Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Black Film Predicament

It’s raining. I’m no longer a child so the fear of me not being able to go out and play no longer exists. Now, However, is when I appreciate substituting my television watching with reading, writing (quite evidently), or reflecting. The Rain outside sounding seamless, as if at any given second there’s a drop of water hitting something to allow for one long consistent note, and in a jazz-like fashion percussioned by random thunder and strobed by the lightning’s bright light through my blinds. I’d describe this as being very close to the epitome of the perfect setting for said activities. Obviously second fiddle to beautiful naked women plucking away at a harp made of my beard hairs, while feeding me grapes filled with Jack Daniels and massaging my body with Aloe Vera. That’s perfect… Anyhow, its’ times like this when I like to allow my phone to die, defensing all distraction, and precede in pounding on a keyboard.

I’m reminded while glancing over at the rack containing my DVD collection that I need to push in the one DVD that’s protruding out, Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, a film amongst my favorites. Evidently, also a film that I recently watched and obviously neglected to thoroughly secure when putting back. But what’s saddening is the ratio of black film to other films in my collection. But what’s even more saddening is this being a precise metaphor for our current film atmosphere in general. Massive amounts of movie made and put out and little of them being by or about us. It’s hard to pin point the culprit. Is it the production studios? They obviously under value black film and filmmakers, almost never allowing either a big budget. Is it the movie goers not supporting the good black films available? Is it society? Does black film no longer appeal to anyone? I’ll assume it’s a bit of all of the above. What’s clear is that there is a major issue with representing blackness in Hollywood. It would seem as though Hollywood finally believes that this is a task that can be negotiated by anyone. The value of the black experience no longer exists. 

I recently watched Think like a Man. A film written by two white men, marketed as being a film by and about blackness, successfully. It angers me to no end that anything Spike Lee has done or will do could ever possibly match the financial return of this piece of shit. OK, Kevin Hart made me laugh a few times but ultimately the film is about simple caricatures and consisted of no depth nor properly represented us. Are Steve Harvey and Tyler Perry going to be the only two black males representing the culture? If so, this is quite disheartening. Here’s a name for you, Ron Bass. The white man that wrote all your favorite black movies; Stella Got Her Groove Back, Dangerous Minds, Waiting to Exhale. Yes, I said Waiting to Exhale, the film frequently described as the great black movie that depicts the black women’s plight. Written by a white dude? Is this acceptable? I definitely respect his hustle, but what does it say about us that this, evidenced by it's success, is all we support. It reminds me of the beginning of Spike Lee’s Girl 6, in which Quentin Tarantino during the audition scene claims to be making the next great black film. How silly is that? Yet this is reality, this is what Hollywood believes can be done.  

A few months ago I wrote a blog about what I thought was going to be the new black film movement. This movement consisting of, Ava DuVernay (I Will Follow), Dee Rees (Pariah), Qasim Basir (Mooz-lum), Alrick Brown (Kinyarwanda), Steve McQueen (Shame), Salim Akil (Jumping the broom), and a few more. This movement is absolutely still possible. But it requires support. It requires education. It requires that we as black people or as a black culture can’t allow ourselves not to be force fed or accepting of everything we’re tossed. This requires, until information is more readily available, research, support, and the seeking out of such films.

I am by no means trying to sound overly righteous or revolutionary. I have no issue with white film or any other type of films for that matter. I just feel like I know what’s at stake. Popular culture is where the learning is. What people see the most of ultimately begins to be adopted as truth. Reality television is doing an amazing job depicting black women and men horribly with shows like basketball wives and love and hip hop already, imagine if those same images were all you saw in the theater too. If that’s what profitable, then that’s what we’ll see. Let’s not let that happen. Support quality independent film for the time being. Allow those to be what we crave. 

Regarding sources of such information, http://www.affrm.com/ seems to be a great place. Twitter too.



  1. Im not sure how accurate it is to say a white man wrote How Stella Got Her Groove Back, since the movie is based on a book written by a Black woman.
    On another note, I think we are having a new Black movie surge, but just not in the mainstream. We will continue to have great indie films but unfortunately, the films endorsed by supposed Black heroes, Perry and Harvey, are the only ones that Black people heavily support. The problem lies with us as a group.. too many of us WANT what Perry and Harvey are giving us.

    1. Even more disappointing in my opinion. Terry McMillian writes the book and a white male gets to adapt it. That's analogous to the Five heartbeats first single getting handed over to the Five Horsemen.

      I completely agree with your second note. I think the question becomes how do we change what people want? The same thing is happening with our music. There's just something about the the black consumer/audience that depicts such an unopened mindedness.

      Thank you for your comment.

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