ca•nal /ke’nal/ noun “A canal is a long man made strip of water used for irrigation or boat access to a big body of water…” When asked why the title “Canal Street The Movie” producer Eric Garnes offered this definition and it certainly gives clarity and insight into the purpose of this visual treat of a film. Coming of age stories are a popular theme in American cinema but few bring together so many relevant social issues in a way that bring reflection, introspection and entertainment to the visual experience.
When a young African American boy Kholi Styles (Bryshere Y. Gray) and his father Jackie Styles (Mykelti Williamson) move into an affluent suburb of Chicago following the passing of his mother, the worlds of race, class, prejudice and faith collide in a way that result in young Kholi Styles being wrongfully accused following the death of a white classmate.
Canal Street features several television and film stars whose work audiences have enjoyed over the years but the performances of each of these actors in this film are powerful, memorable and easily among some of their best work. Add to that mix some of entertainments brightest radio personalities from across the country like Charlemagne tha God and Angela Yee of The Breakfast Club fame and this movie has enough star power to light up the screen.
In this day of big budgets, big casts and CGI special effects this little engine that could of a film reminds us that what’s from the heart reaches the heart. When I walked into a small theater on a cold NYC night, I came in as an individual. After experiencing this film with a diverse audience of community leaders and influencers, then having some dialogue with producer Eric Garnes and writer film maker Rhyann LaMarr, I walked out with a renewed sense of hope and the possibility of authentic community. If the purpose of canals are to bring disparate bodies together then this movie has already accomplished its goal.