Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

TRAILER - The People Speak

the people speak


It's called The People Speak, a documentary based on Howard Zinn's groundbreaking books, A People's History of the United States and Voices of a People's History of the United States. both books I STRONGLY recommend, it you haven't already read them - notably the former, which I've committed to re-reading once every year!

The film brings together accomplished performers to re-create the emotional impact of moments in American history - several great speeches from the voices of those marginalized, rarely heard in mainstream histories, like Malcolm X, Abbie Hoffman, César Chávez, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Allen Ginsberg, and countless others.

These readings are woven together with historical footage, music and narrations from Ben Affleck and Howard Zinn.

Featured appearances include: Don Cheadle as Richard Wright, Danny Glover as Frederick Douglass, John Legend as Muhammad Ali, Mos Def as Malcolm X, Kerry Washington as Sojourner Truth, Jasmine Guy as Abbey Lincoln, and Michael Ealy as Benjamin Banneker, and many, many more... Viggo Mortensen, Sandra Oh, Sean Penn, Rosario Dawson, Matt Damon...

The program will air in TV and be released on a special DVD some time next year. I have no idea when exactly, and couldn't find any more info.

Now that it's on my radar, I'll certainly be looking out for it. You can sign up for future updates at the film's official website:

Here's the trailer:

OJ Simpson Gets 15 years

Not film related, but worthy of a quick mention...

Former football great OJ Simpson was sentenced by a Las Vegas judge to serve 15 years in prison for a Las Vegas hotel armed robbery.

"The Juice" will have to serve at least six years before being eligible for parole.

Goodbye OJ. Good riddance.

Although, I do think he got PUNKED! Who the hell were his attorneys? Court-appointed public defenders?

How does one get a 15 year sentence for armed robbery, especially one in which no one was hurt, and that was so obviously ill-conceived and just plain DUMB on his part to even consider initiating, considering how much he's been vilified since being set free for the murders of his then ex-wife and her lover. It should have been OBVIOUS to him that he was a wanted man, and any opportunities to lock him up or take him out, no matter how silly and contrived, would be relished!

If I were him, I would have spent the rest of my life quietly, in solitude. No splash and dash; no glitz and glam. Just disappear, instead of storming into hotel rooms with weapons, to steal back sports memorabilia, even if, as he claims, the items belonged to him, and he was there to reclaim them by force!

Dude, you screwed yourself, and now you're paying the price! I think you got a raw deal via your excessive sentence, but you should have seen this coming before you got into your car to drive to the now infamous Las Vegas hotel room, armed with a weapon.

It's time to go away now OJ. Try to be a good boy for the next 6 years, and you just might get out a lot sooner than 15 years!


TRAILER - Laurence Fishburne's CSI Debut

CBS has released a trailer promoting next week's debut of Laurence Fishburne on TV's highest-rated series, CSI.

As previously reported, Fishburne is replacing the exiting William Peterson, who plays Las Vegas Crime Lab supervisor Gil Grissom. Fishburne's character, Dr. Raymond Langston, is a former pathologist who left his profession to write books and lecture.

Fishburne and Peterson also appear together in next week's episode before Grissom makes his final appearance in January.

At least, he can now count on a steady paycheck, right? There isn't much in Hollywood these days for aging African American actors/actresses. Unless you're content with playing the asexual elderly black sage who counsels some conflicted Caucasian soul, using packaged words of wisdom and zen-like speechifying (just ask Morgan Freeman).

Fishburne's debut airs next week Thursday, the 11th.

You think CBS has high hopes for Fishburne's addition to the CSI cast?

Watch the trailer:

Viola Davis - NBR Best Breakthrough Performance

The National Board of Review (NBR) has announced its 2008 winners - a list that some consider a precursor to the Oscars; for example, last year's pick for best film, No Country for Old Men, went on to win best picture at the Oscars.

The organization has chosen
Viola Davis for the year's Best Breakthrough Performance By An Actress, for her role in the forthcoming movie Doubt.

Davis was also part of a
Best Ensemble Cast win along with cast members Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman, also for Doubt.

While I applaud the NBR for recognizing Davis's work in
Doubt, the idea that hers is a "breakthrough performance," insinuating a sudden discovery of her talents, is unfortunate, when one considers how long she has been in the business, and the solid work she's done with each outing.

Breakthrough? No NBR, I wouldn't call it that. This is an award that's been long overdue. However, I'm sure Ms Davis will graciously accept the honor, even though it's a little too late in its delivery.

I've read several reviews of the film which doesn't open until the 12th, and there has been nothing but unanimous praise for Viola's work in the film, even though, she's only on screen for 2 scenes! 2 scenes! Those must be some powerful, memorable scenes, and I'm sure they are.

I've seen her work in a variety of roles in films past, and she's almost always captivating, regardless of what she's given to do. The critical consensus is that she will compete along with Taraji P Henson - whose own limited work in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is getting plenty of praise - for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar next spring, which would be a coup. I don't recall any time in history when 2 African American women were strong contenders in the same category for one of the major Academy Awards.

Needless to say, I'm looking forward to seeing both
Doubt and Benjamin Button over the next 2 weeks, and you can guarantee that I'll be posting my thoughts on this blog, and talking about them on my podcast.

The NBR awards will be handed out Jan. 14 in a New York gala hosted by Whoopi Goldberg.

"Hancock 2," "I Am Legend .5" - Coming Soon

After a $623 million worldwide gross, I suppose it was inevitable, even though the film was quite disappointing.

I have no idea what more could be done with the characters, other than introduce some kind of super villain to challenge Hancock, unlike the pathetic excuses for antagonists we were treated to in the original movie.

Or, maybe they (Will Smith and company) want some rectification for the sins of the first. If that's the case, then may I suggest bringing Vincent Ngo, the screenwriter for the original script that Hancock was based on, back into the mix?

The folks at have reported that Will Smith says a sequel is “definitely” happening, that there are a lot of unexplored characters in the Hancock universe that would be ripe for a sequel, and confirmed that we'll definitely see the rumored HANCOCK 2 in a few years.

A lot of unexplored characters? Like who?

Anyway... I'm sure it will make a ton of money, regardless of critical response, so what the hell do I know?

By the way, there has also been confirmation from director Francis Lawrence that a prequel to Big Willie's 2007 post-apocalyptic box office smash, I Am Legend, is also in the works, stating that the movie will reveal what happened to Neville (Smith) before the infected take over New York. It's set for a 2011 release.

The end of ideas...


Screening Sighting - "Story Of A Three-Day Pass"

Screening this Saturday, the 6th, at 3PM, at the Museum of Modern Art, here in New York City, for all you New Yorkers, or anyone planning on being in New York this weekend.

The first of 2 feature films Melvin Van Peebles made before Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song.

The film is called Story Of A Three-Day Pass, Van Peebles's very first feature film from 1968, and the first feature-length film (on record) directed by an African American since Oscar Micheaux's last effort in 1948, The Betrayal.

The story goes... at the time, Van Peebles couldn't get work in the film industry in the USA, so, like many other African American artists did in those days, he went to Europe (France specifically), and directed his first feature (aka Story Of A Three-Day Pass) in France, with French money. Cue critical acclaim (both abroad and in the USA) and, eventually, he landed a job in Hollywood, and made his first and only studio film in 1970, titled, Watermelon Man.

Here's the trailer for Story Of A Three-Day Pass (it's incomplete, but there's enough there to give you some idea of what it's like). And if you're curious enough, and live in New York, give it a go. It's certainly not what I'd call a great film. It has its flaws. But, it's worth a look, if only to experience a somewhat more "tender" side of Melvin.

Sundance's 2009 NON-COMPETITIVE Lineup

I should have specified in yesterday's Sundance post, that the 64 films listed then where just those IN COMPETITION.

This afternoon, the 54 NON-COMPETITIVE feature films were announced. In essence, they will screen at the festival, BUT will be excluded from any awards recognition.

Of note on today's list are:

Brooklyn's Finest, Antoine Fuqua's latest directorial effort about three unconnected Brooklyn cops who wind up at the same deadly location. Cast: Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes, Don Cheadle, Ellen Barkin.


Endgame, a British entry and political thriller in which a businessman initiates covert discussions between the African National Congress and white intellectuals to try and find a peaceful solution to the Apartheid regime. Cast: William Hurt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jonny Lee Miller, Mark Strong.


Passing Strange, Spike Lee's documentary on the stage musical of the same name, about the international exploits of a young man from Los Angeles who leaves home to find himself and "the real." A theatrical stage production of the Tony-Award winning book by Stew. Cast: De'Adre Aziza, Daniel Breaker, Eisa Davis, Colman Domingo, Stew.


Tyson - An intimate look at the complex life of former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson.


Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy - a documentary by Robert Townsend (where has he been?), using rare archival clips along with provocative interviews with many of today's leading comedians and social critics. The film celebrates the incredible cultural influence and social impact black comedy has wielded during the past 400 years. Cast: Chris Rock, Bill Cosby, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Steve Harvey, Dick Gregory.


Black Dynamite, a film I've talked about previously on this blog. When "The Man" murders his brother, pumps heroin into local orphanages and floods the ghetto with adulterated malt liquor, 1970s African-American action legend Black Dynamite is the one hero willing to take him on. Cast: Michael Jai White, Tommy Davidson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Byron Minns, James McManus. Directed by Scott Sanders.

And... this one is quite a head-scratcher. Has "Lil Wayne" been around that long, and had such an impact, that the world needs an "in-depth, initimate look" at his life?

The Carter - a documentary directed by Adam Bhala Lough, who brought us 2002 critically acclaimed Bomb The System, considered a tribute to graphiti artists and New York City. The Carter is an in-depth, intimate look at Dwayne "Lil Wayne" Carter Jr., proclaimed by many as the "greatest rapper alive." Cast: Lil Wayne, Brian Williams, Cortez Bryant.

You can see the entire list of 54 NON-COMPETITIVE films here: HOLLYWOOD REPORTER


Now... ain't this a bitch?
Not film related, but worth sharing.

First - about 2 weeks ago, I learned that...

Alan Keyes files a suit in California Superior Court in Sacramento seeking to bar Secretary of State Debra Bowen from certifying to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger the names of Electors, and from transmitting to each presidential Elector a Certificate of Election, until documentary proof is produced and verified showing that Senator Obama is a “natural born” citizen of the United States.

And now I hear that...

In a highly unusual move, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has asked his colleagues on the court to consider the request of an East Brunswick, N.J. attorney who has filed a lawsuit challenging President-elect Barack Obama’s status as a United States citizen.

Thomas’s action took place after Justice David Souter had rejected a petition known as an application for a stay of writ of certiorari that asked the court to prevent the meeting of the Electoral College on Dec. 15, which will certify Obama as the 44th president of the United States and its first African-American president.

The court has scheduled a Dec. 5 conference on the writ — just 10 days before the Electoral College meets.

What the fuck is going on here?

An immediate thought I had was whether this gives an entirely new meaning to "
black on black crime."

This is the kind of behavior one would expect from some of the nuttier, paler, right-wingers; not from these 2 "brothas."



On TV: Samuel L Jackson And James Earl Jones Tributes

Some television news I learned about today:

First - AMC will broadcast the 23rd annual American Cinematheque Awards, which this year honored the film career of Samuel L. Jackson.

The special will premiere Tuesday (Dec. 9) at 10 p.m. EST under the title, Hollywood Celebrates Samuel L. Jackson: An American Cinematheque Tribute.

Many of Jackson's colleagues and past co-stars were in attendance to help celebrate his cinematic accomplishments, including Denzel Washington, Justin Timberlake, Vin Diesel, Goerge Lucas, Magic Johnson, George Lopez, Andy Garcia and Sharon Stone, amongst several others. And each of them had something to share about their experiences working with Jackson.

"I felt a bond with everyone in that theater," Jackson said, according to the AP. "(It was) a kinship that opened up a whole new world."

Second - James Earl Jones will be honored for lifetime achievement at the 15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, airing live on TNT and TBS Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009.

I'm surprised he hasn't already been honored.

To celebrate the occasion, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will dedicate an entire day to the stage and screen legend.

On Friday, Jan. 23, the network will feature Jones in interviews and show three of his films: Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (the 1963 Stanley Kubrick classic), his film debut, at 8 p.m.; The Great White Hope (1970), which earned Jones a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination, at 10 p.m.; and the South African-set drama Cry the Beloved Country (1995), which earned Jones a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, at midnight.

All extremely worthwhile films to see if you haven't already.


"U People" - Trailer & Award

I've talked about this doc previously on this blog, so some of you long-time readers will be familiar. If you're not, look it up and enlighten yourself. The filmmaker is a fellow Brooklynite and a former acquaintance.

Hanifah Walidah is her name.

I just learned that her documentary film, titled U People, won the documentary section's grand jury prize at image+nation, Canada's oldest and largest LGBT film festival, which closed up its 2008 edition Sunday in Montreal.

Where can you see it if you want to? Apparently, a deal of some kind is being worked out with the LOGO cable TV channel, to broadcast U People in early 2009.

The film's producers are also coordinating with colleges, community spaces and the like, to organize a spring and summer tour of the film next year.

Visit I Love U People for a lot more information, including podcasts (both audio and video) hosted by the filmmakers.

In the meantime, here's a trailer for the documentary. And below it is the music video that started it all, and one of the coolest things I've seen in awhile:

Here's the "Make A Move" music video:

Taraji P Henson "Benjamin Button" Interview & Video Clips

Clips below of Taraji P Henson in what many are saying is an Oscar-winning supporting actress performance, in, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, playing star, Brad Pitt's adoptive mother, Queenie.

And after you're done watching, head on over to AOL Black Voices to read Wilson Morales's interview with the star, posted today.

Tyler Perry Sued For Copyright Violation On "Diary Of A Mad Black Woman"

The most surprising thing about this is that anyone with an ounce of sanity and dignity would actually want to take credit for something Tyler Perry created.

Jokes... just jokes... that's all :o)

However, it doesn't look like she has much of a case... unless she can somehow prove that TP was physically present when her original play was performed on stage, or TP's script is a close mirror of her stage play.

The story goes...

Tyler Perry is in a Texas courtroom this week facing allegations of copyright infringement by a woman who claims material from his 2005 film "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" was stolen from her 1991 play, "Fantasy of a Black Woman."

Donna West is suing the actor-screenwriter in U.S. District Court and is seeking all profits made from the film, reports the Associated Press.

"I can't put my play on because the stories are basically the same and nobody wants to see that again," she said.

Jurors on Tuesday watched Perry's film and listened to a reading of the script from West's play. West testified that her script was based primarily on her own experiences. With her in the starring role, the play was performed in July 1991 at the Junior Black Academy of Arts and Letters at the Dallas Convention Center.

"The play was open to the public. Anyone could have attended," West said.

In her opening remarks to the jury, Perry's attorney, Veronica Lewis, said her client is an "immensely talented" individual "who has no need whatsoever" to use the materials of others.

U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis told jurors he anticipates the case will be completed by next Tuesday.


Sundance Unleashes 2009 Lineup


And. Here. We. Go.

No point in opening with an intro... here's the list of 64 feature films and documentaries that were lucky enough to be accepted into the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

Although, I should mention 3 films that immediately caught my attention after initially browsing the entire list:

1. Lee Daniels' adaptation of the novel titled
Push by Sapphire. A friend gave me the novel to read months ago, but I couldn't get through it. Not because it was uninteresting, or tedious - the material is difficult to swallow in moments. Look it up if you haven't heard of it. I'm really curious to see how Daniels handles this one. It could be one of the more compelling, challenging films in the lineup, or, if handled poorly, an embarrassment.

2. A film called Good Hair in the documentary section which features comedian Chris Rock on a mission to examine the culture of African-American hair and hairstyles.

3. And yet another documentary on Nollywood - the blossoming Nigerian film industry, and the 3rd largest in the world, behind Hollywood and Bollywood. This one is titled Nollywood Babylon. I hope it's better than the last one I saw. Nollywood is "hot" right now, enjoying worldwide attention, which should eventually lead to much better films.

I'll take a much closer look at the list later on this evening, and post my general thoughts. I'm planning on attending the festival next month, but I want to make sure it's worth my time, before emptying out my bank account for airfare and hotel.

If any readers are familiar with any of the below films, enough to make a recommendation, please do.

Congrats to everyone that got in. Somebody's life, or maybe a handful of lives are about to experience drastic change for the better (or worse). The rest will leave with parting gifts.

For now, here's the list.

The films screening in Documentary Competition are:

Art & Copy (Director: Doug Pray; Screenwriter: Timothy J. Sexton)--Rare interviews with the most influential advertising creative minds of our age illustrate the wide-reaching effect advertising and creativity have on modern culture. World Premiere

Boy Interrupted (Director: Dana Perry)-- An intimate look at the life, mental illness and death of a young man told from the point of view of the filmmaker: his mother. World Premiere

The Cove (Director: Louie Psihoyos; Screenwriter: Mark Monroe)--Dolphins are dying, whales are disappearing, and the oceans are growing sick. The horrors of a secret cove nestled off a small, coastal village in Japan are revealed by a group of activists led by Ric O'Barry, the man behind Flipper. World Premiere

Crude (Director: Joe Berlinger)--The inside story of the "Amazon Chernobyl" case in the rainforest of Ecuador, the largest oil-related environmental lawsuit in the world. World Premiere

Dirt the Movie (Directors: Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow)--The story of the relationship between humans and dirt, Dirt The Movie humorously details how humans are rapidly destroying the last natural resource on earth. World Premiere

The General (El General) (Director: Natalia Almada)--As great-granddaughter of Mexican President Plutarco Elias Calles, one of Mexico's most controversial revolutionary figures, filmmaker Natalia Almada paints an intimate portrait of Mexico. World Premiere

Good Hair (Director: Jeff Stilson)--Comedian Chris Rock turns documentary filmmaker when he sets out to examine the culture of African-American hair and hairstyles. World Premiere

Over the Hills and Far Away (Director: Michel Scott)--Over the Hills and Far Away chronicles the journey of the Isaacson family as they travel through Mongolia in search of a mysterious shaman they believe can heal their autistic son. World Premiere

The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court (Director: Pamela Yates)--A battle of monumental proportions unfolds as International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo faces down warlords, genocidal dictators and world superpowers in bringing perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice. World Premiere

Reporter (Director: Eric Daniel Metzgar)--Set in Africa, this documentary chronicles, in verite fashion, the haunting, physically grueling and shocking voyage of Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, Nicholas Kristof. World Premiere

The September Issue (Director: R.J. Cutler)--With unprecedented access, director R.J. Cutler and his crew shot for nine months as they captured Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour and her team preparing the 2007 Vogue September issue, widely accepted as the "fashion bible" for the year's trends. World Premiere

Sergio (Director: Greg Barker)--Chasing the Flame examines the role of the United Nations and the international community through the life and experiences of Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N.'s High Commissioner for Human Rights, including interviews with those who knew and worked with him over the course of his extraordinary career. World Premiere

Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech (Director: Liz Garbus)--An exploration of the history and current state of free speech in America narrated by the filmmaker's father, First Amendment attorney Martin Garbus. World Premiere

We Live in Public (Director: Ondi Timoner)--We Live in Public is the story of the Internet's revolutionary impact on human interaction as told through the eyes of maverick web pioneer, Josh Harris and his transgressive art project that shocked New York. World Premiere

When You're Strange (Director: Tom DiCillo)--The first feature documentary about The Doors, When You're Strange enters the dark and dangerous world of one of America's most influential bands using only footage shot between 1966 and 1971. World Premiere

William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe (Directors: Sarah Kunstler and Emily Kunstler)--With clients including Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and the Chicago 10, the late civil rights attorney William Kunstler was one of the most famous lawyers of the 20th century. Filmmakers Emily and Sarah Kunstler explore their father's life from movement hero to "the most hated lawyer in America." World Premiere

The films screening in Dramatic Competition are:

Adam (Director and Screenwriter: Max Mayer)--A strange and lyrical love story between a somewhat socially dysfunctional young man and the woman of his dreams. Cast: Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher, Amy Irving, Frankie Faison. World Premiere

Amreeka (Director and Screenwriter: Cherien Dabis)--When a divorced Palestinian woman and her teenage son move to rural Illinois at the outset of the Iraq war, they find their new lives replete with challenges. Cast: Nisreen Faour, Melkar Muallem, Hiam Abbass, Yussuf Abu-Warda, Alia Shawkat. World Premiere.

Big Fan (Director and Screenwriter: Robert Siegel)--The world of a parking garage attendant who happens to be the New York Giants' biggest fan is turned upside down after an altercation with his favorite player. Cast: Patton Oswalt, Michael Rapaport, Kevin Corrigan, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Matt Servitto. World Premiere.

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (Director and Screenwriter: John Krasinski)--When her boyfriend leaves with little explanation, a doctoral candidate in anthropology tries to remedy her heartache by interviewing men about their behavior. Cast: Julianne Nicholson, John Krasinski, Timothy Hutton, Dominic Cooper, Christopher Meloni, Rashida Jones. World Premiere

Cold Souls (Director and Screenwrtier: Sophie Barthes)--In the midst of an existential crisis, a famous American actor explores soul extraction as a relief from the burdens of daily life. Cast: Paul Giamatti, Dina Korzun, David Strathairn, Emily Watson, Lauren Ambrose, Oksana Lada. World Premiere

Dare (Director: Adam Salky; Screenwriter: David Brind)--Three very different teenagers discover that, even in the safe world of a suburban prep school, no one is who she or he appears to be. Cast: Emmy Rossum, Zach Gilford, Ashley Springer, Ana Gasteyer, Alan Cumming, Sandra Bernhard, Rooney Mara. World Premiere

Don't Let Me Drown (Director: Cruz Angeles; Screenwriters: Cruz Angeles and Maria Topete)--Two Latino teens whose lives are affected by the attack on the World Trade Center discover that love is the only thing that keeps them from drowning. Cast: E.J. Bonilla, Gleendilys Inoa, Damian Alcazar, Ricardo Chavira, Gina Torres. World Premiere

The Dream of the Romans (Director and Screenwriter: John Hindman)--A reclusive author of a groundbreaking spiritual book awakens to new truths when two strangers enter his life. Cast: Jeff Daniels, Lauren Graham, Lou Pucci, Olivia Thirlby. World Premiere

The Greatest (Director and Screenwriter: Shana Feste)-- After the tragic loss of their teenage son, a family is again thrown into turmoil by the arrival of a young woman. Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandon, Carey Mulligan, Johnny Simmons, Aaron Johnson, Zoe Kravitz. World Premiere.

Humpday (Director and Screenwriter: Lynn Shelton)--A farcical comedy about straight male bonding gone a little too far. Cast: Mark Duplass, Joshua Leonard, Alycia Delmore, Lynn Shelton, Trina Willard. World Premiere.

Paper Heart (Director: Nicolas Jasenovec)--Even though performer Charlyne Yi doesn't believe in love, she bravely embarks on a quest to discover its true nature--a journey that takes on surprising urgency when she meets unlikely fellow traveler, actor Michael Cera. Cast: Charlyne Yi, Michael Cera, Nicolas Jasenovec, Jake Johnson. World Premiere.

Peter and Vandy (Director and Screenwriter: Jay DiPietro)--Juxtaposing a couple's romantic beginnings with the twisted-manipulative-regular couple they have become, Peter and Vandy is a contemporary Manhattan love story with no beginning and no end. Cast: Jess Weixler, Jason Ritter, Jesse L. Martin, Tracie Thoms. World Premiere

Push (Director and Screenwriter: Lee Daniels)--Based on the acclaimed, best-selling novel by Sapphire, Push is the redemptive story of Precious Jones, a young girl in Harlem struggling to overcome tremendous obstacles and discover her own voice. Cast: Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe, Paula Patton, Mo'Nique Imes, Lenny Kravitz. World Premiere

Sin Nombre/U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Cary Fukunaga)--A teenaged Mexican gang member maneuvers to outrun his violent past and elude unforgiving former associates in this thriller set among Central American migrants seeking to cross over to the United States. Cast: Paulina Gaitan, Diana Garcia, Damayanti Quintanar, Karl Braun. World Premiere

Taking Chance (Director: Ross Katz; Screenwriters: Ross Katz, Michael Strobl)--Based on real-life events, Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a volunteer military escort officer, accompanies the body of 19-year-old Marine Chance Phelps back to his hometown of Dubois, Wyoming. Cast: Tom Aldredge, Sherman Alpert, Nicholas Art, Kevin Bacon, Blanche Baker. World Premiere

Toe to Toe (Director and Screenwriter: Emily Abt)--The story of an inter-racial friendship put to the test by the intense pressures of a competitive Washington, D.C. prep school. Cast: Sonequa Martin, Louisa Krause, Silvestre Rasuk, Anwan Glover, Gaius Charles. World Premiere

Films screening in World Cinema Documentary Competition are:

211:Anna / Italy (Directors:Paolo Serbandini & Giovanna Massimetti)--The story of Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist and human rights activist who risked her life to report the truth about the Chechen conflict and President Vladimir Putin. World Premiere

Afghan Star / Afghanistan/UK (Director: Havana Marking)--After 30 years of war and Taliban rule, Pop Idol has come to television in Afghanistan: millions are watching and voting for their favorite singer. This film follows the dramatic stories of four contestants as they risk their lives to sing. North American Premiere

Big River Man / USA (Director: John Maringouin)--An overweight, wine-swilling Slovenian world-record-holding endurance swimmer resolves to brave the mighty Amazon--in nothing but a Speedo(R). World Premiere

Burma VJ / Denmark (Director: Anders Oestergaard)--In September 2007, Burmese journalists risking life imprisonment to report from inside their sealed-off country are suddenly thrown onto the global stage as their pocket camera images of the Saffron Revolution make headlines everywhere. World Premiere

The End of the Line / UK (Director: Rupert Murray)--Based on the book by journalist Charles Clover, The End of the Line reveals the devastating effect that global overfishing is having on fish stocks and the health of our oceans. World Premiere

The Glass House / USA (Director: Hamid Rahmanian)--The Glass House follows four teenage girls striving to overcome drug addiction, abandonment and abuse by attending a rehabilitation center in Tehran. North American Premiere

Kimjongilia / France/USA (Director: N.C. Heikin)--Defectors from North Korea finally speak out about the terrifying reality of their lives--and escapes. World Premiere

Let's Make Money /Austria/China/South Africa/Spain/Switzerland/U.S.A. (Director: Erwin Wagenhofer)--From the factories of India, to financial markets in Singapore, to massive housing developments in Spain and offshore banks in Jersey, Let's Make Money reveals complex and shocking workings of global money flow. World Premiere

Nollywood Babylon / Canada (Directors: Ben Addelman and Samir Mallal)--Welcome to the wacky world of Nollywood, Nigeria's bustling home-grown movie industry. U.S. Premiere

Old Partner / South Korea (Director: Chung-ryoul Lee)--A humble octogenarian farmer lives out his final days with his spitfire wife and his loyal old ox in the Korean countryside. World Premiere

Prom Night in Mississippi / Canada (Director: Paul Saltzman)--When a small-town Mississippi high school resolves to hold its first integrated senior prom, strong emotions fly and traditions are challenged to their core. World Premiere

The Queen and I (Drottningen och jag) /Sweden (Director: Nahid Persson Sarvestani)-- Swedish filmmaker Sarvestani, an Iranian exile who helped overthrow the Shah's regime in 1979, confronts her own assumptions and complex truths about Iran when she enters the life of the Shah's widow. World Premiere

Quest for Honor / Kurdistan / USA (Director: Mary Ann Bruni)--A former teacher and tireless activist works with local lawmen, Kurdish government agencies and her colleagues to investigate and eradicate honor killings in the tribal regions of Kurdistan. World Premiere

Rough Aunties / UK (Director: Kim Longinotto)--Fearless, feisty and unwavering, the 'Rough Aunties' protect and care for the abused, neglected and forgotten children of Durban, South Africa. World Premiere

Thriller in Manila / UK (Director: John Dower)--A tale of betrayal stoked by the racial politics of 1970s America, Thriller in Manila chronicles the most intense and bitter sporting rivalry ever: the 1975 final match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. World Premiere

Tibet in Song / USA (Director: Ngawang Choephel)--Through the story of Tibetan music, this film depicts the determined efforts of Tibetan people, both in Tibet and in exile, to preserve their unique cultural identity. Choephel served six years of an 18-year prison sentence for filming in Tibet. World Premiere

Films screening in World Cinema Dramatic Competition are:

Before Tomorrow (Le Jour Avant Lendemain) / Canada (Directors: Madeline Piujuq & Marie-Helene Cousineau)--A wise old woman fights to survive impossible circumstances with her young grandson in the Canadian arctic. Cast: Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq, Paul-Dylan Ivalu, Madeline Piujuq Ivalu, Mary Qulitalik, Tumasie Sivuarapik. U.S. Premiere

Bronson / UK (Director: Nicolas Winding Refn; Screenwriter: Brock Norman Brock)--Bronson traces the transformation of Mickey Peterson into Britain's most notorious, dangerous, and charismatic prisoner, Charles Bronson. Cast: Tom Hardy. World Premiere

Carmo, Hit the Road / Spain (Director and Screenwriter: Murilo Pasta)-- A lonely, handicapped smuggler and a beautiful girl embark on a reckless ride through a South American border landscape. Cast: Mariana Loureiro, Fele Martinez,Seu Jorge. World Premiere

The Clone Returns (Kuron Wa Kokyo-Wo Mezasu) / Japan (Director and Screenwriter: Kanji Nakajima) --A Japanese astronaut who dies during a mission is subsequently resurrected as a clone and returns to his childhood home. Cast: Mitsuhiro Oikawa, Eri Ishida, Hiromi Nagasaku. North American Premiere

Dada's Dance / China (Director: Zhang Yuan; Screenwriter: Li Xiaofeng)--Dada is a flirtatious young woman who lives with her mother in a small town. Having to fend off the constant advances of her mother's boyfriend who tells her she is adopted, she undertakes a journey in search of her birth mother. Cast: Li Xinyun, Li Xiaofeng, Gai Ge, Chen Jun. World Premiere

An Education / UK (Director: Lone Scherfig; Screenwriter: Nick Hornby)--In the early 60s, a sharp 16-year-old with sights set on Oxford meets a handsome older man whose sophistication enraptures and sidetracks both her and her parents. Cast: Peter Sarsgaard, Carey Mulligan, Alfred Molina, Emma Thompson. World Premiere

Five Minutes of Heaven / UK / (Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel; Screenwriter: Guy Hibbert)--Two men from the same town but from different sides of the Irish political divide discover that the past is never dead--in fact it isn't even past. Cast: Liam Neeson, James Nesbitt, Anamaria Marinca. World Premiere

A French Gigolo (Cliente) / France (Director and Screenwriter: Josiane Balasko)--An attractive, successful 50-something woman regularly treats herself to the sexual services of young men selected on Internet sites. When one particular escort becomes a habit, the relationship gets a bit more complicated. Cast: Nathalie Baye, Eric Caravaca, Isabelle Carre, Josiane Balasko. World Premiere

Heart of Time (Corazon Del Tiempo) / Mexico (Director and Screenwriter: Alberto Cortes)--In La Esperanza de San Pedro, Chiapas, in the midst of the Zapatista struggle, a young woman makes serious waves when she falls in love with a revolutionary fighter from the mountains. Cast: Rocio Barrios. North American Premiere

Louise-Michel / France (Directors: Benoit Delepine and Gustave Kervern)--When a French factory is abruptly closed by its corrupt management, a group of disgruntled female workers pool their paltry compensation money and hire a hit man to knock off the corrupt executive behind the closure. Cast: Yolande Moreau, Bouli Lanners. North American Premiere

Lulu and Jim (Lulu und Jimi)/Germany (Director: Oskar Roehler)--Bright garish colors, rock and roll and wild dance numbers mark this road movie about lovers fleeing from the evil powers of a 1950s deeply bigoted German society. Cast: Jennifer Decker, Ray Fearon, Katrin SaB, Rolf Zacher, Udo Kier. World Premiere

The Maid (La Nana) / Chile (Director and Screenwriter: Sebastian Silva)--When her mistress brings on another servant to help with the chores, a bitter and introverted maid wreaks havoc on the household. Cast: Catalina Saavedra, Claudia Celedon, Mariana Loyola, Alejandro Goic, Andrea Garcia-Huidobro. North American Premiere

One Day in a Life (Un Altro Pianeta) / Italy (Director and Screenwriter: Stefano Tummolini)-- One languid summer day, a man heads to the beach in search of sunshine and bit of peace, but finds himself tangled up in the dramas of an eclectic group of nearby sunbathers. Cast: Antonio Merone, Lucia Mascino. World Premiere

Unmade Beds / UK (Director and Screenwriter: Alexis Dos Santos)--Two young foreigners find romance in the vibrant, artistic underground of London's East End. Cast: Deborah Francois, Fernando Tielve. World Premiere

Victoria Day/Canada (Director and Screenwriter: David Bezmozgis)--Over the course of one week in 1988, the search for a missing teammate, parental expectations, a burgeoning sexual awakening and the rock concert of the century all threaten to jolt a sixteen year old into adulthood. Cast: Mark Rendall, Sergiy Kotelenets, Nataliya Alyexeyenko, Holly Deveaux, John Mavrogiannis. World Premiere

Zion and His Brother (Zion Ve-Achiv) / France / Israel (Director and Screenwriter: Eran Merav) The disappearance of a young boy sends a wedge between two teenage brothers whose loyalty had been unshakeable, in this gritty story of a working class Tel Aviv single-parent family. Cast: Reuven Badalov, Ronit Elkabetz, Tzahi Grad. World Premiere


Prop 8 - The Musical


With an all-star cast including Jack Black (as Jesus Christ), Neil Patrick Harris, John C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph, Rashida Jones, Jennifer Lewis and Margaret Cho, amongst others, Prop 8 — The Musical harmoniously chronicles how California came to pass its gay marriage ban, what it could mean for the rest of us, and how overturning Prop 8 could actually benefit the economy.

Not sure it'll change many minds, but it's still very much a worthwhile, humorous effort on the entire team's part. And regardless of your stance on Prop 8, I think you'll agree :o)

Film Finds - "A Man Named Pearl"


Syndicated critic Kam Williams
writes of A Man Named Pearl,

This moving story of rejection-turned-acceptance is a touching bio-pic about a humble soul who encountered entrenched racism and responded with goodwill towards all. A life-affirming documentary illustrating how a black man’s green thumb proved to be the best revenge for white intolerance.

Currently enjoying a very limited theatrical release, the film is also available on DVD.

Learn more about the festival award-winning, well reviewed,
A Man Named Pearl, including screening engagements across the country -

Certainly intrigues... here's the trailer:


FINALLY! A proper trailer for Steven Soderbergh's grueling 4-hour epic bio-pic, Che, starring Benicio del Toro as the titular character, has been unleashed - specifically for American audiences.

It's about time - considering that IFC is planning a December 12th special roadshow presentation in NY and LA, and a limited theatrical release on January 9th, which will see the film split into 2, two-hour films.

I've heard nothing but good things about the film, and it's been on my list of "must-sees" for 2008, since the Cannes Film Festival screening earlier this year. Both Soderbergh and del Toro are expected to pick up a few awards between now and next spring for their work on the film, or at least be nominated.

I'm hoping to get tickets for the December 12th NYC presentation.

Here's the trailer:

Independent Spirit Awards Nominees

The Independent Spirit Award nominees were just announced.

Of note, Lance Hammer's Ballast was nominated for Best Feature, and Barry Jenkins' Medicine For Melancholy was nominated for Best First Feature.

Both Hammer and Jenkins are also Best Director nominees.

Steve McQueen's Hunger is a nominee in the Best Foreign Film category.

And Sean Baker's Prince Of Broadway is up for the John Cassavetes Award, for best feature made for under $500,000.

The Independent Spirit Awards ceremony is currently in its 23rd year, and the event will take place on February 21, 2009, in Santa Monica, CA.

The entire list of nominees follows below. One thing that irks me about it is the number of studio financed, produced, and/or distributed films on the list - after all, the event is called the Independent Spirit Awards.

I suppose "independent spirit" could have several interpretations. But, when I think about what the phrase means to me, films like The Wrestler, Synecdoche NY, Rachel Getting Married, Vicky Christina Barcelona, and Milk don't quite register, for obvious reasons. I'd much rather see truly independently films, minus "name" actors/actresses assuming roles, especially starring roles. And films like the 5 I just mentioned, don't meet one or both criteria.


Frozen River
Rachel Getting Married
Wendy and Lucy
The Wrestler


Medicine for Melancholy
Sangre De Mi Sangre
Sleep Dealer
Synecdoche, New York


Ramin Bahrani - Chop Shop
Jonathan Demme - Rachel Getting Married
Lance Hammer - Ballast
Courtney Hunt - Frozen River
Tom McCarthy - The Visitor


Javier Bardem - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Richard Jenkins - The Visitor
Sean Penn - Milk
Jeremy Renner - The Hurt Locker
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler


Summer Bishil - Towelhead
Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Melissa Leo - Frozen River
Tarra Riggs - Ballast
Michelle Williams - Wendy and Lucy


James Franco - Milk
Anthony Mackie - The Hurt Locker
Charlie McDermott - Frozen River
JimMyron Ross - Ballast
Haaz Sleiman - The Visitor


Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Rosemarie DeWitt - Rachel Getting Married
Rosie Perez - The Take
Misty Upham - Frozen River
Debra Winger - Rachel Getting Married


Woody Allen - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck - Sugar
Charlie Kaufman - Synecdoche, New York
Howard A. Rodman - Savage Grace
Christopher Zalla - Sangre De Mi Sangre


Maryse Alberti - The Wrestler
Lol Crawley - Ballast
James Laxton - Medicine for Melancholy
Harris Savides - Milk
Michael Simmonds - Chop Shop


The Betrayal
Encounters at the End of the World
Man on Wire
The Order of Myths
Up the Yangtze


The Class (France)
Gomorra (Italy)
Hunger (U.K./Ireland)
Secret of the Grain (France)
Silent Light (Mexico/France/Netherlands/Germany)

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD (Given to the best feature made for under $500,000; award given to the writer, director, and producer)

Prince of Broadway (Sean Baker, Darren Dean)
Take Out (Sean Baker, Shih-Ching Tsou)
The Signal (David Bruckner, Dan Bush, Jacob Gentry, Alexander Motlagh)
Turn the River (Chris Eigeman, Ami Armstrong)
In Search of a Midnight Kiss (Alex Holdridge, Seth Caplan, Scoot McNairy)

For more on the Independent Spirit Awards, and information on how to become a member, visit For those who really love discovering great independent film and previously unseen talent, it is a great organization to be a part of.

White Dog

white dog

Never heard of it, and thus never seen it.

I happened across it as I perused the GreenCine blog, and after reading up on the film, I'm intent on screening it.

The 1982 film is called White Dog, and is described as a "misunderstood, throat-grabbing exposé on American racism." It was written and directed by Samuel Fuller, a name that I'm not at all familiar with. A glance over his IMDB resume revealed a long list of films (none I immediately recognized), dating back to the late 1930s, through the 1990s, until his death in 1997.

Apparently, the film was little-seen, because it was so controversial that it was suppressed by Paramount studio executives, and was never released theatrically in the U.S.

In it, Julie Sawyer (Kristy McNichol) runs over a wandering white dog with her car one night, takes the dog home and then nurses it back to health. Some days later, the mild-mannered dog saves her life by viciously attacking and killing a rapist who breaks into her home. Julie then discovers that the dog has been trained to attack black skin. She consults an animal trainer who urges her to have the dog exterminated. But a maverick African American dog trainer, Keys, played by the late Paul Winfield, who has tried before to break the training of such dogs but never succeeded, steps in to undo the damage that's been done, essentially reprogramming/re-socializing the animal.

Samuel Fuller is said to have been quite the controversial auteur, but this one frightened studio executives so much that they opted to nix it altogether; although it was hailed by critics when it was released in Europe.

Now, the folks at Criterion Collection have re-packaged and re-released the 1982 film on DVD (out today) for new audiences to experience for themselves.

Dennis Lim of the L.A. Times wrote a sound review of the film a couple of days ago, in which he states,

White Dog" came with an intriguing pedigree. It was based on the 1970 book by Romain Gary, a semi-autobiographical novel in which the French author and his wife, actress Jean Seberg, encounter a stray dog that has apparently been programmed to attack black people on sight. Gary's book evolves into a wide-ranging meditation on race relations in this country, drawing on the queasy mood of late-'60s, newly post-civil-rights America and explicitly discussing Seberg's involvement with the Black Panthers.


"White Dog" ranks among the toughest and most probing examinations of racism in American cinema. Fuller's brute-force direction gives this outrageous allegory the hyperbolic treatment it demands.

I'm certainly curious, and I always love being introduced to filmmakers I'd previously never heard of, or even dismissed. You can find it on Amazon, if interested.

Here's a trailer I found on YouTube:

Detective Gabrielle Union

Gabrielle Union

Interestingly, I've always felt that she was better suited for television than the theatrical screen. Why? I'm not quite sure... I'll have to think about it. She just seems to have more of a "I work in television" air about herself, than a "I'm a movie star" presence.

But working with a former X-Files writer/producer could produce worthwhile results. We'll see...

The story goes...
Gabrielle Union and X-Files writer/producer Frank Spotnitz are reteaming to develop a new series for NBC.

The duo, who worked together on ABC's short-lived Night Stalker uring the 2005-2006 TV season, is developing a procedural for the Peacock, according to Variety.

Spontitz will write the show, and Union
will star as a detective who must race to save someone's life before it's too late.

The project is a collaboration by Union and Spotnitz and will be produced by Universal Media Studios.

I suppose after appearing in horrendous films like Meet Dave, she's asserting more control over her career.

Jeffrey Wright Talks "Cadillac Records"

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've grown weary of historical black dramas, as they seem to have dominated black cinema in recent years. I'm anxious for more contemporary stories about black people. We do exist today as well, in all our varied forms and complexities, and our films simply don't reflect that fact.

However, I will see Cadillac Records when it opens this weekend. I'm not particularly enthused about it, but, in my line of work, as a blogger and podcaster on the subject of black cinema, I feel obligated to see as many films that fall under that umbrella as possible - the best, worst, and everything else between.

Where exactly in that range Cadillac Records will register will be determined after I sit through it some time this weekend, and I'll certainly share my thoughts on the film here, as well as on my weekly podcast.

If I had to pick one aspect of the film that could be considered somewhat of a draw, it would be Jeffrey Wright's presence; he's certainly one of the most talented, committed and versatile actors working today, and I will almost always sit up and pay attention whenever I hear that his name has been attached to something.

Too bad he's entirely wasted in the last 2 incarnations of the James Bond series with Danielle Craig. I'll assume he picked up a tidy sum of cash for the thankless role he plays in each installment, because his talents could be better exploited elsewhere.

Wilson Morales at the Black Voices blog interviewed Wright about his role in Cadillac Records, amongst other items, which you can read in its entirety here: Jeffrey Wright Talks 'Cadillac Records'.

In it, Wright talks about his upcoming projects - all stage work, interestingly, not film.

The REAL Great Debaters

The Real Great Debaters

I did see the Denzel Washington-directed and Oprah Winfrey produced film earlier this year, and, mostly enjoyed it. Although, I went in with lowered expectations, and was prepared to dislike it.

I've grown weary of mawkish historical black dramas which seem to dominate black cinema, especially in recent years, so I went into this one not quite kicking and screaming, but certainly not bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and I walked out of the theatre mostly pleased.

The story wasn't one that I was wholly familiar with before seeing the movie, which, naturally, prompted me to do some research of my own.

And finding out that the film I saw was essentially a watered down, sensationalized version of quite a compelling real-life drama left me feeling like I had been suckered by the film and the filmmakers.

Yes, I understand that in this industry, filling seats is what matters most to those spending the money to get these films produced and distributed; however, don't do so at your audience's expense, or, maybe even worse, mislead them with half-truths. Give them the entire picture, not just a fragment of it - especially one that's manipulated for effect.

Given that many likely will never take the initiative to do their own research on the characters and predicament that the film is based on, and will rely entirely on the movie they saw to inform themselves on the subject, I think the filmmakers had an obligation to present each character and story in a manner that's faithful to the real-life characters and story - and not a fictive rendition, whether in part, or whole.

Now available on DVD is the documentary
The Real Great Debaters of Wiley College, a fascinating documentary which, as African American film critic Kam Williams states, "doesn’t merely correct the record, but amplifies that priceless legacy by sharing a cornucopia of rich details about Tolson and his talented young protégés, Hobart Jarrett, Hamilton Boswell, Rudolph Henry Heights, James Farrmer, Jr., and Henrietta B. Wells."

The DVD features archival footage, newspaper accounts and the recollections of friends, family and luminaries, all combined to paint a rich picture of the complete lives of Tolson and his team and, their amazing accomplishment.

I suggest you
pick it up if you haven't already.

Book Recommendation - "Slave Cinema"

Author and filmmaker Andre Seewood sent me a copy of his book titled,
Slave Cinema: The Crisis of the African-American in Film.

I received it in the mail yesterday, so I haven't read much of it yet, although I have gone through it sporadically since then. And, much of what I've seen thus far has been intriguing enough to make me anxious to read the rest of it, which I hope to do by the end of this week.

If I do, I'll certainly talk about it at length during next Monday night's podcast recording, and will try to get Andre Seewood as a guest to talk about the book.

From Amazon:

Using a rich compendium of evidence and a provocative perspective, SLAVE CINEMA takes a thorough and uncompromising look at African-American cinema, African-American social identity and the American film industry. This book addresses the specific artistic, ideological and moral challenges that face every African-American filmmaker. It is broken into three main parts: Slave Cinema part 1: The Crisis of African-American Independent Cinema. Slave Cinema part 2: Five Assumptions of Race that Shackle African-Americans in Film. Slave Cinema part 3: Five Errors that Constrict African-American Cinematic Style.

In the meantime, if you're so inclined, check out Andre's book which is available on right now for a paltry $20, and arm yourself with knowledge!