Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

BET... No... TVOne... No... TCM Does Charles Burnett!

If you're one of the few who have yet to see Charles Burnett's masterpiece, Killer Of Sheep, here's your golden opportunity to do so. Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will air 5 of Burnett's feature films on Monday, the 21st of January - MLK day.

In an utopian world, channels like TCM wouldn't wait until the holiday that honors the life and work of a slain civil rights leader, to show films like those by Burnett. But, I'm not complaining. At least, they're showing them - an opportunity that I would expect one of the black-owned channels (BET or TV-One) to have long seized.

Regardless, if you're one of the several million Americans with access to cable television, I urge you to turn your cable TV dial to TCM on Monday, the 21st, and immerse yourself in the kind of black cinema many of us long for.

Go to for all the specifics. The 5 films scheduled to air are: Killer of Sheep, The Horse, My Brother's Wedding, When It Rains, and Several Friends.

By the way, Killer Of Sheep is now available on DVD in a 2-disc commemorative set that includes Burnett's second most popular film, My Brother's Wedding, along with a host of other goodies. Head on over to AMAZON.COM and check it out!


Things That Made Me Go Hmm #1 - Black Speak/White Images

A new trend?

I noticed that there are two upcoming films by and about white people that employ what could be termed "black colloquialisms" - or at least phrases that originated from within black communities - as their titles.

It's no secret that Black culture is in effect American culture, as a plethora of units from within the culture have been adopted and embraced by the wider American and even global public - its music, fashion sense, and language notably. So I suppose it should be no surprise that specific phrases, usually considered slang, would become ubiquitous catch phrases, and eventually titles of mainstream Hollywood films, starring, of course white people.

The films I'm referring to here are BABY MAMA, starring Saturday Night Live alums, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, as well as MAD MONEY, starring Diane Keaton, Katie Holmes and Dana Owens (Queen Latifah).

Does thou (I) protest too much, or is something amidst here? I can imagine what could be on the horizon - STACKING CHEESE starring Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan; JUNK IN THE TRUNK starring Kim Kardashian and Matthew McConaughey; TALK TO THE HAND starring Katherine Heigl and James Marsden... and the list goes on...

I'm certainly not entirely bothered by this "trend," but obviously thought it worth bringing attention to.

What says you?



Have You Heard The One About The Super Model And The Anti-Imperialist?

And who says 53 year old fun-loving, rotund, Bush-hating, socialist rulers of South American oil producing nations can't get hot chicks? :o)

According to the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal (as well as numerous gossip sites and fishwrap), model Naomi Campbell has been in a relationship with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez for the past 2 months.

Naomi recently traveled to Caracas to interview Chavez for British GQ, and apparently the duo hit it off and have been involved since then, while carefully hiding their relationship.

Ok, ok... so normally I don't post shit like this, but I used to have a Naomi Campbell screensaver when I was in college some years back, and even reached for the Vaseline jar once or twice :o)

It's also worth noting that I've been seriously considering returning to my father's homeland, Cameroon, to start my own socialist party, overthrow the current dictator who has been in power for 25 years, and assume the position of president of the country. I wonder which super model will be charmed by my cumulative efforts after Cameroonian GQ sends over her to interview me.


Spike Lee's SHE'S GOTTA HAVE IT Finally On DVD!

So, Spike Lee's premiere opus, She's Gotta Have It, has finally been granted a long awaited DVD release.

Up until yesterday, the 15th of January 2008, any potential purchaser of the film would have had to spend their dollars on the archaic VHS version, with its washed out whites and fading blacks (as in celluloid colors not the cast). Thankfully, we now have another, better choice.

Unfortunately, it's not quite the DVD package I hoped for, as it's lacking in any extra features that I think a film classic like this surely deserves - for example, director's commentary, unused scenes, a documentary on the making of the film, and even the clich├ęd "where are they now" segment. I'd certainly like to know what happened to Tracy Camilla Johns.

I dug deep for a trailer or even a clip of the film on YouTube but my search returned nothing, which actually surprised me.

Regardless, pick up She's Gotta Have It on DVD today, at It's only $14.00.

Just click on the image below...

70 Years Later, Does the Hattie McDaniel Rule Still Apply? Has Much Changed For Black Actresses Today?

Episode 31 - The Obenson Report on Black Cinema
Sponsored in part by ActNow Foundation

Recorded January 14, 2008, 9PM to 10PM
TRT 60 Minutes


1. Does the Hattie McDaniel rule still apply? A glimpse into the lives and minds of today's Black actresses. Host Tambay A Obenson, along with the editor of The Black Actor Blogspot, in a virtual roundtable showcase, featuring actresses, Esosa Edosomwan, Nedra McClyde, Lisa Strum, and Leslie Jones, as they discussed various topics and answered questions in consideration of their lives as working African American actresses in the 21st century. Has anything changed almost 70 years since Hattie McDaniel's Oscar-winning "Mammy" role.

Got something to say or question to ask? Call the show's voicemail hotline at 1-800-765-7249 and leave a message there, OR, email me you comments/question at

Tambay A Obenson

Reel Bad Arabs - We're All In This Together!


As a black filmmaker, I've always prided myself on being sensitive of my portrayals of those marginalized groups of people, notably people of color and women.

I've sometimes passed, and other times failed "the test." But the more I make myself aware of how other marginalized groups feel about their representation, or lack thereof, by the Hollywood machine - undoubtedly the preeminent film production and distribution power in the world - I realize just how deeply ingrained many of the stereotypes have become in my psyche, albeit unconsciously, and later manifest themselves in my thoughts, as well as my actions.

In watching the clip below, I realized just how desensitized I've become towards the pejorative portrayals of Arabs in Hollywood films. I have been challenged in my acceptance of many of these films as strictly pure entertainment, when in fact they have essentially taught me what to think about an entire group of people. It goes to show just how powerful cinema is, something which I've talked about several times on my podcast. What we pass off as mindless entertainment is actually not as mindless as we think, because the repeated use of these derogatory images, fed to us ad nauseam, does have some impact, often negative, especially if we are almost never exposed to anything to the contrary. It's truly a dangerous dynamic.

Even what seem like the most harmless of films, something like the Disney animated ALADDIN, reinforce these dangerous, uninformed stereotypes, maybe somewhat subtly, or packaged in a wave of lush colors, cute song and dance, and mawkishness, and are then seen by millions of people, notably, sadly mostly children.

There have been films produced by Hollywood in cooperation with the Department of Defense, showing American men and women in the Armed Forces killing Arabs at random, like the Arnold Schwarzenegger box office smash, TRUE LIES, the Jamie Foxx starrer, THE KINGDOM, as well as films like NAVY SEALS, IRON EAGLE and RULES OF ENGAGEMENT. I had no idea that a film like RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, was co-written by Senator James Webb of Virginia, who also served as Secretary of the U.S. Navy under Ronald Reagan. So with Washington solidifying its connection with Hollywood, there'll likely be a bias, probably an intentional one - in essence going out of their way to reinforce our fears of Arabs as terrorists, making it significantly easier for our government to convince us into buying a so-called "war on terror;" something we all should be well aware of.

But as I started off saying... I feel obligated to make myself aware of the portrayals of marginalized groups on screen, not only because I'm a filmmaker, but as a fellow human being - one who has been fighting this battle against Hollywood's destructive stereotypes, notably of people with my skin color. And as I make myself aware, via literature I've read, or communication with people from other marginalized groups, I'm forced to confront many of my prejudices, and reexamine my attraction to certain films I've seen in the past. For example, films like DO THE RIGHT THING, or SHE'S GOTTA HAVE IT - both hailed as treasured works within the realm of black cinema, and even in broader circles; but when dissected with a feminist slant (as was done so eloquently and extensively in a book called Redefining Black Film), they were revealed to be counter-feminist, misogynist and just plain old sexist (SHE'S GOTTA HAVE IT notably) in their presentation of black women and their sexuality - facts I was completely oblivious of upon initially seeing these films, but which have now tainted my perception of the films, and in turn the filmmaker... not to disastrous effect, but enough that I'm now significantly more critical of Spike Lee's work than I ever was.

There have been several films that I loved upon initially screening them; but with this growing awareness and sensitivity, I feel obligated to be overtly critical of those films I see that reinforce stereotypes, especially of those "invisible" people (to borrow from Ellison), or that follow trends of marginalization. It makes for very unpleasant viewing experiences, which partly explains why I haven't seen many films recently; and I often wonder if I'm being too critical. However, with what I now know, and continue to learn, I just don't see how I could not be.

The following clip is from a documentary called REEL BAD ARABS: How Hollywood Vilifies a People. You can buy the film here: