Archives / 1990 Sundance Film Festival

Chameleon Street

Director: Wendell B. Harris

Screenwriters: Wendell B. Harris

Institute History

Description

Flint. Michigan is already experiencing a certain amount of notoriety due to the enormous popularity of Roger and Me. Simultaneously here comes another Flint filmmaker, Wendell B. Harris, Jr. with his own blend of dry wit and punctuating satire. Chameleon Street tells the incredible true story of William Douglas Street: on one level a can man, but in a truer sense, a disfranchised individual. A black man who barely got through high school. Street went on to successfully impersonate doctors, lawyers, journalists and other professionals over a period of years. His exploits eventually landed him in jail, although once outside again, Street embarked on new adventures.

Street, played by Wendell Harris, Jr., recounts with hilariously biting sarcasm his pursuit of happiness. Intelligent, articulate and quick-witted, Street's gall gets him in outrageous situations that test his talents and cleverness, beginning with a ridiculously bungled extortion attempt. To his credit, he is able to achieve everything else he sets out to accomplish, only to be tripped up by minor details like credentials.

However the outrageous humor darkens as the film progresses, and the chameleon act becomes more than humorous stunts. Wendell Harris, Jr., the film's writer, director and star. seizes the opportunity provided by Street's story to intelligently comment on the Black experience and "Caucasian conceit." He wisely refuses to pass moral judgment on Street. In fact, Street's personality is never completely unraveled since he can so quickly create a new one. Therefore he remains enigmatic.

Harris, as well, continually adds new layers to the film. Similar to what Street says of himself, Harris is so far ahead of the audience that he knows exactly what to say and what buttons to push to seduce the viewer. At its core, Chameleon Street is a gem of social irony masquerading as black comedy.

Sunday, January 21 4:00 p.m.
Egyptian Theatre

Monday, January 22 1:00 p.m.
Prospector Square Theatre

Wednesday, January 24 7:00 p.m.
Sundance Screening Room

Thursday, January 25 7:00 p.m.
Prospector Square Theatre

Saturday, January 27 7:00 p.m.
Egyptian

$5.00

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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