Naked Acts

Bridgett Davis's indie debut opens with a seriocomic setup: an inexperienced African American actress finds her biggest professional challenge isn't remembering her lines but keeping her clothes on. The once chubby Cicely (Jake-ann Jones) has slimmed down enough to win her first role, but she's still carrying a few pounds of emotional baggage. Uncomfortable with her new, supposedly perfect body, she's undermined by her ex-blaxploitation- queen mom and pressured by her boyfriend-cum-director to show off the new physique. Acts links Cicely's ambivalence to a childhood secret but also ranges cannily across a number of issues: images of black women on film, weight loss, the peculiar way sex appeal can be both a weapon and weakness. Cicely ultimately decides she's going to have to exercise direct control over her image, and although the benefits are more emotional than professional, the gambit is a neat echo of Naked Acts's larger ambitions, as a film written, directed, and distributed entirely by a black woman.

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