The African Desperate follows artist Palace Bryant (Diamond Stingily) on one very long day in 2017 that starts with her MFA graduation from a white liberal arts college in upstate New York and ends at a Chicago Blue Line Station. Set against the lush backdrop of late summer, Palace navigates the pitfalls of self-actualization and the fallacies of the art world. Shot through with Syms’s celebrated conceptual grit, humor, social commentary, and vivid visual language, The African Desperate leads us on an intimate and riotously funny journey through picturesque landscapes and artists studios, from academic critiques to backseat hookups, and from the night of a wild graduation party to the morning of a lonely trip back home.
RogerEbert.com gave the film 3.5 stars out for 4, noting: “The film rests on a foundation of a chaos and calm, as reflected in its cinematography. At times, its warm, faded glow evokes vintage photographs or impressionist paintings with modern subjects. Picturesque, romantic shots are like a breath of fresh air, only to be immediately followed with cold, off-kilter framing or the contrasted intensity of a world thrown under black light.
Martine Syms has a singular voice, flowing with creativity. Using her own background as an artist, Syms has taken artistic academia and the whiplash of exiting the comfort of school and churned it into a jungle juice of weed, ketamine, and self-discovery.”