Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

The Strike Is Over!?! Maybe?!?

Union leaders for striking Hollywood writers said they have reached a tentative contract deal with studios and urged members on Saturday to support it, calling for an end to a three-month walkout that has crippled TV production and overshadowed Oscar season.

The breakthrough was announced via e-mail to the 10,500 members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) who launched the union's first strike in almost 20 years on November 5 in a dispute centering on compensation for work distributed over the Internet.

Key points in the deal include:

-- An increase in minimum rates of 3.5% each year. Exceptions include network primetime rates and daytime serial script fees, which will increase 3% each period. Program fees and upset price increase once by 3% in the second year; and clip fees increase once by 5% in the third year.

-- Made-for pay TV residuals: An annual residual payments' increase from $3,000 to $3,500 for a half-hour program and from $5,000 to $6,000 for an hour-long program.

-- For download sales (electronic sell-through) where the viewer pays for permanent use of a program, residuals are to be paid at 0.36% of distributor's gross receipts for the first 100,000 downloads of a television program and the first 50,000 downloads of a feature. After that, residuals are paid at 0.7% of distributor's gross receipts for television programs and 0.65% for feature films.

Read the entire article HERE (Hollywood Reporter).

Marley By Scorcese

I don't recall ever seeing a true documentary about the life of legendary reggae star Bob Marley. I checked IMDB and found a few titles, but mostly concert recordings and musical tributes. There are a couple of documentaries listed, but I'm not familiar with any of them, although that doesn't mean that they aren't worthy of mention. It's also surprising that there hasn't been a feature-length narrative film about Marley either. I wonder who would be on the short list of actors in consideration to play Marley on film.

Anywho... I found the following piece of news... I suppose this could be considered the first "major" documentary about Marley's life ever made.

From Variety Magazine...

Martin Scorsese, Steve Bing's Shangri-La Entertainment and international sales agent Fortissimo Films will reteam for the helmer's next musically themed effort -- a yet-to-be-titled documentary about legendary reggae star Bob Marley.

Trio were behind the helmer's Rolling Stones docu "Shine a Light," which opened the Berlin Film Festival on Thursday. Tuff Gong Pictures and Shangri-La are producing the pic, which has been authorized by Marley's family. Docu is set for release on Feb. 6, 2010, on what would have been Marley's 65th birthday.

"I am thrilled that the Marley family will finally have the opportunity to document our father's legacy and are truly honored to have Mr. Scorsese guide the journey," son Ziggy Marley said.

Friday Funnies - Still Doing The Shuffle?

I've seen Hollywood Shuffle countless times - probably Robert Townsend's best work ever! He hasn't made anything quite as appealing since! Found the following 2 clips on YouTube...  I love the caustic humor prevalent throughout the film, and in the below 2 clips. Funny, yet unfortunate. Has much changed since then (1988) - especially with regards to the first clip?

Happy weekend everyone!!!

Jamie Foxx Is "The Soloist'

I couldn't help but laugh at the two photos to the left and below of Jamie Foxx, even though he is in costume for his role as Nathanial Ayers, the real-life musical prodigy, who developed schizophrenia in his second year at Juilliard, and later ends up homeless on the streets of Los Angeles, regularly playing his cello and violin. The film is called The Soloist, by the way, and it co-stars Robert Downey Jr. as the Los Angeles Times columnist, who wrote about Ayers and eventually strikes up a friendship with him.

Might this be Jamie's second Oscar-winning performance? According to Variety Magazine, Jamie has actually been learning to play stringed instruments from a cellist with the L.A. Philharmonic for the film. The film is set to be released later this year.

You can see more of the pictures HERE, thanks to the good folks at JFX Online.

Sundance Dispatch #6 - "A Good Day To Be Black And Sexy" Get's Distribution!

I just learned that Sundance pick, A Good Day To Be Black And Sexy, filmmaker Dennis Dortch's first feature-length film, has been picked up for theatrical distribution by Magnolia Pictures (a subsidiary of billionaire Mark Cuban's 2929 Entertainment). Just 7 years old, Magnolia specializes in both foreign and independent films, with projects from the likes of Steven Soderbergh, Brian De Palma, John Malkovich, and Hal Hartley on their distribution resume - so I'd say Mr Dortch is in very good company, and I certainly hope that Magnolia does the film and filmmaker well! I haven't seen the film, but after all I've read and heard about it, I can't help but be excited at its potential. It's certainly a good day to be Dennis Dortch! No specifics of the deal have been released to my knowledge, but the film is scheduled to be released this year - likely in limited circulation, at least initially.

Next week Monday, Mr Dortch has agreed to appear on my podcast to talk about his film as well as his Sundance experiences! Looking forward to it!

I found the following review of the film from The Hollywood Reporter. It's all good!

A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy
Bottom Line: A smart comedy about bedroom mind games.

PARK CITY -- Relationship problems kill bedroom performance in this smart romance-romp. A raunchy between-the-sheets peak at modern-day black sexuality, "A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy" should woo urban audiences to the theater, and score on BET and as a DVD rental.

A series of frothy vignettes, "Black & Sexy" centers on relationship dynamics, and, in these ribald cases, relationship dysfunctions. In filmmaker Dennis Dortch's perceptive comedy, miscommunication messes up sex. Usually, there's a third partner in bed in these sexual/romantic encounters: a hidden agenda.

Blending movie and musical styles to enhance the individual segments, Dortch has created an entertaining glimpse into black sexuality and romance. Audiences will identify with his realistic and identifiable characters, in large part thanks to the talented and exuberant cast.

Among the well-assembled cast, Mylika Davis stands out as a take-charge innocent who suffers through her teenage dawg days. Chonte Harris is hilarious as a put-upon "other woman" who skewers her married lover with brilliant, irrational logic. As the perplexed player, Marcuis Harris is sympathetic and lamentable.

All performances are on-target and ripe, highlighted by smart turns from Kathryn Taylor as a selfish lover, Emily Liu as an Asian-American with a forbidden yen for a black basketball star, and Brandon Valley Jones as a flustered, neglected lover.

Tech credits are a soothing and sizzling blend, clarifying the psycho-sexual dramas.

Did You Know #4 - Spike's Got A Kid Brother, And He Makes Films Too!

Did you know...

... That Spike Lee's younger brother, Cinque Lee, is also a filmmaker, and has written and directed 4 feature-length films since 1995, all independently financed, produced and distributed, with no real contributions from older brother Spike?

The first was a drama called Nowhere Fast, made for just $29,000 in 1995, and is described as "a film powerfully weaved together through stories of its desperate characters and depicting the dangerous hours they face during one fateful day. Lee cast nineteen actors as a motley assortment of disenfranchised, dispossessed and downright weird characters, including junkies, prostitutes, thieves, dealers, dopers, mental patients, street people, and a failed magician, all of whom collide wildly on the hot city streets on a Friday afternoon during a scorching heat-wave in Brooklyn." Do The Right Thing Part 2 possibly?

His second feature was a sci-fi film called Windows On Your Present, made for $50,000, and co-starred his sister, Joie Lee (who has also been featured in a few of Spike's earlier films). In the film, two characters, Europe and Leber, are lost souls in a world where love and color have never existed. They stumble upon a pill that transports them to a world of color and love for a short time. After the effects of the pill ware off, they are returned to their depressing world of no color. They decide to search for the source of the pills and consume enough of them to never return. This was made in 2000. Sounds intriguing... we rarely get to see black people in sci-fi flicks, especially the more seemingly cerebral kind.

The 3rd was another drama called Sink Like A Stone, made for a paltry $12,000, completed in 2001. A teenage girl wakes up in a trunk of a car and has no memory of how she got there or who she is. She stumbles around New York City in a daze, meeting all types of people willing to help her or do her harm. She eventually meets the person who left her for dead. This person holds the key to her identity and past but she has to die before she can regain all that she has lost. Also sounds quite intriguing.

And his last outing was a film called UR4 GIVEN, made in 2004, for just $12,000. In the film, a drama, Monica, a 27-year-old woman and a victim of child abuse, is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, splintered personality, flashbacks, repressed memories, and migraines. To help combat her demons she interviews victims of child abuse on camera. Monica eventually realizes that she has to confront those demons. She returns to her small hometown to revisit the place where her rapes took place, and while there, she runs into the man who raped her as a child, but he has no idea who she is. Instead of telling him who she is, she hatches a plan to exact revenge, one that could cost her life. Hmmmm... curious.

Of course, in each of these films, given their individual budgets, don't expect to find any recognizable actors - at least on the star scale anyway. I'd love to get my hands on all of these films out of sheer curiosity. They might actually be worthwhile and in need of support. Of the 4 films, I only found one of them available for sale anywhere - Nowhere Fast. You can find it on Amazon for less than $10. CLICK HERE. I've already placed my order. I'll keep looking for the others. They have to be out there somewhere.

It's rather unfortunate that Spike doesn't talk more about his brother's independent efforts, or help him push his films. Or maybe he does, and I'm just not aware. I'm not saying that he should actively lobby for his brother, but maybe give him a "shout out" every now and then... or even some "props,"... something... anything to let us know that his brother exists and is making art. Unless Spike just doesn't think his brother's films are any good, which is possible, I suppose.

Another Will Smith Post! I know... I know... It's Not A Bad One Though!

Will Smith's definitely got himself a busy schedule. He has been the focus of several posts on this blog over the last couple of weeks. He's got Hancock with Charlize Theron coming up later this year; then there's Steven Spielberg's film about the Chicago Seven in which he plays Black Panther leader, Bobby Seales, due out later this year, or early next year; and now he's starring in a film called Seven Pounds, which is said to begin shooting this month, so we can expect a late 2008, early 2009 release. Looks like we'll be seeing a lot of Mr Smith over the next 12 to 24 months. Must be nice to be working consistently.

The Hollywood Report announced that Mr Smith handpicked Michael Ealy (Sleeper Cell) to play his younger brother in the upcoming film, Seven Pounds. The film re-unites The Pursuit of Happyness director Gabriele Muccino with his star Will Smith in another drama. The story is about "a suicidal IRS agent (Smith) who sets out to make amends by assuming the identity of his younger brother. His plans get complicated when he inadvertently falls in love" with a character played by Rosario Dawson, marking another reunion for Will Smith, since Dawson co-starred with him in Men in Black. Woody Harrelson is also starring.

Ealy has just finished work on Spike Lee's WWII drama, Miracle at St. Anna's, about a group of African-American soldiers who are trapped in Tuscany during a Nazi massacre. I'm mos def looking forward to seeing that this year.

Flavor Flav Gets Another TV Show! Greeaaaat...

MyNetworkTV has ordered 13 episodes of Under One Roof, a new half-hour comedy starring Flavor Flav. The series is scheduled to debut in the Spring of 2008.

"Under One Roof will be a hilarious addition to the MyNetworkTV lineup," said MyNetworkTV president Greg Meidel.

"I am real excited about my new sitcom Under one Roof. I want to thank MyNetworkTV for believing in your boy because we are about to blow this out of the water. I am about to take MyNetworkTV and make it MY network," said Flav.

In the series, Flav plays Calvester Hill, an ex-convict that moves in with his wealthy, conservative brother, Walter (Kelly Perine). Calvester subsequently turns the Hill family's life upside down, parading his old prison cronies through the house; teaching his nephew Walter Jr. to be a gangsta rapper; and butting heads with Walter's snooty wife, Ashley.

Executive Producers, Claude Brooks and Darryl J. Quarles added, "It can't get much better than working on a comedy with a personality like Flavor Flav. This type of program is a perfect fit for his unique brand of humor and we are proud to be bringing it to MyNetworkTV."

YAY! I'm so thrilled and definitely looking forward to this one!

NOT! But I'm sure the ratings will be just as strong as they were for his Flavor Of Love series on VH1.

Hanging With Robert DeNiro And 50 Cent - "Righteous" Dude!

It's not every day that you see Robert De Niro on the cover of Vibe with 50 Cent. They posed for the magazine's March issue to promote their new crime drama, Righteous Kill, about a pair of veteran New York City police detectives on the trail of a vigilante serial killer. The film also stars Al Pacino and Brian Dennehy - a solid cast surrounding Mr Cent, who, by the way, plays a drug dealer in the film. Quite a stretch for 50 isn't it? I expect him to play his usual "I'm a bad-ass who got shot 9 times and survived" self, and to expose his torso at least once.

The movie is expected to be released this fall.

I'm not a Vibe reader, but I'll take a look at this issue, since it's being labeled their "Hollywood Issue." I didn't know that Vibe magazine published a "Hollywood Issue." Learn something new everyday...

Sundance Dispatch #5 - Another One Gets Distribution

Ballast, the southern-set drama by Lance Hammer that won two awards at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, has been picked up by IFC Films in a deal said to be valued in the six-figure range. The company is expected to release the movie on First Take, its day-and-date label that releases movies theatrically, on the IFC network and on a video-on-demand platform.

"Ballast" focuses on a poor Mississippi Delta family and the tragedy that befalls them. The film, which stars a number of nonprofessional actors, won a director award for Hammer and a cinematography award for Lol Crowley. The film also will screen at this month's Berlin International Film Festival, a rarity for a film that premiered in Park City.

I should note that while the film has a predominantly black cast, the writer/director (Lance Hammer) is white. Reading the review below, along with all else that I've heard/read about the film, I'm getting a George Washington kind of vibe from it - white filmmaker, black cast, southern-set drama, non-professional actors, lots of improvisation giving it a certain realism, etc, etc, etc...

However, I'll certainly be watching for this one whenever it's released!

So, to my knowledge, that's 2 "black films" (or films that tell stories about black people) that played at the festival to receive distribution deals. The other being The Blacklist, which I mentioned several days ago, picked up by HBO.

Karina over at wrote an extensive review of the film. Here's a snippet:

Ballast is the kind of movie that I’m predisposed to enjoy - a slow, score-free and sometimes actually silent character study, offering the chance to spend some time watching real-ish people floating in and out of a crisis point, demanding that we engage by refusing to pander for that engagement––and yet its wonders still crept up on me. But falling for a movie is like falling for anything, I guess; you don’t really know it’s happening until the undeniable gut punch. For me, that moment came about two thirds of the way through Ballast, with a shot of a young boy lying on the floor, listening to adults speak off camera while absentmindedly stroking the belly of a giant dog. Like every shot in Lance Hammer’s feature directorial debut, it’s dead simple but beautifully composed, and it gets you by playing hard to get.

The story begins with the suicide attempts of twin brothers Lawrence and Darius. Darius’ is successful, Lawrence’s is not, and after surgery and therapy, he returns to the dreary plot of land he shared with his brother and delivers a letter that passes for a will to Marlee, the estranged mother of Darius’ child.

Read the rest HERE.

Film Recommendation #2 - Black Girl

Black Girl (AKA, La Noire De)- the 1966 seminal premiere opus by the late, great Senegalese filmmaker, Ousmane Sembene, sometimes called the father of African cinema. If you haven't heard of him, look him up!! He's probably best known for his last film, 2004's Moolaadé. Black Girl is available for sale on DVD at! Go GET IT!

"A Senegalese woman, eager to find a better life abroad, takes a job as a governess for a French family, but finds her duties reduced to those of a maid after the family moves from Dakar to the south of France. In her new country, the woman is constantly made aware of her race and mistreated by her employers. Her hope for better times turns to disillusionment and she falls into isolation and despair."

Episode 34 - The Obenson Report on Black Film / Cinema

Episode 34 - The Obenson Report on Black Film / Cinema
Sponsored in part by ActNow Foundation

Recorded Monday, February 4, 2008, 9PM
TRT 60 Minutes


- Black Bloggers Roundtable - Bloggers from, The Invisible Cinema Blogspot, and Culture Critical joined me in conversation touching on various topics within the realm of black cinema.

Got something to say? Call the show's voicemail hotline at 1-800-765-7249 and leave a message there; and if it's worthwhile, I'll play your message on the show. OR, email me you comments at

Manufacturing Pimps: Rewarding the Violent Repression of Black Women from Hip Hop to Hollywood

I lifted the following from a critical essay called Manufacturing pimps: Rewarding the violent repression of black women from hip hop to Hollywood by Ewuare Osayande, a political activist and author of several books including Blood Luxury and the forthcoming Misogyny and the Emcee. He is co-founder of POWER (People Organized Working to Eradicate Racism) and is creator of ONUS: Redefining Black Manhood (

A lengthy but worthwhile and thorough critique of the film, Hustle & Flow. as well as the black Hollywood elite. I never did see Hustle & Flow. Everything I heard and read about it, from its Sundance glory until its theatrical release, turned me away from it altogether. I included only those parts of the essay I deemed strictly relevant for this blog. The essay is almost 2 years old, but still temporally apropos.

Here ya go...

"... This interracial gang rape mentality is best exemplified in the making of the blockbuster hit Hustle and Flow. Contrary to many people’s belief that the movie was a “Black film” made in the tradition of other Black pimp flicks in the Seventies, Hustle and Flow was written and directed by a white southerner by the name of Craig Brewer. Indeed Hustle and Flow harkens back to an even older tradition of white men creating outright racist representations called minstrel shows like Amos and Andy. Hustle and Flow is a neo-minstrel movie in that it is a contemporary cinematic projection of the white racist mind of Black life...

Much of “Hustle and Flow” is based on experiences from Craig Brewer’s own life. When he and his wife Jodi moved to Memphis in the mid-1990s, they didn't have any money. "My wife and I were really struggling," said Brewer. Jodi, a costume designer, started making outfits for strippers for extra cash, then worked as a waitress at a strip club and later began stripping there. (One of the characters in "Hustle & Flow" is a stripper and several scenes take place in a local strip club.)...

The racism should be obvious. Rather than defy the white supremacist lie and write a script that details how he prostituted his wife to make ends, he realized that he would make millions more if he kept with the “master narrative” that images Black men as pimps and Black women as whores. Images that white America can readily embrace.

... In Hustle and Flow Brewer... is acting out his taboo sexist fantasies by masking white male perversion in Black skin. The agenda, purpose and motivation of the characters have nothing to do with Black life, but everything to do with white male psychosis.

If he had written a film about his own experience, undoubtedly he would have had to face his personal sexism and his personal complicity in the system of patriarchy and male domination as a white man. In so doing, he would also have had to come to terms on some level with his own demons and the demons of his white brethren who have raped, exploited and abused women of every hue since European colonization....

Brewer would be assisted in this endeavor by none other than John Singleton of Boys N the Hood fame. Singleton, in his role as the film’s executive producer, served as the necessary Black stamp-of-approval that dissuaded the fears of nervous Hollywood execs concerned about a possible Black backlash...

How do we justify “pro-Black” Singleton’s involvement? We can’t! Of course, Singleton would probably state that this is not your typical pimp flick. I guess he would call it “Pimp-Lite.” Even though the main character DJay is portrayed as a reluctant Black pimp, he is still no less an exploiter. He still wields abusive power over the women in his house... The racist imaginary continues in the depiction of the women as well. Only the white prostitute is given a semblance of agency. She is the only one who seeks an escape from prostitution. She is the only one of the three who actually asserts herself beyond mere whoredom by the film’s end. In the Black women we see two favorite stereotypes deployed. One is of the hardened, foul-mouthed Black woman who despises Black men. The other is the whiney, weak and helpless Black woman. Both are too beat-down and oppressed to fight against their oppression, so they are forced by their condition to submit to it and engage in self-destructive behavior. There is nothing new about this movie or its depiction of Black people. Brewer’s interpretation of Black life is no different fundamentally from D. W. Griffith’s interpretation in Birth of a Nation. If he were alive, he would give the film four stars. The film only fosters and reinforces age-old codes and icons of white supremacy.

I wonder if Singleton would be down with a film that put a happy face on slavery. In this film, the main character is a white slave master who is conflicted with his role as slave owner and wants to get out the “game.” So he decides he’ll make a living by writing about whipping “them niggers,” rather than actually beating his slaves. He then commences to record the lyrics over the sampled beat of “Whistlin’ Dixie.” He coerces one of his enslaved field hands named Sambo to sing the hook “It’s Hard out Here for a Cracker” as we witness a whip hanging on the wall just behind Sambo as he stutters through his lines.

Singleton’s involvement in the making of Hustle and Flow exposes the continuing contradiction of African American manhood. Our notions of Black nationalism and Black struggle remain narrow and limiting when we act out our patriarchal prerogative and fail to accord to Black women the same sensitivity and respect for their experience that we demand from the system for ours. Singleton’s concern was not with the way the Black women are viewed. His own films are notorious for replicating stereotypical depictions of Black women. Rather, his concern was whether the Black man would be perceived as redeemable...

What the film does show is that the pimp aspiration is the same as the rapper aspiration: Power. In search of said power, DJay as pimp and The system is turning us out as a people. We are both the prostitute and the john. We pay to see ourselves exploited on the screen. We pay to listen to ourselves exploited on the CD player. We are paying with money, and we are paying with our souls. It is the best indication of just how deeply colonized we still are.

Today we are witnessing the rise of a Black bourgeoisie in Hollywood that has made its ascension upon the backs of their Black kinfolk who still exist in the hoods they have escaped from. Their notion of giving back is not producing films that honor the struggle of the Black poor, nor do their films instruct impoverished Blacks on how to fight against the system. Rather, their films exploit the Black poor; makes a mockery of their plight so they can make millions. The message of their movies is for the poor to grovel at the bottom, fighting and abusing each other, rather than against those who are responsible for their misery in the first place. More and more it will be these moneyed Blacks who will sit in the very places once reserved for white executives. And that will not be a cause for celebration, for they will not be our ambassadors but our oppressors by proxy. These are the true “hos” of the system, who have been able to benefit from prostituting themselves to the white industrial pimps they turn tricks for, while passing onto their people the abuse and suffering that should be theirs too..."

Box Office Results 2/1/08 - 2/3/08

Below are the box office results for this weekend (2/1/08 - 2/3/08) - specifically the top 20 films. Nothing too exciting to report. A rather lackluster weekend of films, IMHO. What the hell is this Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus flick that opened at #1? Juno is still going strong! And a few Oscar contenders continue to enjoy the mild boost provided by the recent nomination announcements - There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old Men, Atonement and Michael Clayton. Of note, the last 2 films on the list of 20 are the only "black films" on the list - First Sunday and How She Move, neither I've seen, nor do I ever plan on seeing!




1Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus
: Best of Both Worlds Tour
2The Eye$13,000,000$13,000,000
327 Dresses$8,400,000$57,115,000
5Meet the Spartans$7,125,000$28,332,000
7The Bucket List$6,850,000$67,671,000
10There Will Be Blood$4,761,000$21,146,000
11Over Her Dead Body$4,600,000$4,600,000
12National Treasure$3,054,000$209,883,000
13Strange Wilderness$3,050,000$3,050,000
15Alvin and the Chipmunks$2,750,000$207,589,000
16No Country for Old Men$2,184,000$55,131,000
17Mad Money$2,005,000$18,557,000
18Michael Clayton$1,770,000$44,163,000
19First Sunday$1,500,000$36,615,000
20How She Move$1,474,000$6,085,000