Good Fences

Director: Ernest Dickerson
Screenwriters: Trey Ellis, Erika Ellis

Institute History

  • 2003 Sundance Film Festival


Director Ernest Dickerson returns to the Sundance Film Festival with this fresh and funny take on upwardly mobile, black middle-class folk (a la Clarence Thomas). Good Fences deftly tells the tale of an ambitious attorney and his family as they climb the rungs of "good" society.

Tom (Danny Glover), determined to "end the colored man's losing streak," gets a crack at a controversial case that may finally move him up and out of his basement office. When he successfully defends the admitted arsonist whose crime caused the painful death of two black teenagers, the family is off to the suburbs. It is 1973, and the lily-white community of Greenwich, Connecticut, doesn't quite deliver on the promise of the American Dream. While Tom's career prospers, Mabel (Whoopi Goldberg) endures a housewife's burden of isolation, anxiety, and pervasive fear as she bites her tongue in the face of her neighbor's racism and struggles to gain respect from the maid and grocery clerk, all the while dodging the only other black person in the neighborhood—a lottery queen from the 'hood.

With a wonderfully wry and tragicomic sense of humor, Dickerson expertly mines the details of domesticity to create this enormously satisfying and insightful study of class mobility and one family's determination on the front line of the color barrier.

— Shari Frilot

Screening Details

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