SCREEN TIME: In the ‘nik’ of time

Hulu’s ‘Freaknik’ traces the rise and fall of Atlanta’s most famous street party

#1   Freaknik
Photo credit: HULU
CROSSTOWN TRAFFIC: Young people enjoy Atlanta’s most famous street party in the documentary ‘Freaknik: The Greatest Party Never Told.’

A common knock against today’s young people is that they spend so much time filming things with their smartphones they don’t appreciate what’s going on in front of them. Hulu’s Freaknik: The Greatest Party Never Told suggests that trait is older than people might think. Chunky video cameras are seemingly everywhere in the documentary’s footage of young Black people partying — and recording themselves — on Atlanta’s streets in the 1980s and 1990s.

Directed by P Frank Williams, Freaknik relies heavily on amateur video of the events, particularly with shots of young women dancing alongside or atop cars. The video aesthetic applies to its framing device as the documentary “rewinds,” with visible tracking distortion, from present-day talking-head interviews back to the ever-enlarging parties of 30-40 years ago.

To the uninformed, Freaknik provides a lively history lesson. Many of Atlanta’s black colleges had “state clubs” comprised of students from, say, Washington, D.C. In 1983, the D.C. Metro Club held a spring break party for students who couldn’t afford to go home or travel. A picnic partially named for Chic’s disco hit “Le Freak,” “Freaknic” was so successful that it kept going, with word of mouth over the years scaling it up into a national event that drew hundreds of thousands.

The documentary makes a strong argument that Freaknik served as a gathering of Black creators and consumers that became an incubator for Atlanta’s cultural scene as we know it today. The first Outkast cassette sampler was given out to Freaknik visitors, who were essentially a captive audience in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

The film points out that Freaknik hit its heights of popularity simultaneously with the rise of Miami-centered, sexually suggestive hip-hop from the likes of 2 Live Crew. Some women reminisce about enjoying the chance to cut loose and feel sexually liberated, but others point out times when men could be disrespectful. In the most harrowing moment, a woman describes having her clothes torn off by a mob, and the film cuts between TV footage of her from 1998 and a more recent interview.

Freaknik acknowledges tensions with the city’s white community, but suggests that the beginning of the end was the selection of Atlanta to host the 1996 Olympic games. The city clamping down on the event is framed as an image-conscious business decision: “Freaknik was bringing $15 million, but the Olympics was bringing $2 billion.”

The documentary features celebrities like Jermaine Dupri and CeeLo Green waxing nostalgic for Freaknik at its best, as well as younger people who feel sentimental for something they never knew: “The ’90s resonate with us because they knew how to have fun. The world was more, like, pure.” The film can become visually repetitious but successfully addresses Freaknik and its importance from all angles. Freaknik: The Greatest Party Never Told takes a wistful look back without ever wearing rose-colored classes.

Tue., Apr. 2


TARADROME SERIES CONTINUES: Joey Wang (top) Tony Leung (bottom). PHOTO CREDIT: My Heart Is That Eternal Rose

My Heart Is That Eternal Rose, Tara Atlanta — Former lovers reunite in Patrick Tam’s stylish 1989 Hong Kong romantic drama starring the great Tony Leung. This continues the “Taradrome” series with the Tara Atlanta in partnership with Videodrome.
7:30 p.m. Tue., Apr. 2. Tara Atlanta, 2345 Cheshire Bridge Rd. NE, Atlanta, 30324.



Fri., April 5


APEX PREDATOR: Dev Patel directs and stars in the stylish action-revenge thriller ‘Monkey Man.’ PHOTO CREDIT: A24

Monkey Man Dev Patel stars and makes his directorial debut in this stylish revenge thriller originally set to go straight to Netflix, but filmmaker Jordan Peele helped secure it a theatrical release. Early reviews have compared it to Oldboy and the John Wick films.
Opens Fri., Apr. 5. Atlanta area theaters



Sun., Apr. 7, Mon., Apr. 8, and Wed., Apr. 10


RHETT AND SCARLETT: Does anyone give a damn? PHOTO CREDIT: Detail from DVD cover

Gone With the Wind Winner of 10 Oscars including Best Picture, this epic-length romance set during and after the Civil War represents the pinnacle of the Hollywood studio filmmaking of 1939 — and is highly problematic in its depiction of race and the South. Observing its 85th anniversary, this adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s novel nevertheless represents a significant page from Atlanta history.
Sun., Apr. 7, Mon., Apr. 8, and Wed., Apr. 10. Atlanta area theaters.



Mon., Apr. 8


ROMY & MICHELLE: Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino. PHOTO CREDIT: Detail from DVD cover

Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion, Plaza Theatre A pair of silly, underemployed friends (Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino) scheme to impress their old classmates at their 10th reunion. Wussy Mag hosts a pair of screenings that feature delightful co-star Alan Cumming in attendance.
7 and 10 p.m. Mon, Apr. 8. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, 30306.



Fri., Apr. 12


A CIVIL ACTION: Cailee Spaeny and Kirsten Dunst star in director Alex Garland’s ‘Civil War.’ PHOTO CREDIT: A24

Civil War Early reviews are positive for this thriller about a group of journalists traveling across the United States during the outbreak of the titular civil war. Ex Machina and Annihilation director Alex Garland directs a cast that includes Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemmons, Stephen McKinley Henderson and Nick Offerman as the U.S. president.
Opens Fri., Mar. 15. Atlanta area theaters



Fri., Apr. 19


ABBY NORMAL?: Alisha Weir’s Abigail gets the jump on Kathryn Newton in the horror film ‘Abigail.’ PHOTO CREDIT: Bernard Walsh/Universal Pictures

Abigail A group of kidnappers seize a crime lord’s daughter only to get much, much more than they bargained for in this fun-looking horror film. The filmmakers of Ready or Not direct a cast that includes Giancarlo Esposito, Dan Stevens, Kathryn Newton, and Alisha Weir as Abigail.
Fri., Apr. 19. At area theaters.




Sat., Apr. 20



Silver Scream Spook Show: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, Plaza Theatre — With Godzilla winning an Oscar and starring in Apple+ series these days, for a change of pace consider this 1974 romp that pits the legendary kaiju against his robot doppelganger. Presented by the Silver Scream Spook Show, a live, burlesque tribute to the classic horror hosts of yesteryear.
1:30 and 10 p.m. Sat., Apr. 20. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, 30306.




Thu., Apr. 25 – Sun., May 5


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Atlanta Film Festival, Plaza Theatre — The latest ATLFF will present more than 140 films (24% from Georgia filmmakers), drawing from 7,500 submissions from more than 100 countries. Films already announced at press time include the documentaries African Giants, Naked Ambition and The Body Politic as well as the moody Latvian feature Dragoons and the tense character study We Strangers.
Thu., Apr. 25 – Sun., May 5. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, 30306.



Fri., Apr. 26


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Fri., Apr. 26. At area theaters.