SACRAMENTO - "When a man can stand up to the mirror, he can stand up to life," is a line from the recent motion picture Kings of the Evening that has inspired people in a variety of ways. This award winning holiday film, set during the Great Depression, features a "swanking" contest where the poor African-American men in a southern town piece together the finest attire they can to compete for a meager prize, but ultimately, walk away with dignity and self-respect. Kings of the Eveninghas not only won the hearts and minds of audiences across the country, but also inspired a local Sacramento chef to put on swanking contests of his own.
"I first held one at the local job corps where I did a stint as the culinary instructor to motivate the male students and to uplift their dignity," said Executive Chef Richard Pannell of Table 260 in downtown Sacramento. "I then wanted to host a 'Kings of the Evening Swank Tour' for the same reason, and to help promote a 'must see' film."
The film stars international male supermodel Tyson Beckford (Into the Blue, Biker Boyz), Emmy winner Lynn Whitfield (Josephine Baker Story, Thin Line Between Love and Hate), Emmy winner Glynn Turman (The Wire, Sahara), and rising star Linara Washington (The Express, Private Practice) and features a stellar supporting cast. "The positive nature of the script attracted the best of the best of African-American actors," said Andrew P. Jones, the film's director and co-writer. "Never did I dream that the film would inspire and uplift so many people in so many ways - but it's a huge honor," Jones added.
One of the film's stars, Linara Washington was on hand in Sacramento to act as celebrity judge as the crowd cheered the strutting contestants who ranged from sixteen-year-old twins to a local female leather-goods designer. "I'm proud to be associated with a film that is bringing our community together and is helping to break the negative stereotypes we have come so accustomed to in our films," said Ms. Washington. Chef Pannell, who not only provided his signature Gumbo but also aided in the judging, added "Our communities need this to show that if a man can walk the streets with his head held high, even if he has no money in his pocket, then he is truly worth more than a million."
As scenes from the movie played in the background, and the contestants and onlookers reveled in the fun, Chef Pannell looked on with his own sense of pride. "The event was well received by those who attended and was greatly missed by those who didn't attend. There are a lot of people now aware of KOTE and are looking forward to purchasing the DVD. Every now and then a film comes along that depicts African-Americans in such a light that you want to hold on to the words, scenes and love within the movie."