Pages Navigation Menu

"No matter where you go, there you are."


Sundance 2024 Review: Exhibiting Forgiveness – “a complex, authentic family drama”

André Holland and Andra Day appear in Exhibiting Forgiveness by Titus Kaphar, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

At first, artist and now director Titus Kaphar started out making a documentary about his life.  But eventually, he decided that he could convey more, be more vulnerable, through a fictional narrative.  “Not every moment is pulled from life, but there is truth in every scene,” says the director about his debut feature Exhibiting Forgiveness.

The film centres around an artist, Tarrell (André Holland) who is finding increasing success with his paintings.  Many of them, however, come from trauma experienced in his childhood.  It’s trauma he re-lives again and again, suffering from violent night terrors that terrify his wife (Andra Day).  As he reads a book to his son, lines from a poem by Maya Angelou ring true: “If I’m afraid at all, it’s only in my dreams.”

Check out all of our Sundance coverage

Tarrell is about to face that fear.  As he goes to retrieve his mother, Joyce (Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor) who will be moving in to his family’s home, she arranges for his estranged father, La’Ron (John Earl Jelks) to be there.  She is desperate for Tarrell to forgive his now-sober father who abused them both while suffering with drug addiction.  A devout Christian, Joyce is worried for Tarrell, saying “If you don’t forgive, you won’t be forgiven,” but the memories that have plagued him, the pain that has largely created his art, is difficult to absolve, and certainly cannot be forgotten.

As one might expect for a film made by a visual artist, Kaphar makes exceptional use of colour and space in this film.  Many places he shoots are beautiful spaces, but they’re made more stunning because of his framing, his use of light and shadows.  Coupled with a wonderful, often jazzy score by Jherek Bischoff, the film is just as textured as Kaphar’s own impressive paintings, several of which are featured on screen.

Unlike painting, a singular medium, Kaphar here creates art with amongst a large number of creatives, not the least of which are the actors who all have impressive performances.  Holland, who actually had to learn to paint for the role, is invested in his character’s underlying heartbreak.  Even when Tarrell is happy with his family, there’s a level of pain still visible.  When he paints, it’s often passionate, as the artist puts his hurt and rage on canvas.  Jelks and Day are also marvellous, and Ellis-Taylor, coming off her under-recognized turn in Ava Duvernay’s equally overlooked Origin, is nothing short of breathtaking, especially as we start to understand why Joyce is fervently trying to push father and son back together.

Exhibiting Forgiveness, is different than what Kaphar originally set out to make, but is likely more emotional, open and sensitive because of this pivot.  It is a moving experience.  It’s also exciting to see the marriage between painter and director here, a creator that has unique visual acuity and perspective.  Kaphar has made a complex, authentic family drama that looks at how pain can create beauty and how art can help heal.  It also examines the ability of human spirit to change and to forgive.  It doesn’t tie everything up in a neat little bow, a lifetime of trauma and pain is not forgotten.  Instead, while certainly ending on a happier note, there’s the feeling that there is still turbulence ahead, and isn’t that just the reality of life?

Exhibiting Forgiveness premiered at the Sundance Film Festival January 20, 2024.  Its remaining in person screening is sold out, however is available for online viewing for those in the U.S.  For more information head to

Previous PostNext Post


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.