Get local news delivered straight to your phone
Support City Paper!
Jazz in the Diamond District, the debut of writer-director Lindsey Christian, has good intentions, atypical D.C. scenery, and little else. This heavy-handed story about following your dreams is delivered in flat voiceover by a dance student named Leah (Erica Chamblee) but is really about her older sister, Jasmine, aka Jazz (Monique Cameron). Jazz quits school to return home when their mother becomes terminally ill, and she decides to spend the following summer working at Ben’s Chili Bowl and trying to become a singer. Mom sang, too, though, so now that she’s gone, naturally Dad (an unusually wooden Clifton Powell) takes his grief out on Jazz, yelling about how she’s selfish and undisciplined. Meanwhile, the unbearably naive Leah—”Jazz, what does ‘smacked’ mean?” she asks in a widdle-girl voice—watches gape-mouthed as her sister gets in with a popular local go-go group and is introduced to the seedy side of music. Scenes of U Street, the giant Georgetown chair, and local nightclubs prove there’s more to the city than monuments, and the film’s musical performances and soundtrack are entertaining, despite the necessity to suspend a bit of disbelief while reconciling Cameron’s thin voice with her character’s allegedly mad skills. But the acting, veering from lifeless to histrionic, rarely feels natural, and while the relationships are underwritten, the script’s messages—about pregnancy, drugs, unsafe sex, violence, working hard, staying true to yourself—are lobbed so furiously it’d make Tyler Perry dizzy.