Making something beautiful out of the grime, labor and noise of the dragster circuit, Kevin Jerome Everson continues his string of fascinating doc-dramatic hybrid films with "Cinnamon." More focused on mostly real-life figures and their activities than his previous feature, "Spicebush," pic lovingly captures the routine of a female race driver and her mentor-mechanic as they prepare and compete at East Coast tracks. Hand-crafted, distinctly non-commercial work will bolster Everson's rep at high-end fests.
Unique among African-American filmmakers as a chronicler-poet of black folk and their everyday lives, Everson casts thesp Erin Stewart as a mortgage loan officer who becomes a drag racer on weekends. Stewart so convinces as a racer that she easily blends into the actual milieu of the track, dominated by kindly ace mechanic John Bowles. Everson and editor Lin Qiu cleverly structure pic in repetitive but slightly varied segments, stressing Bowles' credo that excellence is achieved through strict routine. Impressionistic rather than literal, the film is interested in the moods of racing and maintenance of Erin's sleek, hopped-up car, as well as Bowles' high performance standards.
Camera (color/B&W, DV/16mm), Everson; editor, Lin Qiu; music, Judith Shatin; costume designer, Stephanie Owens. Reviewed on videodisc, Los Angeles, Jan. 30, 2006. (In Sundance Film Festival -- Frontier. Also in Rotterdam Film Festival -- Tide & Tide; Berlin Film Festival -- market.) Running time: 71 MIN.