Colman Domingo staring into the camera in Sing Sing | Agents of Fandom

SXSW 2024: Colman Domingo Is Brilliant in A24’s Heartbreaking ‘Sing Sing’

Sing Sing delivers one of the most emotional films of the year with power and heart.

Oscar-nominee Colman Domingo is no stranger to A24 projects — he’s notably starred as X in Zola and Ali in the popular television show Euphoria — and now he is back at it again helming A24’s latest film to screen at SXSW, Sing Sing, releasing in theaters this July.

‘Sing Sing’ Is Already One of the Best Movies of the Year

Divine G (Colman Domingo, left) sits forward in a purple hoodie during a rehearsal as Divine Eye (Clarence Maclin, right) leans back in Sing Sing
‘Divine G’ (Colman Domingo, left) sits forward during a rehearsal as ‘Divine Eye’ (Clarence Maclin, right) leans back in Sing Sing. Image Credit: A24.

Sing Sing tells the story of how powerful the arts, and specifically theater, can be in rehabilitating not only the physical well-being of a person but the soul of one as well. It chronicles the life of John ‘Divine G’ Whitfield (Domingo), a man who has been imprisoned at Sing Sing Correctional Facility for a crime he did not commit.

Through his time being imprisoned, he forms lifelong bonds with fellow incarcerated individuals, such as Clarence ‘Divine Eye’ Maclin (who is played by the real Clarence Maclin in the film) and Mike Mike (Sean San Jose). ‘Divine G’ and Mike Mike are active participants in the RTA (Rehabilitation Through the Arts) Program, eventually welcoming ‘Divine Eye’ into the troupe as they struggle to determine which play they will present to the facility next.

With the help of their play director Brent Buell (played by a magnetic Paul Raci), the season of life that follows is full of moments of heartbreak, success, and emotional bonding that are as powerful as they are beautiful. With this movie being based on the very real events that transpired to ‘Divine G’ himself, there is a particular level of heart, honesty, and authenticity that director Greg Kwedar is able to transcend beyond the screen and into the viewer’s heart.

Shot at the real Sing Sing Correctional Facility, along with a few other decommissioned prisons, the cast is able to recreate the pure and potent passion that comes from creating a work of art from the very place where it initially blossomed. The cast, being primarily made up of former and currently incarcerated people, breaks through the barrier of merely presenting a film and pushes through to levels of truthful representation that leave you without a dry eye just minutes into the film.

It’s a near transcendent experience watching powerless men harness such power through the arts, actively seeking to break the cycle of the crucially flawed American prison system that they find themselves in, redefining who they are not only to those around them but, most importantly, to themselves.

Colman Domingo Delivers A Sensational Performance in ‘Sing Sing’

'Divine G' (Colman Domingo) stares into the camera, mouth ajar, as he struggles with self-love and past trauma while performing a play in Sing Sing. Image Credit: A24
‘Divine G’ (Colman Domingo) struggles with self-love and past trauma while performing a play in Sing Sing. Image Credit: A24.

Colman Domingo specifically identifies something in this film that I’ve never quite seen on-screen before. His ability to completely envelop the audience in not only the energy of the play they are practicing but the meaningfulness of it in relationship to being treated as a person, and not an inmate, is both awe-inspiring and audacious.

Even though he was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as the iconic civil rights activist Baynard Rustin in Netflix’s Rustin last year, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see him nominated again next year for this performance. It’s nearly indescribable in how it conveys the message of the importance of art in people’s lives. Domingo pierces through the veil of the silver screen and brings forth something so personal, filled with such potential, that it’s no wonder he is one of the greatest working actors right now.

As the film progresses, tensions rise within the troupe, allowing Paul Raci to demonstrate an understated, yet essential, performance, directly juxtaposing those of Domingo and Maclin, who act as the viewers “in” to seeing these men not as prisoners but as men. Raci brings forth his wry whimsy and indelible smile, consistently allowing humor and heart to blossom in every scene.

Maclin, who plays himself in the film, unearths yet another level of deepening authenticity to the project, projecting a lightning-in-a-bottle performance that is sure to see his movie stardom begin. He goes toe to toe with Domingo, delivering a dynamic between the two that appears nothing short of a peak inside a real-life relationship, not bent by script, cameras, or narrative in the slightest.

The many moving pieces in Sing Sing fuse together to create a truly special film, shining with a glimmer of heart, humor, and hope at every turn. A24 has another smash hit on their hands, providing both an important message and a gorgeous movie in Sing Sing.

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'Sing Sing' Review

'Sing Sing' Review
4.5 5 0 1
4.5 rating
Total Score

The Good

  • Sing Sing unlocks levels of authenticity and heart rarely seen on the silver screen.
  • The film features real-life incarcerated men - a feat as important as the film itself.
  • The theme of humanity and hope will leave you drenched in tears.

The Bad

  • You'll have to wait until July to watch it.
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