Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

Another Weekend Is Upon Us...

Well, last night, my lovely city, New York, got hit with the worst snow storm we've seen in 2 years; and the snow continues to fall rather rapidly, traveling with strong gusts of wind along with it. See pic below.

Happy weekend to all!! Mine will be full of film screenings, including an ongoing Sydney Lumet retrospective at The Film Forum.

Also, this Sunday, the 24th of February, I’ll be joining the Invisible Woman as guests on AfroNerd Radio, with host dburt, talking about black cinema, past, present and future. The show airs live at 8PM EST, at Why watch the boring Oscar celebration when you could be listening to us???

AND, please to check out my "What Is A Black Film?" entry from earlier this week, and join the discussion. These are conversations that I believe we all need to be having but rarely do. So CLICK HERE to read all that's been said, and add your $.02.

Here's a picture I just took of the view outside my apartment living room window in Brooklyn. Obviously some shoveling needs to done, and hopefully I won't have do it!!

Netflix, Inc.

Did You Know #5 - The Black Oscars

A special "Did You Know" in honor of the upcoming Academy Award Oscar celebration on Sunday

Did You Know...

... From around 1982 until 2007, African-American actors, directors, producers and executives held a secret ceremony on the night before Oscar night, to celebrate black performers, calling the event, the Black Oscars. Every talent, from the likes of Samuel L. Jackson to Will Smith, participated in this event, which was considered a moment for black Hollywood to honor its own. In 2007, the "Friends of the Black Oscars," the secretive group that sponsored the event, decided that the Black Oscars had finally become obsolete, thanks in large part to the recent increases in the presence of black performers in the race for Oscar - Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Will Smith and Djimon Hounsou, notably.

Be sure to check out my Oscar Picks HERE. 180x150

Bollocks!! Someone's Gone Barmy!

I'm so sure that my Brit readers will love this... The UK version of "Hell Date" should be bloody brilliant :o)

From Black Talent News...

BET Networks Launches BET in the UK

BET Networks will launch BET, a new television channel in the United Kingdom dedicated to bringing British consumers access to BET shows, including "106 & Park," "American Gangster," "Hell Date," "The BET Honors," College Hill" and "Meet the Faith."

BET will be offered free-to-air on the digital satellite platform beginning on February 28. Available via the Sky Guide, BET will be accessible to more than 8.8 million digital satellite homes.

"We're thrilled to be able to bring high quality, Black cultural content to communities around the world and deliver on our commitment to expand the BET brand internationally," said Debra L. Lee, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, BET Networks. "For more than 27 years, BET Networks has been the leader in providing premium entertainment to African American audiences, and we're so excited to establish BET as the premier destination for UK audiences to enjoy content that reflects the many viewpoints of the Black experience."

Read the rest HERE...

Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.

Goodbye Detective Green; Hello Anthony Anderson?

It's been a long time since I watched an episode of the original Law & Order series, or any of its offspring. I used to be such a fan of the show throughout the '90s, and even into the early 21st century. It's simple formula and style won me over, keeping me involved for all those years. But I eventually got my fill of the program and moved on. However I'm sure there'll be a few watery-eyed fans after the below piece of news goes wide.

From The Hollywood Reporter...

No more 'Order' for Martin

"Law & Order" veteran Jesse L. Martin is expected to leave the long-running NBC drama after nine years. Anthony Anderson is in final negotiations to come on board and fill the void left by Martin's departure. Anderson will play a new detective partnered with Jeremy Sisto's Cyrus Lupo. Martin will film one more episode of the Wolf Films/Universal Media Studios series, in which his character, Detective Ed Green, will be written off, sources said. The actor had signed on to do the first 13 episodes this season with an option for more. Martin... next is set to portray Marvin Gaye in the biopic "Sexual Healing," which is expected to begin production in late April or early May. "Law & Order" continues Anderson's streak of dramatic roles that includes FX's "The Shield," the Oscar-winning "The Departed" and, most recently, on Fox's gritty cop drama "K-Ville," for which he landed an Image Award nomination.

Yup, I too raised my eyebrows when I read that Anthony Anderson will be his replacement. But I realized that I actually haven't seen Anderson in much, except for bit parts here and there, so, I'm not really qualified to pre-assess just how successful (or unsuccessful) he might be in the role. The program is very much a revolving door of actors and actresses, but if he works out, Anderson could be guaranteed paid employment for a few years, in a show that's actually usually quite good.

A Mutated Black Eyed Pea!

As a super-hero comic book fan, I mostly dug the first 2 X-Men flicks, the second especially, even though poor Halle Berry was given very little to do in each. The third one in the series really stunk! However, my opinions certainly aren't enough to persuade or dissuade 20th Century Fox from continuing on with the series - this time in what has come to be anointed a prequel, detailing the origins of the always cantankerous Wolverine, of course played by Aussie star, Hugh Jackman, who has assumed the role since the first film in the series, almost 8 years ago (wow, it's been that long? Time certainly is flying on by).

In what I think is an interesting, curious casting choice, Black Eyed Peas front-man, Monsieur, (aka William Adams) is confirmed to join Hugh Jackman, and a short list of mostly impressive character actors, as yet another delightfully genetically altered organism (read mutant) who goes by the name of Wraith, described as a mutant with the power to turn himself translucent. This will be's big screen debut, by the way. It'll be interesting to see whether the producers of the film alter his appearance for the role... will he keep his braided hair style? Will they make him shave? Will his mutant outfit be just as flamboyant? Will Wraith be as stylish with the multi-colored hats? Might there be a musical number thrown in just so he can perform? Questions... questions... questions...

The film will also star Liev Schreiber and will be directed by Gavin Hood, the South African filmmaker responsible for Tsotsi (didn't see it; no interest), as well as one of Variety Magazine's "Ten Directors to Watch." Gavin Hood is white, by the way.

And incase you were wondering, as I'm so sure you were, the word "wraith" is defined, according to Webster, as a ghost or specter; a barely visible gaseous or vaporous form.

All together now... Oooooooohhh... :o)

Anyway, you can read the entire article on EURweb.

Apple iTunes

Chiwetel Ejiofor Kicks Ass In "Redbelt"

Possibly Chiwetel Ejiofor's "break-out" role? I use the term "break-out" loosely, since his face and name are (or should be) familiar to more than the average film enthusiast. He's certainly been around, and even starred in a few successful indie flicks (Dirty Pretty Things and Kinky Boots immediately come to mind); although one can't really zero in on that one specific role of his that really made audiences sit up and take notice.

Well, here, Ejiofor is assuming starring role duties in possibly the most important film of his career, directed by author, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, and film director, David Mamet, one of the more revered talents working within the studio system today. You may be familiar with some of his award winning efforts: Wag the Dog, State and Main, Glengarry Glen Ross, and of course, The Untouchables.

The film is called Redbelt and is said to be set in the west-side of Los Angeles fight world, inhabited by bouncers, cage-fighters, cops and special forces types. Redbelt, is the story of Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a Jiu-Jitsu teacher who has avoided the prize fighting circuit, choosing instead to pursue an honorable life by operating a self-defense studio with a samurai’s code. Terry and his wife Sondra (Alicia Braga), struggle to keep the business running to make ends meet. An accident on a dark, rainy night at the Academy between an off duty officer (Max Martini) and a distraught lawyer (Emily Mortimer) puts in motion a series of events that will change Terry’s life dramatically introducing him to a world of promoters (Ricky Jay, Joe Mantegna) and movie star Chet Frank (Tim Allen). Faced with this, in order to pay off his debts and regain his honor, Terry must step into the ring for the first time in his life.

Interesting story and cast of characters. I'm guessing Ejiofor will get to throw a few kicks and punches, which could be fun! The film is labeled as action/drama, and is scheduled for an April 25th release. Expect Mamet's usual clever, terse, stylized dialogue, and some commentary on masculinity.

Here's the trailer (audio and video are a little out of synch):

Movielink, LLC

What Is A "Black Film?"

"Black film." "Black cinema." We've attached both labels to several different works of cinema since the dawn of the medium. But on closer inspection of many of those titles, one will discover that several of them are not deserving of the marker. So, what is a "black film?" Are there any specific characteristics that a film must adhere to for it to be considered "black cinema?" Is this something that can be readily defined?

Here are 3 characteristics that I believe every "black film" should contain:

1. The core team behind the production is dominated by people of African decent. By “core team” I mean, the writer, the director and the producer must be of African decent; or, at the very least, the writer and the director must be of African decent.

2. The core team in front of the camera is also dominated by people of African decent. And once again, by “core team” in this case, I’m referring to the actors and/or actresses in the film. Essentially, the film must primarily tell a story (or stories) of a person (or people) of African descent.

3. This is a tough one, for obvious reasons. The film must be financed either fully or partly by a person of African decent. This poses an obvious problem, notably that it eliminates the vast majority of Hollywood movies, because Hollywood movies are funded almost entirely by studio money - white-owned and operated studio money - with very few exceptions, like when Spike Lee funded Get on the Bus entirely with the financial assistance of capable black people, as well as Malcolm X, which was partly funded by a few of the black elite.

Those are my 3 criteria for any film to be labeled a "black film." Or, it should at least meet 2 of the 3. Actually, in thinking about it a little more, the first two criteria are the most crucial. The last one isn’t as crucial, although one could make a strong case for the influence that the financier might have on the production of the film; meaning that, for example, a script might be altered for one reason or another because the financial backer of the film might oppose a specific plotline or theme, and might push for the removal of what he/she/they oppose, whether aggressively or passively, putting the filmmaker into a situation where they are forced to choose between maintaining the integrity of the original story they wanted to tell, versus just getting the film made, by any means necessary, regardless of how much sacrificing must be done to do so. Obviously, this hypothetical setup could involve either a white financial backer or a black financial backer; we shouldn’t take certain things for granted simply because the person sitting across from us at the contract table is the same skin color as we are!

But, I’ll say, for now, every film must meet at a minimum, the first 2 criteria; and if they meet the 3rd one, then that's even better.

What says you? How do you identify a "black film?"

While you're thinking about it, be sure to check out Mark A Reid's book above, Redefining Black Film. It's definitely a worthwhile read!

Who Will Play Obama on SNL? Not "Chubby" Kenan Thompson

Poor Kenan Thompson... as the ONLY black member of the current Saturday Night Live cast, he would have been the obvious choice to play Barack Obama in any sketches involving the presidential candidate - a job that could have possibly become quite lucrative for him, if Obama does become the next president of the United States. We're talking at least 4 years of guaranteed employment! However, Mr Thompson clearly isn't being considered for the task, as the producers of SNL are on the hunt for a black comic to join the SNL cast and assume the job of portraying Obama. Apparently, according to the below article, Kenan Thompson is thought to be a little too plump! Let's just hope that the SNL producers don't get too "creative" and instead have a white actor in black face play Obama.


Who Will Play Obama on SNL?

On a recent episode of 30 Rock, an NBC sitcom about the making of a Saturday Night Live–like comedy show, a dilemma arises when the cast’s only black actor goes missing.

“Can I play Barack Obama?” asked an opportunistic white cast member.

The answer, of course, was no.

It just so happens that the real Saturday Night Live is faced with that very conundrum every week.

Only one current cast member, Kenan Thompson, is black, which would seem to be a desirable trait in portraying Mr. Obama.

But Mr. Thompson—who starred in a movie called Fat Albert—possesses a body type that makes him better suited to execute impressions of Al Sharpton than the lanky Illinois Senator. The result: an Obama-free show.

A spokesman for Lorne Michaels, the show’s longtime producer, said that there was no word yet on who the show would cast as Mr. Obama, or when an Obama character would make its debut.

“We’ll know when we know,” the spokesman, Marc Liepis, said in an e-mail. “Truthfully, there’s no timetable on these things.”

Read More Here...

Madea Gets The 2-D Treatment

Mo' money! Mo' money! Mo' money for Tyler Perry! I think this might actually be the first cartoon starring a man in drag and a fat suit.

From Variety Magazine...

"Madea" set for animated adaptation

Tyler Perry's "Madea" is getting animated.

Perry's production company has partnered with Exodus Film Group to produce an animated series based on his signature character, an opinionated, larger-than-life African-American woman.

Much like Perry's hit TBS laffer "House of Payne," the untitled "Madea" toon will be funded and produced before the show is shopped to potential networks. "Madea" could also wind up being distributed directly to video.

"After receiving thousands of letters from parents telling me how much their kids love Madea and realizing that a lot of the plays were not kid friendly," said Perry, "I wanted to do something more appropriate, and this seems to be it. A 'Madea' animation looks like the best way."Madea

Exodus will finance the project.

"Exodus recognized that there was a void in the marketplace for animated properties geared toward the African-American family," said Jerome Williams, Exodus VP of business development.

Perry will create, write and exec produce the animated project. Exodus CEO John Eraklis, prexy Max Howard and Williams will also serve as exec producers.

Things That Made Me Go Hmm - #3

In thinking about how we judge black cinema today, I recall a quote by Frantz Fanon, the preeminent black psychoanalyst, activist, thinker and philosopher, who wrote Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth. In Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon states, "There is a fact: White men consider themselves superior to black men. There is another fact: Black men want to prove to white men, at all costs, the richness of their thought, the equal value of their intellect… For the black man there is only one destiny... And it is white... The analysis I am undertaking is psychological… It is apparent to me that the effect disalienation of the black man entails an immediate recognition of social and economic realities. If there is an inferiority complex it is the outcome of a double process: Primarily, economic; subsequently, the internalization of this inferiority."

So, essentially, he’s attempting to deconstruct what appear to be innate feelings of dependency and inadequacy by Blacks in a world dominated by whites, and how black people have effectively lost their native cultural originalities and are essentially forced to embrace an Eurocentric culture that’s being imposed on them; and as a result, this inferiority complex, whether consciously or unconsciously, manifests itself in many ways, throughout our lives.

Thus, there’s a much larger issue at work here - one that maybe isn’t being directly dealt with. And that issue is multi-leveled – first, it’s whether we as black people are judging each other, or in this specific case, for the sake of this blog, whether we are judging our artistic expressions, specifically film, based on some Eurocentric model, as opposed to an Afrocentric model. And secondly, I'm led to wonder where European influence ends and blackness begins… or, are we forced to reconsider that age-old question, what is blackness? How can one define blackness? Can it be defined, or has black culture (or maybe more specifically African culture) been completely co-opted and essentially absorbed so much that it doesn’t even exist anymore, and that black culture is in essence American culture? How does one really begin to answer those questions? I don’t know. We can spend hours wondering what Africa could have been like today if the Portuguese never landed on Africa’s western shores in the 15th century, beginning the exporting of slaves to Europe and America, through the 19th century. What would Africa be today? Where would black people be today? Our culture(s), arts, music, language, philosophies, attire, cuisine, and of course, in this specific case, cinema? Impossible to say I think, but certainly something to always keep in mind, especially as we consume cinema bred from a system that's been operated exclusively by white men and women who have no genuine interest in our evolution.

But maybe all of that is irrelevant, and we should simply accept the cards that we’ve been dealt in life, and try to make the most of what we do have… whatever those things are. But, yes, I wonder whether those of us who are dismissing films like those by Tyler Perry for example, should be doing so with a little more awareness of the various hierarchical currents prevalent in our societies; essentially, those of us who have been exposed to films made by the majority… those with the real power in this world… and those, as Frantz Fanon said, whom we are consciously or unconsciously trying to emulate. Here we are dismissing Tyler Perry’s films, for example, essentially comparing them to these white “masters,” or some specific Eurocentric style, or formula that we’ve been conditioned to accept, and not realizing the potential danger in doing that. Who’s to say that this model - this Eurocentric standard that we all seem to have anointed as THE model to emulate, is indeed THE preeminent standard that ALL films (all art) should be judged by.

Then again, what is this Eurocentric model? How does it differ from an Afrocentric standard? Are they the same thing, or are their individual elements interchangeable?

Again, I don’t know… I don’t have all the answers.

But the point of all this I suppose, is that this rabbit hole (this notion of black cinema in crisis today) goes a lot deeper than we may realize, and it’s a much more complex issue; not one that can be resolved with a singular statement, or act. There are several factors to consider here, some that I didn’t even get into; but there’s much more to this than we might be able to actually do anything about.

One thing I do know, is that we simply just can’t sit back on our hands and wait for the others to identify our problems, and resolve them… we have to be much more aggressive, assertive and proactive, as I’ve said many times before.

It is worth noting that in my research, I learned that the word "Afrocentric" isn't listed in some dictionaries, but "Eurocentric" always is. In my Oxford Dictionary, copyrighted 2006, so it's not an older version, Afrocentric isn't listed, but Eurocentric is. Even as I typed this in Microsoft Word, the program has one of those squiggly red lines underneath "Afrocentric" indicating that it doesn't recognize the word. However, it doesn't have the same squiggly red line underneath "Eurocentric." That's actually quite telling, don't you think?

More later...

It's A Greenlight For "Noah's Arc!"

I've never watched Noah's Arc, and don't know much about the show, but I've heard and read about it, usually quite positively. I can't think of any other program on American network or cable television that tells stories primarily about the lives of gay black men. That alone should make it a groundbreaking series!

I read that the show has been on hiatus for some time now (possibly cancelled), but the good news for fans of Noah's Arc is that a feature-length film has been green-lit and is currently in development. The film is expected to be out by late 2008 or early 2009.

Check out for more info including a clip featuring the star of the show, Darryl Stephens and Patrik-Ian Polk, the creator of Noah's Arc, announcing the above story. Afterwards, be sure to read her critical article entitled, Hollywood’s Black Gay Conundrum. It's a solid, revelatory piece! We rarely give much "airtime" to those black films that tell the stories of that "other" group of marginalized people. Of course I’m referring to the gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual BLACK population - a group that is even more invisible in cinema, both mainstream and independent. We are all connected, and are all in this struggle together. For those of us talking about affecting overall change, and helping empower marginalized groups of people around the world, we simply cannot ignore any one specific group of people who fall under that umbrella as well. If we claim to be against oppression and marginalization of any kind, then it should be an all-inclusive fight, and not just selectively so.