Coolidge Corner Theater presents new award to filmmaker Elegance Bratton

By Karenna Umscheid, Assistant Living Arts Editor

Just a few steps off the Coolidge Corner green line stop is the Coolidge Corner Theater, a cornerstone of the Boston film community known for showing independent, international, and otherwise lesser-known new releases that are difficult to find at the AMC Boston Common. They also do a number of repertory screenings, including midnight screenings and Q-and-A forums.  

They are currently working on expanding their space and growing their opportunities, and awarded their first-ever Breakthrough Artist Award (and only existing award) to filmmaker Elegance Bratton, known for his 2022 debut feature “The Inspection.” 

The theater hosted a screening of the film on Jan. 27, followed by a Q-and-A with Bratton and his producer and partner Chester Algernal Gordon. 

“This seemed like the perfect moment to spotlight somebody who is part of the future of film, as we think about our own future,” Beth Gilligan, deputy director of the theater, said in an interview with The Beacon.

Photo: Kar

The idea for the Breakthrough Artist Award floated within the Coolidge staff but didn’t come to fruition until Gilligan and a colleague saw a screening of “The Inspection” at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge. Bratton’s film inspired the theoretical award to become a reality. 

“[The award] came about because we were thinking a lot and talking a lot about our future, so with those conversations we began to talk and think about the future of film and the medium itself,” Gilligan explained. 

Gilligan, in an interview, cited Bratton’s beautiful voice and compelling personal history embedded into the film as reasons for honoring him with the award. The awards ceremony was not extremely formal or exclusive, being completely open to the public with the standard Coolidge ticket price. The energy was casual, supportive, and excited for Bratton. 

When introducing the film at the event ceremony, Bratton addressed the audience, saying he “hopes that by the end of this film, anyone who feels like they are not enough, knows that they are enough.”

“The Inspection” is largely autobiographical, following a young Black man who enlists in the U.S. Marine Corps and faces homophobia from his training instructor and fellow recruits, as well as back home from his mother. The film premiered at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, and garnered a Golden Globe nomination for lead actor Jeremy Pope. 

The team at the Coolidge Corner Theatre were moved by the inspiring and all too necessary storyline, and felt it only right to award a filmmaker such as Bratton.

“When you have a platform, you use it to champion people who are doing great work and really represent the future of the medium,” Gilligan said. 

Photo: Kare

The Breakthrough Artist award is one of many changes the Coolidge has been working on in an attempt to further connect with the community of artists and filmmakers. 

They also plan to add two new theaters and a community education and engagement center by Summer 2023. The goal of the community education and engagement center is to capitalize on the opportunity film screenings provide for conversation, education, and expanded thinking. 

“There are some films that can be entryways to such great discussions about different topics and they can open your eyes to new perspectives,” Gilligan said. 

The Coolidge is entrenched in these larger film conversations and in the local community, partnering with Wicked Queer, as well as the Roxbury International Film Festival, IFF Boston, and many others in presenting this award.

Bratton gave a special thanks to many of the film festivals that the Coolidge partnered with in presenting this award, specifically noting Wicked Queer as the first festival he had a film accepted to. 

Bratton is just one of many filmmakers who have had tremendous support from the smaller film community of Boston. 

“A lot of people feel like [the Coolidge is] their home and we would never just do a one-off gala opening, it’s gonna be a lot of different things with a lot of different ways to engage,” Gilligan said. 

With this award as well as the spatial expansion, the theater hopes to continue to foster a supportive relationship with independent filmmakers and artists. 

“Our hope is that the filmmakers in general would think of us as an ally and a place where their work will be presented in the best possible manner,” Gilligan said. “We have amazing projectionists and technical teams, and really appreciative audiences.”

Gordon, near the end of the event, gave a special thanks to independent cinema and independent filmmakers. “We [wouldn’t] be able to make movies without people like you supporting theaters like this,” he said, addressing the theater. 

Bratton followed his remarks, believing this film was his breakthrough, an encouraging nod in the direction he’s headed. 

“Thank you for letting me know what is possible after the breakthrough,” he said.