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106 Ratings

Sidewalk Stories

Directed by Charles Lane
United States, 1989


Charles Lane plays a street artist whose efforts to care for an abandoned toddler are confounded by the many oddball characters he meets. Black-and-white and mostly silent, the film is a whimsical take by a black artist to give a voice to those who have none.

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Sidewalk Stories Directed by Charles Lane

Awards & Festivals

Cannes Film Festival

1989 | Directors' Fortnight

Independent Spirit Awards

1990 | 3 nominations including: Best First Feature

Lane tiptoes between effervescent physical comedy and grim documentary realism, placing his Chaplin-inspired gags in abandoned buildings, homeless shelters, and frostbitten city streets. The juxtaposition between the film’s silent cinema influences and contemporary urban setting are best experienced in the soundtrack, which shifts between traditional orchestral cues and pre-Seinfeld slap bass riffs.
March 30, 2016
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There’s an economy to [its] direction that threatens to bypass the elegant simplicity of silent cinema for merely functional visual storytelling. But the didacticism of Sidewalk Stories lies in its metatextual commentary. To see Lane enjoying tender scenes with his child is to see a void in silent movies retroactively filled, a racial context consciously and unconsciously omitted from the classic era, and film history in general.
November 13, 2014
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An homage to Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921), Sidewalk Stories, like the classic American silents it celebrates (a salute further enhanced by Lane’s soulful, Buster Keaton–esque eyes), is sweet and tender but never maudlin. With a light touch, Lane foregrounds not only the prevalence of homelessness in the city (most powerfully in the film’s closing minutes) but also the humiliations of classism and racism.
November 07, 2013
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