Demarkus Jackson is a rising basketball star from the South Central Los Angeles. He wants to leverage his talent to move up in the world and impress the scouts checking him out for recruitment. But he’s hampered at home by his bitter now-alcoholic father, Reggie, who was also a former basketball star.
His father is intensely jealous of his son’s talent, and seeks to sabotage his prospects when the scout visits the family at home. When the visit goes awry and the ensuing fight becomes abusive, Demarkus decides to seek revenge.
This brooding family drama — directed by Xavier Burgin from a script written by Tiara Marshall — is about how trauma, anger and pain are transmitted between generations, and how the burdens and resentments of the past shape the choices and possibilities of the future. The background may be basketball, but the focus is on the fractious, difficult nature of family bonds beset by poverty, resentment and mistrust.
The throughlines of the film are cleanly established, with skillful writing deftly building character and motivation and offering just enough background for viewers to understand just what the stakes are for Demarkus. He’s looking for a way out, and in many volatile, tense scenes, we see exactly why he’s so desperate to escape from. The performances as a whole are thoroughly committed, and lead actors Mike Wade as Demarkus and Kent Faulcon as his father Reggie show just how dysfunctional yet intertwined this family is.
Much of the film is shrouded in shadows, with a moody, almost oppressive darkness that hangs heavily over much of the story. The look and feel is almost noirish, and when the action takes a darker, more violent turn, the visual approach suits the emotional tenor of the film well, especially as the conflict between father and son escalates and Demarkus makes a shocking choice that may endanger everything he’s fought so hard to create for himself.
A semifinalist at the 43rd Student Academy Awards, “Olde E” at its core about family and legacy, and how past generations’ unresolved business — and poverty and violence — perpetuate themselves in a cycle.
Breaking this cycle is beyond difficult and painful, and “Olde E” offers a perceptive and insightful look at just why cycles are so hard to shatter: why moving on and up can feel like abandonment to those still mired in the past, and how bitterness can rise to such venomous levels that it sabotages the usual parental desire to want what’s best for a child. It’s painful to watch, but with unflinching courage, the film forces us to take a closer, compassionate look at the emotional roots of generational violence and poverty, how deeply parents can damage their children — and how part of growing up is learning to separate your self from your background and family legacy.