Night Catches Us
Directed byTanya Hamilton
Written byTanya Hamilton
Produced by
CinematographyDavid Tumblety
Edited by
Music byThe Roots
Distributed byMagnolia Pictures
Release dates
  • January 23, 2010 (2010-01-23) (Sundance)
  • December 3, 2010 (2010-12-03) (United States)
Running time
90 miniutes
CountryUnited States

Night Catches Us is a 2010 drama film directed and written by Tanya Hamilton and stars Kerry Washington, Anthony Mackie, Jamie Hector, Wendell Pierce and Novella Nelson.


In 1976, former Black Panther Marcus (Anthony Mackie) returns to his Philadelphia neighborhood to attend his father's funeral. Marcus has been away for several years, part of the time spent in prison on gun running charges and part spent wandering the country. Marcus has a reputation for having snitched on a fellow Panther which led to his death when the police tried to arrest him. Marcus's former friend DoRight (Jamie Hector), now a local gangster, and Marcus's brother Bostic (Tariq Trotter), a Black Muslim, are especially displeased by his return.

However, Patricia (Kerry Washington), the widow of the slain Panther, is more welcoming. She is now a lawyer and lives with her daughter Iris in the same house where her husband was killed. Her younger cousin Jimmy (Amari Cheatom) struggles to make a living with odd jobs, and begins to become more enamored of the Panthers after being harassed by the police. Increasingly hostile to the police, he becomes involved when some men sent by DoRight shoot out the back window of a police car.

Meanwhile, although no one else can understand it, Patricia grows closer to Marcus and when he is kicked out of his brother's home she invites him to stay with her, citing that he will be a positive male influence for her daughter. When Iris grows curious about what happened to her father, Patricia tearfully explains how he had murdered a police officer in retaliation for the killing of two Panthers. She explains that the police arrested her and Marcus tells Iris that he told them where her father was in order to save Patricia from going to jail and keep Iris out of the foster care system.

Wanting to hold DoRight responsible for the shooting of the police car, but lacking evidence, a police officer David Gordon (Wendell Pierce) orders Marcus to plant a gun in DoRight's bar so they can arrest him. Marcus is reluctant, but Gordon insists, threatening to reveal to the neighborhood that it was actually Patricia who had informed on her husband's location and that Marcus had taken the heat for her. Marcus goes to DoRight's bar but refuses to plant the gun.

Meanwhile, Jimmy, who has bought a gun and decked himself out in Panther style beret and jacket, approaches the cop who had harassed him earlier and shoots him. Jimmy flees to his cousin's house, but when the police show up outside, she forces him to leave as she stonewalls the police. Later, the police find Jimmy hiding in a wooded area and shoot him. After this, Marcus asks Patricia to leave Philly with him and put the past behind her. She refuses, and he leaves alone.



Filming took place in summer 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Director Tanya Hamilton said of the film; "There's a distinct lack of content specific to what it is to be a black American, the variations in that experience, what life is like for people who are ordinary. Those are the stories I want to tell."[1]

Tanya Hamilton has explained that the story, which took her 10 years to finish, was based on her creative ideas mixed with historical facts: "I liked weaving this world of fiction and pieces of fact, but I didn't want to feel like I was getting it wrong, so I just did my thing. It's really just about people, and that I thought I could understand."[2]


The film in its entirety was scored by The Roots, a hip-hop band from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[3]


Night Catches Us debuted at the 26th Sundance Film Festival,[4] and has since received positive critical reviews. Melissa Anderson of The Village Voice said "Tanya Hamilton's striking debut is the rare American-independent film to go beyond the private dramas of its protagonists, imagining them as players in broader historical moments..."[5] The film holds an 81% on Rotten Tomatoes from 57 critics, indicating positive reviews.

Awards and nominations

See also


  1. ^ Sharkey, Betsy (January 26, 2010). "Tanya Hamilton's 'Night Catches Us' captures a point in time". Los Angeles Times.
  2. ^ "Night Catches Us Director Tanya Hamilton Talks Inspiration Behind Debut Feature Film!". December 2, 2010.
  3. ^ Breihan, Tom (December 10, 2010). "The Roots Score New Film Night Catches Us". Pitchfork.
  4. ^ Adams, Sam (February 4, 2010). "Simmering in the city "Night Catches Us," filmed in Germantown and premiered at Sundance, focuses on a former Black Panther and a former radical coping with life in mid-'70s Philadelphia". The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  5. ^ Anderson, Melissa (December 1, 2010). "Night Catches Us Takes a Brutally Honest Look at Black Power". Village Voice.
  6. ^ Kearney, Ryan (February 14, 2011). "2011 Black Reel Awards: 'Night Catches Us' wins nearly everything". TBD Arts.