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“Naked Acts” Movie Review, Live Streaming & Download

naked acts 2024

Contains language around sexual abuse

Bridgett M. Davis’ 1996 film “Naked Acts,” recently rediscovered by Maya S. Cade, presented by Julie Dash, Kino Lorber and Milestone Films, is an independent film that takes its audience through the independent filmmaking process and the life of a generational actress. It is triumphant, jarring and pulls its audience into an intimate storyline that demands to be witnessed. 

The film starts off with narration by the main character, Cicely, played by Jake-Ann Jones, who is writing a letter to her mother who is a former erotica actress. Young Cicely is routinely sexually assaulted by her mother’s lover and forced into doing the “naked acts” her mother would do as an actress. The evil duality in the beginning is gut wrenching, setting the stage for what will eventually become a courageous film. 

As an adult, Cicely, wants to be an actress but not like her mother, who she deems lowly for her choice in film roles. An old boyfriend offers Cicely a role in an “art film” in which she is supposed to be nude. She is reluctant, convincing the producer to let her remain clothed throughout the film’s entirety. The “ultra ultra low budget” production is also Cicely’s debut after a major weight loss journey that she endured for 10 years. Though Cicely’s weight loss has rendered her Hollywood-approved skinny, she is still determined to dictate how she wants to be seen on the big screen. Her willingness to stay on the project, illuminates her willingness to expose her newly found confidence, and to keep her body sacred. Even today, the idea of self-preservation as a Black woman actress, in the entertainment industry, remains a bold and honorable character choice by Bridgett M. Davis. 

Marketed as a “fresh, funny, and original” production, “Naked Acts,” surprisingly, doesn’t become comedic until 35 minutes in. The producer’s annoyance with his novice cast is tickling, especially during a silent acting scene soundtracked to anarchic orchestra music. 

The 4k restoration highlights the luminous skin of the all-Black cast beautifully. The alarming red wig worn by Cicely parallels perfectly with the neighboring blue-light scenes. It’s an evocative, eye-catching effect that imbues Cicely with the kind of fiercely independent character she displays for much of the film, furthered here by the keen sense of lighting and fashion.  

The pursuit of safety in the film is tangible. Cicely’s cries for her father, she often reminisces about the safety she felt around him (as opposed to how unsafe she felt around her mother’s lover), act as her building a safe haven for herself, pulling the audience through her own metamorphosis. Throughout the film, the camera homes in on Cicely’s insular nature with closeup shots, and as she opens up, she becomes comfortable with naked self-portraiture. In this visual journey the camera doesn’t so much leer, but quietly studies and encourages her.

The language of the film is calm and cool. Conversations between Cicely, and her ex-boyfriend Joel, played by Ron Cephas Jones, feel like everyday conversations between lovers. “You’re new and improved, just gotta look in the mirror,” Joel tells Cicely, as they intimately gaze into each other’s eyes on the couch. The flirtatious scenes, delivered wonderfully by the two actors, have a kind of timelessness. While Cicely’s narration in the beginning of the film is confusing and indecisive, scenes like these are where she finds the kind of clarity and conciseness that make the end a tear-jerker.

“Naked Acts” is a grounded experience. From the beginning, the audience sees Young Cicely fill her shirt with tissue to emulate breasts, and her mother pulls the tissue out and then after a moment of hesitation puts the tissue back in her shirt. We see that they are close, and that Cicely wants to be like her mother. After such a beautifully intimate scene between mother and daughter, the audience then witnesses that purity and innocence snatched away. Grief, repression and vulnerability are themes that carry the film, and optimism, forgiveness and self-acceptance are the themes that will hit viewers right in the heart. 

Explosions of radicalism, femininity, art and trauma force the audience’s gaze and Jake-Ann Jones’ performance will keep audiences intrigued. She has an ability to adopt a persona of meekness and awkwardness then turn into a daring yet graceful figure.

Before watching the film, I was eager about its quality because of Julie Dash’s involvement. Director of “Daughters of the Dust,” and niece of my college professor, Julie Dash has a legacy of brilliant independent filmmaking. It was no wonder that while I watched “Naked Acts,” I was moved by the details and rawness of Bridgett M. Davis’ directing and writing. Her involvement in revamping this film is yet another reason to see it. “Naked Acts,” the 1996 newly restored film, feels fresh and revitalizing as it molds generational victory through its thoughtful storyline and immaculate casting. 

Naked Acts movie poster

Naked Acts (2024)

90 minutes

Cast

Jake-Ann Jonesas Cicely

Ron Cephas Jonesas Joel

Patricia DeArcyas Lydia Love

John McKieas Marcel Brown

Lee Dobsonas Jesse

Beatrice Brazobanas Street Artist

Rodney Charlesas Leading Man

Rene Coxas Diana

Bridgett M. Davisas Rae

Tara Greenwayas Sauna Woman #1

Leslie Hoffmanas Sauna Woman #2

Jairus Huntas Daddy

Simone Huntas Baby Cece

Sabrina Lambas Comic

Annette Myrieas Little Cece

Natalie Quickas Grandmama

Laura Washingtonas Comedy Club Waitress

Sandye Wilsonas Winsome

Director

  • Bridgett M. Davis

Writer

  • Bridgett M. Davis

Director of Photography

  • Herman Lew

Editor

  • Brunilda Torres

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