube and countless 'Likes' on Facebook, all culminating in the Split Decision world premiere. The opening screening in New York City sold out. This should have come as no surprise since Mr. Allen sold out a premiere to a 3-minute music video that he had previously directed. On a personal level, the film allowed him to draw from his own experiences of beating the odds when life got tough and was an experience that brought Mr. Allen full circle.
He has since made three successful feature length films - all of which premiered to sold out audiences.
LOLA screened at the 2020 American Black Film Festival. It is no doubt a hidden gem of a story. The film will be released March 31, 2021 on IMDB TV and Tubi TV