Compensation (film)

Compensation is a 1999 independent film co-edited, produced and directed by Zeinabu irene Davis and written by March Arthur Chéry, about a young African American couple at the beginning and end of the twentieth century. It stars Michelle A. Banks and John Earl Jelks in the leading roles. The film was shot throughout Chicago beginning July 1993 and wrapped up early August.
The film premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival and ran in the Dramatic Feature category. The film was screened in San Diego, California at the Museum of Photographic Arts. It was also screened at IFP the Independent Film Market in New York, New York and the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles.


Inspired by a 1906 poem from early African American writer, Paul Laurence Dunbar, the unique drama explores aspects of Black culture in both turn of the century and present day Chicago in two parallel love stories, both about the relationship between a deaf woman and a hearing man. The narrative revolves about two couples, Malindy and Arthur, and Malaika and Nico, respectively taking place at the beginning and end of the twentieth century. Both pairs revel in the splendor or romance and a possible lifetime commitment only to be forced to deal with the dreaded disease of their difference times: tuberculosis and AIDS. The multi-layered film tackles various issues that arise in the relationship of the "mixed" couples.



The entire film was shot in Chicago, Illinois to play a tribute to the director's previous residence and to expose the audience to the beautiful city. Well-known filming locations within Chicago.
, a noted ragtime composer and performer, served as the film's period music score composer. He incorporated the piano and mandolin into all his compositions for the film.
Atiba Y. Jali, served as the contemporary music score composer. He used instruments that are not as common such as the balafou, berimbau and yidaki but also included the drums and flute.

Film Festivals

The film was overall well received by many notable film critics and enjoyed a positive reception from both critics and moviegoers.


The film is available on VHS and DVD distributed by Women Make Movies.

Awards and accolades

1999 Gordon Parks Directing Award, Independent Feature Project, New York
1999 Reel Black Award for Outstanding Film, Black Film and Video Network
15th Annual IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards, Nominated Best First Feature Film Under $500,000