SUNDANCE INSTITUTE alum Rick Famuyiwa, all of 25, drew on memories of growing up in the outer-L.A. neighborhood of Inglewood to make THE WOOD, a genial story of friendship among three young African-American men that gets far on charm even when the cinema technique falters and stalls. In the hours before his wedding, a skittish groom (Taye Diggs, that fine specimen of good dentistry) goes AWOL. As his two closest friends (Omar Epps and Richard T. Jones) track him down and prop him up, the buds reminisce about the ancient 1980s, when, after bonding in the schoolyard as neither Crip nor Blood, the trio learned–among other crucial lessons–to navigate the mysterious world of girls.
The Wood unfolds through the POV of Mike (Epps); in flashback, young Mike is played by Sean Nelson (Fresh), who, in one scene of arrestingly lovely authenticity, loses his virginity to his longtime sweetheart (Malinda Williams from Sunset Park). In this, in his happy but ungooey depiction of family, and in the jolly attention lavished on poignantly dated style details of the ’80s among black teens — Jheri curls, Guess? jackets — Famuyiwa has kicked up fertile new storytelling territory for black filmmakers.