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D.C. Native David Talbert's 'Baggage Claim' Debuts Sept. 27

Stacy M. Brown | 9/18/2013, 3 p.m.
Djimon Hounsou and Paula Patton star in "Baggage Claim," a film written and directed by D.C. native David Talbert. (Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures)

David Talbert has emphatically answered the question posed by more than a few African-American moviegoers and film critics: Can we get a black movie that’s not about the struggle?

“This film represents many things,” Talbert said. “But, for the most part, it represents the fact that we, as African Americans, live for love stories, the romantic comedy. This is a universal story that could be told whether the characters were black or white,” he said.

Based on Talbert’s 2005 novel of the same name, “Baggage Claim” stars Paula Patton, who plays Montana Moore, a flight attendant who finds herself with only 30 days to find Mr. Right.

Using her airline connections to meet eligible ex-boyfriends and scour for potential candidates, she racks up more than 30,000 miles and countless comedic encounters, all while searching for the perfect guy.

Included among the men Moore considers are a politician, a preacher and a business tycoon.

The film, which also stars Derek Luke, Boris Kodjoe, Taye Diggs, Jill Scott and others, opens Friday, Sept. 27 at select theaters in Washington, D.C.

Talbert, who hails from Northeast, also plans a private screening at his alma mater, Morgan State University, prior to the film’s general release.

Talbert, 46, began his career in theater and quickly established himself as one of the most sought-after playwrights in the country.

He has written and directed 14 nationally acclaimed touring productions and has garnered 24 NAACP Image Award nominations, winning Best Playwright for, “The Fabric of a Man,” in 2005. Two years later, Talbert received the New York Literary Award for Best Playwright for, “Love in the Nick of Tyme.”

For his latest, “Baggage Claim,” Talbert said it was his wife, executive producer Lyn Talbert, who accidentally gave him the idea for the movie.

“I was listening to my wife’s conversation,” Talbert said. “Some of my best material has come from listening to her conversations with her girlfriends and they often find their [discussions incorporated into] my movies and they know where I got it.”

Specifically, Talbert said one of his wife’s friends had taken a serious interest in a man who lived in Chicago. The friend is invited by her suitor for a holiday trip to the Windy City. “She goes on about how he puts her in a nice hotel and my wife is thinking that it’s the holiday season, he’s not introducing her to his family, he must be married,” Talbert said. “About an hour later, the girlfriend calls and sure enough, the man is married.”

Talbert wanted to create a persona in which the protagonist is an ambitious woman in pursuit of love, he said. The filmmaker noted that this year’s heavy crop of African- American movies has served as motivation for his latest project.

“It’s been an unprecedented year for blacks in film,” Talbert said. “It shows that we have a lot of compelling stories that need to be told.”

Critics said when the Academy Awards are given out for this year’s films; there should be no less than three Best Actor nominees, three Best Supporting Actress nominations and four black movies vying for Best Picture.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, Idris Elba and Forest Whitaker are certain to be finalists for Best Actor for their respective roles in, “12 Years A Slave,” “Mandela,” and “The Butler,” said veteran film writer Roger Friedman, of Showbiz 411 and Parade Magazine.

“A fourth choice would be Michael B. Jordan for ‘Fruitvale Station,’” said Friedman, who lists “12 Years a Slave,” “Mandela,” “The Butler,” and “Fruitvale Station,” as Best Picture favorites.

Finally, Oprah Winfrey, who’s also a favorite to win Best Supporting Actress for her role in “The Butler,” plans to release Barbara Kopple’s documentary, “Running from Crazy,” which chronicles Mariel Hemingway’s exploration of suicide and depression in her family.

Winfrey expects the film to receive Academy Award consideration, as well.

While Talbert’s, “Baggage Claim,” hasn’t garnered award talk, he said it does address the issues of love that most people face. “I think what is going to appeal most to the audience is that I could have had any race in it and the story would not have to change at all,” he said.