The Evolution of Bert

The Evolution of Bert (16mm film, B/W, 75 min., 2015)

The Evolution of Bert begins with Bert Hightower as a child sleeping gently. He has a surreal, troubling vision of his future possibilities: the black Republican, an insurance man doing a soft-shoe, the working-class man or the thoughtful, conscious dreamer man. The blend of fantasy and reality has begun.   

Bert is a young man beginning his final semester of college. His mother wants to know why he is taking more than four years to finish school, and more to the point, what his job prospects are post graduation. Bert is the first of his black working-class family to go to college and though he wants his remaining days on campus to be casual and carefree, they are anything but. He is anxious to be rid of Nita, his poetic girlfriend of two years, even as his best friend and campus DJ, Maul cautions him against being too quick to let a good thing go. A passionate student of history, Bert fights his professor for that elusive 'A' he has never received but feels he deserves. Duke, an old school, shades-wearing perennial student, advises Bert against ending up in a soul-killing career rather than pursuing his passion. With decisions to be made and a future pressing down on him, Bert escapes into moments of fantasy. In one sequence his girlfriend Nita wields a knife under his chin helping him to understand the meaning of her latest poem. In another, Stu, a gay psychologist, interrogates Bert on his regrettable break up with Nita, his secret desire for a white female classmate and his tepid future aspirations. On graduation day Bert runs in cap and flowing gown into an uncertain future carrying a sweet memory (or fantasy?) of strolling the campus green with Nita at his side. She is asking him, ‘Bert? Do you still love me?’   

The Evolution of Bert comes to a close with Bert asleep once again. This time he is in his near future at his office desk. Many years after college he is finally answering his true love’s question, ‘Bert? Do you still love me?’ with a firm ‘Yes’. Once fully awaken, his old friend Duke stands before, still in shades, challenging Bert on the choices he has made in life and what has become of a passion that was so promising. Bert defends his choices to Duke, but this final fantasy is interrupted by his boss’s stern edict to get back to work. The boss leaves but then pauses before Bert performing a short elegant soft-shoe. As he reluctantly turns back to his work, a silver plated sign on his desk reveals his job title: Bert Hightower Claims Adjuster.   

The Evolution of Bert is a dramatic, comedic, musically infused surreal tale of love and fantasy and of coming to consciousness. It is the story of young man's evolution into himself. 

Screenings

2016 With/Out ¿Borders? II Conference, Kalamazoo
2016 Blow-Up Art House Int'll Arthouse
Film Fest, Chicago
2015 Rwanda International Film Festival   
2015 Athens International Film Festival   
2015 North Park University Chicago    
2015 Pan African Film Festival LA
2014 East Lansing Film Festival
2014 Chicago Int'l Film Fest Premiere

Cast

Bert Hightower - Randall Stokes
Nita - Nakeshia Knight
Maul - Nate DeWitt
Young Bert - Faisal Luvaga
Game Show Host - Sean Mitchell
Black Republican/Stu -  Volney McFarlin
Insurance Salesman - Kevin Jones Giddins
Working Class Man - Jonathan D. Wray
Dreamer/Duke - Jeffrey C. Wray
Mrs. Hightower - G. Christine Taylor
Creativity Class Professor - Lita Little Giddins
Career Counselor - Robert Fain, III
Mr. “Chief” Hightower - Albert G. Mosley
Dr. Martin - Doug Partusch
White Girl - Nicole VanderDoes
Poetry Slam Host - Terry Cross
Nita’s Girlfriend - Karla Shores
Simone - Semeca Prather
Girl 1 - Kellie Armstead
Girl 2 - Shelly Greene
Girl 3 - Shawanna Coleman
Street Musician - Randall Sisco
Woman Speaking Swahili - Ebby Luvaga

Crew

Writer/Director  - Jeffrey C. Wray

Producer - Tama Hamilton-Wray

Assoc. Producer - Jonathan D. Wray

Director of Photography - Joe ‘Jody’ Williams 

Editor - Devon Collins

Editor - Jeffrey C. Wray

Sound Design - Marlowe Taylor

Additional Camera - James Reeves

Additional Editing - Jared Milburn

Additional Sound - Simon Tarr

Mark Thomas

Audra Lindsey

Post Sound - Chris Caudle

Hip Hop Score  - Kuroi Oto

Jazz Score  - Kris Johnson

Featured Music  - BLAT! Pack’s Jahshua Smith, James Gardin & Yellokake

Acoustic Music - Randall Sisco

Original Art  - Robert Peppers

Support From

National Black Programming Consortium
Ohio Arts Council
Michigan State University
Ohio University