2007, US, directed by Kasi Lemmons
Kasi Lemmons's film is the story of the Washington DC radio personality "Petey" Greene (played by Don Cheadle), who emerged from prison in the late 1960s and was given a shot on AM radio, developing one of the first phone-in/talk shows. As is the general rule with filmed biographies, the script takes substantial liberties with the actual historical record, often reducing Greene's complexities and contradictions in the process (and tending to portray his fraught relationships with women in excessively lighthearted terms). While Greene became a crucial voice for the African-American community in Washington, the film sometimes casts him as a jive-talking comic, and blunts his more hard-edged commentary.
Issues of black identity are at the heart of the film, with Greene representing the "authentic" voice of the streets, in opposition to the radio producer Dewey Hughes (the busy, and versatile, British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor), who is seen by some blacks as having "gone white" to get ahead in business (such debates about black experience are hardly the stuff of the past, as evidenced by some reviews of the film). Kasi Lemmons's first film, Eve's Bayou, was more nuanced - and wonderfully atmospheric - where Talk To Me ultimately reduces Greene to an entertainer rather than a radically new political voice. That said, Cheadle captures at least some of the man's swagger and bluster, and Greene's deep desire to remain true to himself rather than to some pre-programmed idea of success; Ejiofor is an excellent foil, and there's a real sense of conspiratorial glee between the two men.