Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

Saturday Links - Idris, LL, Disney, "Sex," China, Africa, Paris...

Not much happening to report on this lovely Saturday morning in New York City... here's a few bites I dug up during my morning virtual stroll:

- "Elba leans forward, and, so close I can feel his breath tickling my cheek, says: "Let's talk about the elephant in the room. There are only so many roles for black actors in England. People get all excited" - puffing out his chest he adopts a hysterical voice - 'That's racist,' they say. It's not racist."" -
One reporter snags an intimate moment with Idris Elba - in The Rise of a Hollywood Hunk.

- And speaking of Hollywood hunks...
LL Cool J Teams with Sears for Clothing Line - We may just have to start calling him LL Couture J (nyuck, nyuck, nyuck). Watch your back Puffy...

Disney's CEO Robert Iger Says Hollywood Produces Too Many Movies - No kidding! A moment of clarity for one executive perhaps?

- "So the double standard rears its ugly head and the rules for success get changed again. Why is it so hard to accept that a film for women could be successful?" - Melissa Silverstein over at the Women & Hollywood blog laments on the lack of media respect for the Sex and the City movie despite its $20 million opening day.

- The current issue of Fast Company Magazine contains an extensive 6-part piece on China's "invasion" of Africa. It's worth a read regardless of your stance and how much you know, so check it out -
Special Report: China In Africa.

- And finally, in honor of this weekend's MTV Movie Awards... put this one under the "Ouch - Was That Really Necessary" file! The fact that she was present makes it even more difficult to watch. For the first time, I can actually say I felt a modicum of pity for Paris Hilton. From last fall's MTV movie awards... Have a look:

FYI: My New Site - Your Contributions Appreciated!

Several months ago, when I was still hosting a weekly podcast, and drunk with ideas of various things I could do to bring about change and generate excitement, defeating the malaise that seemed to be clouding progress within the realm of black cinema, one of those ideas was to create a website that listed screenings of films by and/or about people of the African Diaspora happening anywhere, anytime in the world. The intent was to build a kind of one-stop shop for anyone, in any city in the world, wanting to know where they can see the kinds of films of interest to them - Diaspora films specifically.

Over the last 3 years while producing my first feature film and running a now defunct black film distribution company, I met a lot of people complaining about the lack of awareness of Diasporic film screenings in their individual cities. There seemed to genuine interest in wanting to know how and where they could see the kinds of films that my distribution company planned on releasing into the marketplace. The general consensus was that many of these "smaller" films likely wouldn't be seen at the local theatre multi-plex, nor even the so-called arthouse venues, leaving interested audiences wondering where they could be seen - a local cafe/lounge, a church, a screening at a college/university, a make-shift space with simple chairs, a digital projector, and a white bedsheet for a screen, someone's house/apartment???

Despite the recent shift to digitial distribution, there still appeared (appears) to be a genuine desire by many to experience cinema on a big screen, in a dark room full of lots of other people.

So, I thought it would be a good idea if there was a single website, accessible to anyone in the world (well, maybe except those in China) where information on Diasporic screenings occuring all over the world, will be available, sorted by city. Although, online screenings will be included as well, whenever possible.

I did a little research and didn't find a site like what I had in mind - of course, there could be one or several, and I may just not be aware of them. Regardless, I acted based on what my research told me, and a couple of days ago, finally decided to put something together that represented my original idea!

To start, I decided to use Blogger for the site (at least for now), just as I did with this site. I'm familiar with the simple user-interface, the site will show high on Google searches (since Blogger is a Google product), and, best of all, it's FREE!! :o)

In time, I'll likely relocate the site to its own host, but that depends on audience interest and participation. Also, I'm limited in terms of visual aesthetics, so, it's not the most attractive looking layout, but it'll do for now. I'm less concerned with how it looks and more with providing content - content that has proven to be a challenge to locate, which is where YOU come in!

I live in New York, so I'm familiar with most of the "microcinemas" in the city, and thus will likely have no difficulty in filling up the New York City screening calendar. But for other cities (globally) I'll need a lot of help - your help. No, I don't expect you to go out of your way to research screenings in your city, but if you happen to hear or see something that fits the site's mission, then please do pass it on to me, so that I'll post it on the site, and of course give credit when necessary.

I'm on the Internet quite a lot, discovering as much as I can, occassionally suffering from information overload, so you can guarantee that any screenings I come across will definitely be posted on the site, once I'm aware. But one of the eventual goals, as I've already said, is to have a site where anyone, anywhere in the world can access, click on a city link, and see what forthcoming Diasporic films will reach that specific city, their screening dates, times and venues, all listed in chronological order.

I have bigger plans for the site, but baby steps first... I want to gauge audience interest in the basic idea first, and then build from there if required!

The site's address is, which automatically redirects to the Blogger site. I registered several domain names I could use for it, but this one trumped the rest. It's really basic right now, as I don't have much content to put on it, but I'm hoping that will change in time, as I find out about more upcoming screening dates.

Check it out at your leisure.

Comments/suggestions are always welcome.


Friday Funnies - Long Live The Message!

This still cracks me up, months after seeing it the first time, and with each viewing, I'm inspired to do something similar... maybe I will... eventually... whenever that will be...

And for anyone interested in keeping up with what these guys are doing, you'd be happy to know that they are active bloggers like myself. You can find their blog at:, with the tagline, "Life. Comedy. Government."

Happy weekend!

Thursday Links - Eddie, Thandie, Cruise, Murdoch, Ice Cube Trailer, More...

(Sorry Sex And The City fans... couldn't resist :o))

- Eddie Murphy back in 4th Beverly Hills Cop movie! - SMH... but I guess it was inevitable, especially since Stallone gave us another Rocky AND another Rambo movie.

- 'I was so incredibly self-conscious' - Thandie Newton on playing Condoleezza Rice, being unknown in Africa and how she had to struggle for her sense of entitlement.

- Who woulda thunk it? Rupert Murdoch likes Obama to win it all! The founder and defender of the unabashedly conservative right-wing Fox News said he expected Obama to win in a landslide (and might actually vote for him) citing widespread unhappiness with the current administration and his disenchantment with Republican contender John McCain.

- Despite their competitors' obvious commitment to bringing film content directly to the consumer via in-home digital download services, Blockbuster still wants you to drive to their store to use the movie download kiosk! Way to stay ahead of the curve there Blockbuster!

- On a related note, NetFlix Thinks It Has 5 Years Of DVD-By-Mail Left before converting to mostly digital distribution. Are you listening Blockbuster?

- 'Bourne' movies viewed as art AND science at New York's Museum of Mordern Art - A panel of filmmakers and neuroscientists to talk about memory, identity and the mysterious workings of the brain at the Museum of Modern Art's World Science Festival this Friday, when all 3 Bourne flicks will be screened. I'm definitely curious and just might check it out.

- Will Smith's best pal, Tom Cruise launches a web site devoted to, what else, himself! A little late in the game, but I guess now is as good a time as any, given his supposed slide in recent years.

- The Great Debaters 2-Disc Special Collector's Edition is now available for sale. It's a feature-rich 2-disc set and worth a look, especially if you still haven't seen the film. Check it out HERE.

- And lastly, check out the trailer for Ice Cube's next film, titled, The Longshots, co-starring Keke Palmer (Akeelah and the Bee), and directed by former Limp Bizkit frontman, Fred Durst, retelling the true story of Jasmine Plummer who, at the age of eleven, became the first female to play in a Pop Warner football tournament, in its 56-year history. I gotta say, Ice Cube's facial hair dramatically alters my perception of him in this clip. I suddenly want to take him a little more seriously as an actor. And I'm not being facetious. Overall, it looks like what we would expect - a formulaic inspirational story wrought with cliches and mawkishness. BUT, I'll still check it out when it's released in July. Here's the trailer:

And that's news to me. Happy Thursday!

"The Human Contract" Trailer - Jada's Debut Arrives!

In February, I posted an entry about a little known film (you can read that post HERE) called The Human Contract, Jada Pinkett Smith's auteur debut - yup, she wrote the screenplay and directed the film which stars lots of white people :o)

Of course, I'm teasing (well, not entirely); in my February post, I lamented as follows, "With so few roles available for black performers in this business, and thus a diminutive number of films with blacks in starring performances, supporting, or even in thankless roles, or as extras, I would expect (or maybe hope) that any black filmmaker, especially those who are lucky enough to be in positions to attract the financial and human resources necessary to produce films, to almost always want to make films that showcase the varied lives of black people... at least initially."

The Human Contract stars Jason Clarke and Paz Vega, and tells the story of a relationship between a repressed advertising exec and a reckless woman... a successful corporate type harboring a deep, dark secret befriends a free-spirited stranger who encourages him to ditch his stuffy lifestyle and live life in reckless abandon. The film also stars Ted Danson, although Idris Alba and Jada have supporting roles in the pic, which still is without a distributor, and thus a release date - although I'm sure it will soon have both!

A question I asked in my February post (and still wonder today) was, "why couldn't Jada have instead had herself and Idris in the starring roles, with Jason Clarke and Paz Vega in the supporting roles? It doesn't seem like there's anything about the story that makes race relevant for any of the characters in the story..."

Anywho... I'm guessing we'll know more about the film, and maybe even get responses to my comments and answers to my question as more is revealed in time!

Here's the brand spanking new trailer, which, by the way, was produced by Will Smith. It has a straight-to-video kind of feel to me. Thoughts?:

Tuesday Link City

Hurray for summers!

- A Few Tremors in Oprah-land - An article on Oprah's supposed dwindling audience.

- Dumb instinct - Sharon Stone says maybe the earthquake in China that's killed 60,000+ people is just "karma" for China's treatment of the Tibetans, which she is "not happy about."

- Former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro sort of endorses Barack Obama, calling him "the most progressive candidate to the U.S. presidency."

- "How Black Actors Are Written Out Of The Script" - One man wonders whether Spike Lee should be so concerned about Clint Eastwood's World War II films not having any black characters in them.

- A few words for independent filmmakers about the rapidly evolving distribution system: don't follow established patterns... don't play by studio rules.

- "If we are going to have a national cinema we have got to make stories which arise from our islands. What we do most of the time is make sub-American nonsense. The American template is very often lousy – why do we want to imitate it?" One UK filmmaker laments... although I'm sure these words could be spoken by mouths from other nations as well... imagine if every country adopted China's stance and limited the number of Hollywood films that landed on their shores, and instead strongly encouraged a local film industry.

- So what’s the truth behind those “Sex and the City” posters banned in Jerusalem? - I suddenly feel like yawning... but while we're on the subject...

- SCAMMED: A mega "Sex and the City" fan paid $19,000 on eBay for passes to the "Sex and the City" premiere and party in New York City tonight - but the tickets apparently never existed. Somehow, I don't feel sorry for her :o)

And that's news to me...

It's All About The Branding Baby!

I stumbled across an interesting site called BrandChannel which lists all ad placement found within studio feature films, going back to 2001.

Something to pay attention to next time you sit down to watch a movie, and to discuss, when you and your pals go to Starbucks afterwards and order Frappuccinos, oblivious of the fact that you might be doing so because you saw one in the movie you just watched.

For example, in the 2002 hit Barbershop, BrandChannel states the following: By far one of the most brand heavy films we’ve covered. Yet almost no brand stuck out or seemed obtrusive. The only noticeable brand to continually re-appear was Miss Sixty, a jean and clothing maker that one of the film’s stars happened to endorse, which creates a bit of post-modern seamlessness.

Brands featured in Barbershop include the following: 360 Style, All, Bear Credit, Bentley, Big Daddy, Burger King, Cadillac, Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet, Chicago Tribune, Chock Full O’Nuts, Cocoa Pebbles, Cristal, Dentyne, Durex, Ebony, Ecko Unltd, Fred Perry, FUBU, Gatorade, Gillette, Grape-Nuts, Hennessy, Herbalife, Honda, Huggies, Intl. House of Pancakes, Kodak, Krispy Kreme, Lucky Tiger, Lugz, Master Lock, Meoshe, Mercedes, Miss Sixty, MUG, Nilla, Now and Later, Oldsmobile, Oprah Winfrey, Oreo, Pelle Pelle, Pepsi, Planters, Pure Playaz, Range Rover, Red Lobster, Samuel Adams, Savoy, Sean John, SnackWells, Toyota, Triscuit, Tropicana, Us magazine, USA Today, USPS, and Viagra!

You can tell who the target audience of the film is, without even knowing what the film is about, or who is in it, just by looking at the brands featured in the film :o)

Or how about 2004's You Got Served? Featured brands include: Adidas, Aquafina, Cadillac, Casio, Converse, Ecko Unltd, Fiji, Girbaud, Jordan, K-Swiss, Mecca, Motorola, MTV, New Skool, Pepsi, Portland Trailblazers, Reebok, Schott, Shady, Sony, Tropicana.

Comparing the brands featured in the above 2 films, you'll notice some crossover - brands featured in both films (Cadillac, Ecko Unltd, Pepsi and Tropicana)... revealing of who the target audience is, companies and products that the filmmakers obviously thought would appeal to the target audience (a lot of clothing and shoe brands, which isn't very encouraging), and more. This is all useful info I think. I feel like so much analysis could be done with this data to reveal lots of interesting facts about the business and how audiences are mapped. It would be interesting to look at the box office totals of each film as well, and determine what the combination of that data with the branding data would tell us.

Check out BrandChannel. It's not a complete list of films, and it's not up to date, but there's enough there to keep you busy for now.

And now for my own featured branding...

Handango Inc.

Sydney Pollack Is Dead.

According to the New York Times, Sydney Pollack, a Hollywood mainstay as director, producer and sometime actor whose star-laden movies like The Way We Were, Tootsie and The Firm, were among the most successful of the 1970s, '80s, and 90s, died on Monday evening at his home in Los Angeles.

He was 73. Cancer was the cause of death.

His work in front of the camera was just as impressive, prominently featured in the films of notable directors like Stanley Kubrick (Eyes Wide Shut), Woody Allen (Husbands & Wives), and Robert Altman (The Player). His most recent performance was in the critically acclaimed corporate thriller, Michael Clayton, alongside George Clooney.

I was a fan... and still am.

And The Awards Go To...

And now ladies and gents, below are the Cannes Film Festival award winners, as announced over the weekend. These are films to look out for in the coming year at your local theatre or video rental store (whether in the real or virtual world). Of special note is Afro-British filmmaker Steve McQueen winning the festival prize for best first feature, also known as the Camera d'Or, for his apparently impressive debut film titled Hunger, which was picked up for distribution by IFC Films. Also worth mentioning is the Mike Tyson documentary (titled simply Tyson) which also got picked up for distribution by Sony Pictures Classics, winning the "Knockout Prize" in the Un Certain Regard section of the festival:

Palme d’Or: The Class (Dir. Laurent Cantet)
Runner-up (Grand Prix): Gomorra (Dir. Matteo Garrone)
Best Director (Prix de la Mise en Scene): Nuri Bilge Ceylan for Three Monkeys
Best Screenplay (Prix du Scenario): Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne for Lorna’s Silence
Best First Feature (Camera d’Or): Hunger (Dir. Steve McQueen)
Jury Prize (Prix du Jury): Il Divo (Dir. Paolo Sorrentino)
Best Actor (Prix d’interpretation masculine): Benicio del Toro for Che
Best Actress (Prix d’interpretation feminine): Sandra Corveloni for Linha de Passe

1st Prize: Tuplan (Dir. Sergey Dvortsevoy)
2nd Prize: Cloud 9 (Dir. Andreas Dresen)
Prize of Hope: Johnny Mad Dog (Dir. Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire)
Knockout Prize: Tyson (Dir. James Toback)
Jury Prize: Tokyo Sonata (Dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

1st Prize: Anthem (Dir. Elad Keidan)
2nd Prize: Forbach (Dir. Claire Burger)
3rd Prize: Stop (Dir. Jae-Ok Park) and Roadmarkers (Dir. Juho Kuosmanen)



I really wanted to like Les Saignantes, the Cameroonian feature film by Jean-Pierre Bekolo (his 3rd effort), if only to acknowledge and commend a filmmaker for what must have been a challenging feat in simply making a film in a country where the production of film is still in its infancy, relative to celluloid factories like North America, Europe, Asia, and even Nigeria, Cameroon’s next door neighbor.

I really wanted to like Les Saignantes for the risks the filmmaker took with the entire production of the film – risks that helped contribute to a kind of film that I could only describe as ethereal.

I really wanted to like Les Saignantes, but, alas, I didn’t!

“I should have seen it with women instead of seeing it with you,” said the young lady I saw the film with, jovially but still with a matter-of-fact delivery.

Humored, I asked her to clarify, but had some inkling of what she meant.

“Because… it’s a film with feminist leanings… and women probably would appreciate it more than men.”

Feminist leanings?

On the contrary, as I told her, I thought it actually countered feminist doctrine.

The film is about 2 high-class prostitutes (they call themselves "Les Saignantes," or "The Bloodletters") in the year 2025, who use their sexuality to gain access to some of the highest ranking political officials in Cameroon, supposedly with the intent to rid the country of those corrupt men who have run Cameroon for decades, creating a rather dystopian society.

The idea presented, at least my interpretation of it, exalts the power of the “P,” and I’m sure I don’t have to clue anyone in as to what the “P” is. Essentially, the message we’re to garner from the film is that a woman’s sexuality is such a powerful thing that it can actually topple governments.

Now you’re probably thinking to yourselves, “well, it’s true Tambay – the power of the “P” is a genuine phenomenon!” :o)

And I wouldn’t entirely disagree with that. BUT just don’t tell me it’s an ideology that’s inline with feminist doctrine, because it's as anti-feminist a notion as I can think of. I’m not well-versed about all things feminist, but I’m confident in saying that a woman’s use of her body to break the will of men and achieve success in whatever she is pursuing, is counter to feminist teachings that champion the woman’s use of her intellect, rather than her body, to realize some end goal, helping to negate a culture of inbred widespread objectification of women!

So, no – I wouldn’t call this a film for feminists. I wouldn’t even say that it portrays women in the most idealistic frame – far from it! Sure, maybe you and “the girls” will have a good time laughing at the various sexual adventures the two protagonists get themselves tangled up in, usually at the expense of men, but to what end? You may as well wander down the aisle of the “black cinema section” at your local Blockbuster Video rental store and take your pick of any of the trollops on display!

HOWEVER, of course, one cannot completely appreciate a film by passively consuming it, and only looking at its surface, especially a film from a filmmaker known for political satire.

So, what is Les Saignantes REALLY about, underneath all the gratuitous T&A packaging?

It’s a criticism of the rampant corruption in Cameroon, from the top to the bottom of the pyramid, and the idea that women will be the sex that saves and revives the country from its depression – a theme that’s common in a lot of African cinema, notably films by the late Ousmane Sembene and Desire Ecare, 2 of the more internationally recognizable African filmmakers, and both male.

Women are often the protagonists, portrayed as progressive, as well as the higher moral and intellectual authority. Men are frequently framed in rather unattractive portrayals – often as corrupt, sexist, stubborn or simpletons… not very complex at all. Essentially, the films believe in the idea that woman is the future of man, as the idiom goes.

Les Saignantes seems to want to continue this trend, but the resulting delivery is worse than anything Sembene or Ecare ever did, or would ever do! There’s no comparison here. It plays like a notch or two above your archetypal Nollywood film, right down to the shoddy technical work, sub par acting, and an overall tackiness to it all!

It’s billed as a sci-fi film, but there’s very little sci-fi content, other than the fact that it takes place in 2025.

“Shouldn’t we give this film a pass, or at least NOT look at it with the same lens that we watch American films with their mega-budgets and pyrotechnics?” she asked.

I certainly didn’t walk into the theatre expecting a technically sound, high-production-valued film. Although even as I sit here thinking about my previous sentence, I wonder if there’s something condescending about that statement, because I feel like I should go into any film expecting the best from the filmmaker, especially a filmmaker like Jean-Pierre Bekolo, who has already made 2 features, with Les Saignantes being his 3rd, all with international festival play, as well as awards, and a filmmaker who received film school training and who also taught film at 3 American universities. If anything, I think expecting more from this film and the filmmaker is complementary, given his professional history. So, I believe that I actually would be insulting the man by agreeing to give his film a pass simply because he’s Cameroonian, and the film was produced entirely in Cameroon, on a minuscule budget, with local talent.

I’ve seen his first film, Quartier Mozart, and it’s a far better effort than Les Saignantes is. Besides, thinking globally, maybe it’s time that we (Africans from all across the Diaspora, all corners of the world) should stop giving ourselves “passes” just for effort, and start expecting a lot more out of each other!

“You must have liked SOMETHING about it!” she proclaimed, emphatically.

As I started out saying, I commend the filmmaker for taking some risks with the production – mostly stylistic. Some worked; others failed. But I always appreciate any artist fearless enough to charge down new paths, even if the end result isn’t desirable. So, Bekolo certainly should be given a round of applause for the effort. The entire film takes place at night, within smoky, foggy locales, dark side streets, and dimly-lit interiors, combined with a soundtrack comprised of an eclectic musical mix – what I would describe as an amalgamation of dancehall and makossa, but all uniquely African. All of this helped create an ethereal quality to the film that I liked, and still remember. It’s just too bad that the cumulative experience left me rather indifferent to it all.

“I think I’ll see it again, but with women next time, since you’re such a killjoy and obviously don’t see the true meaning of the film.” She said finally, before we moved on to other topics.

Ok, you do that! :o)

For those interested in better African films with similar messages, do yourself a favor and check out all of Ousmane Sembene’s films (from Black Girl to MoolaadĂ©), as well as Desire Ecare’s Faces of Women.

I’d give Les Saignantes 2 stars out of a possible 5.