Michaela Coel is a legal investigator in London and John Goodman is her American employer tangled in the prosecution of a Rwandan militia leader in “Black Earth Rising,” a six-part series from writer/director Hugo Blick that aired on BBC Two in Sept. and arrives on Netflix Jan. 25.
Coel is simply fire as Kate Ashby, the Rwandan-born adoptive daughter of badass international prosecutor, Eve Ashby (Harriet Walter). But Mom’s attempt to haul a Tutsi military official before the International Criminal Court unearths some dangerous secrets in Kate’s biological tree.
Blick, who last helmed SundanceTV’s “The Honourable Woman” and has a cameo in this series, anchors his script in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, where lines are shockingly blurred regarding both the civil war and the West’s prosecution of its criminals. The story is heavy and the plot quite intricate, but Goodman and Coel are a gravitational pull through the matrix, with Coel’s ebb and flow of conviction, indignation and raw honesty the most impactful.
Some awkward stabs at romance seem to come out of nowhere, and be prepared for a conflict diamond side-plot, Tamara Tunie’s beleaguered Eunice Clayton doing the most as a U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, and the sudden use of shadowy animation, particularly during long stretches of dialogue that double as refresher history lessons.
Is Black Earth Rising worth your time? It’s a must see, if you’re a Michaela Coel fan or interested in the murky politics of the Rwandan genocide and its lasting effects on those who bore witness.