When asked by her grandfather, Kris explains that a concerto is made up of “two elements, a soloist and an orchestra, having a conservation”. From there, he and Horace begin their own dialogue, reflecting on how a man’s determination can change the fate of a family and how that experience testifies to the original sin of a nation. “It all comes down to slavery,” Horace reminds his grandson.
In its 13-minute compact, “A Concerto is a Conversation” manages to say more about race relations than a film 10 times as long.
Bowers, whose credits include the series “Bridgerton” and “When They See Us,” not only serves as the subject, he also directed it with writer / producer Ben Proudfoot. Winner at age 21 of the Thelonious Monk Jazz Piano Competition Award in 2011, Bowers wrote the score for “Green Book” (2018) and doubled close-up for Mahershala Ali as grand piano Don Shirley.
With its straightforward statements of fact and skillful use of contemporary archives and images, “A Concerto is a Conversation” reveals a post-George Floyd political landscape. Horace Bowers recounts anecdotes from decades ago that would likely play out the same way today, such as being denied a loan because of the color of his skin. As a teenager, Horace fled Florida, where he witnessed daily indignities and insults, like white people calling his father a boy. “It stuck with me forever. … I knew I was going to go from there. I didn’t want any part of that part of the country.
Hitchhiking across the United States (which he admits, “I must have been crazy”) in the 1940s, he made up his mind to Los Angeles, where he eventually built a dry cleaning empire. “I had never heard of LA before,” he said. “I didn’t know how I was going to get there, but I knew I was going to get there.
Kris points out that her grandfather was only 20 when he became an entrepreneur. “In two years, he went from being homeless to being a business.”
Even outside the South, racism remained a factor. “I realized that in the South, they tell you. In LA, they Display you. … But you must know that you cannot stop me. Captured in the Interrotron Direct-to-Film style of Errol Morris, these admissions have an even greater impact.