Updated: Apr 12
A Thousand and One is getting world-renowned recognition for its emotional, heartfelt, gritty, and authentic plot. The film recently won the Sundance Film Festival 2023 GRAND JURY PRIZE is leaving audiences in awe. Set in New York City during a time when the city was transforming into the one we recognize today, written and directed by A.V. Rockwell the film stars Inez (Teyana Taylor), an unapologetic free spirit who kidnaps 6-year-old Terry (Josiah Cross) from the foster care system. Lucky played by (William Catlett) enters their lives at a very crucial point, stepping in as the father figure for Terry. Holding on to their secret and each other, mother, son and father set out to reclaim their sense of home, identity, and stability in a rapidly changing city.
William Catlett, Josiah Cross, and Teyana Taylor are all incredible in this film. The pain, struggle, and triumph that these characters go through is so real and raw.
An exceptional production, from the storyline to the chemistry between the cast, and the way in which the director captures the raw emotion that pulls at your heartstrings throughout the entire film, A Thousand and One is a movie that will touch you deeply. Through all the struggle and hardships you are left feeling a sense of hope, watch the trailer below.
Motherhood is often viewed as an uphill battle. For single mothers, the climb is described as far steeper. You hear “Stay strong, you’re doing the best you can” or “I know you’re going to take care of your family no matter what” however, single mothers often have to lean on fellow single mothers, making the burden all the heavier. And sometimes, they hold the world up on their own. Day in and day out single mothers do everything they can to ensure their kid(s) are cared for, nurtured, and have access to a promising future- even if that means sacrificing their own in the process. They are both the mother and the father, the protector, the teacher, the provider, and the healer. With these roles, they can also become the enemy, the resented, and the challenged. Why couldn’t you do more? When is my father coming back? When will things get better for us? These, (amongst other questions) are common for a child longing for any sense of understanding, truth, and stability. In the film, A Thousand and One, Terry (Aaron Kingsley Adetola) is a model character portraying a young mind coming to terms with the truth of his past and wrestling with not just moving forward in his own journey as a young black man, but also the impact it has on the dynamic with Inez (Teyana Taylor) as the only mother he’s ever known.
A.V. Rockwell’s debut film is a gripping story of truth, sacrifice, and strength in motherhood, featuring Teyana Taylor, Aaron Kingsley Adetola, and William Catlett in a stellar performance that captures the raw and heart-breaking bond between a mother and child. Needless to say, A Thousand and One will truly pull at your heart with its sharp commentary and hard-knock social themes. Inez emerges from a recent stint in jail and returns to Harlem to find her way back into living her life as a free woman and to find her young son, Terry. After learning that he was placed in foster care after her arrest, she vows to make life better for both of them in their new home and ultimately decides to kidnap him to ensure they’ll never be separated again.
Set against the backdrop of the late 90s, the story grows into the early 2000s as it tracks their family and all that it takes to provide for Terry all while facing the continuous struggles of everyday life that lurk at every opportunity for a better life. Inez does her best to help guide Terry through a changing world, where (as a recently incarcerated black woman raising a black son on a tight budget) means she has to work twice as hard just to get by. Using her cosmetology skills she’s determined to keep things afloat and thus provides styling to the local community, including an older woman who also lives in the building. Here we see how people of color can overcome hardships together, as the older woman shares her own struggles and proves that each generation can learn from the last and vice versa. Though grateful, things don’t get easier for Inez and Terry as they continue to face setback after setback.
Just as things seem bleak, Lucky (William Catlett) appears to reignite his relationship with Inez. Initially, he expresses no interest in bonding with Terry after learning of Inez’s secret, but we see that a child’s innocence can pierce even the hardest and most stubborn of hearts. Terry (apprehensive at first) begins to embrace Lucky as a father figure, but even this doesn’t last long. Lucky wrestles with his own sense of independence and the bond between him and the son he never knew he wanted. This inner turmoil causes strife between him and Inez and forces Terry to grow in his absence and learn what it means to be a man from his friends, the streets, and Inez.
As mentioned before, the film will cut you deep as a testament to how formidable single mothers are and the strength it takes to keep going against all odds. Facing gentrification, racial profiling, and evergrowing financial struggles, we get a view of the lives of many mothers out there today with similar stories. There's a gut-wrenching scene as Terry confronts Inez about his past and how they move forward. This, among other scenes, shows Taylor and Adetola embodying all the pain and rawness that lead up to that moment where you truly feel the weight of it all. Toward the end, there are some deeply emotional turns that not only beautifully tie the ending together but also offer a bit of hope. Not only will you love the film, but a key takeaway is that with love, there is nothing we can’t overcome.
Writer/Director: A.V. Rockwell
Producers: Eddie Vaisman, Julia Lebedev, Lena Waithe, Rishi Rajani, Brad Weston
Composer: Gary Gunn
Editor: Sabine Hoffman, Kristan Sprague
Cinematographer: Eric K. Yue
Production Designer: Sharon Lomofsky
Cast: Teyana Taylor, Will Catlett, Josiah Cross, Aven Courtney, Aaron Kingsley Adetola