Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

FILM REVIEW - Synecdoche, New York

I saw Synecdoche, New York earlier today, and, frankly, I'm not quite sure what to make of it.

This is the way it usually works: the artist has a vision; he/she creates from that vision, presents their creation to the world, and the world consumes, and digests it all, hoping to have gained something from the experience.

I would love to sit down with Charlie Kaufman and ask him the question that I'm sure was on the minds of many after watching his latest obfuscatory piece of work: "what the heck was that all about Charlie?"

The smart answer he could give would be, "well, Tambay, what do you think it was about?"

And then I'd probably get frustrated with him and smash him in his goddamn face like William Buckley Jr would :o)

But in all seriousness - this was a tough pill to swallow. I could give you a broad idea of what it's about; however, don't ask me about specific moments, because there were a few that left me perplexed; and even after thinking about them some more, I'm still not so sure what they all meant.

Charlie Kaufman must not be the happiest fellow around. All one has to do is take a look at his entire oeuvre; it's safe to infer that he's quite the dour one. Or, maybe he's exactly the opposite, and his work is all pure fantasy, and not at all reflective of who the man is.

I should make it clear that I actually love most of his films - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of my all-time favorites. It's one of those films that, as a filmmaker, I wish I had created. So, I'm in no way putting the man down in this post.

I don't think I'm going out on a limb when I say that he is someone who must constantly live in his head, as just about every film he has written, involves the mind, and how it negotiates reality and fantasy.

Synecdoche, New York is no different. However, this has to be one of his least interesting films - maybe the worst of them all. Although, Charlie Kaufman's worst is far superior to the best of many others, who shall remain nameless... for now. One has to applaud his gusto! The man takes risks, and makes no apologies for them, and Synecdoche, New York is probably his least accessible film, and biggest risk to date - partly because he not only wrote the screenplay, but he also directed the film - his first attempt in the director's chair.

Broadly speaking, it's a film about death, and the fear of it. Or, you could also say that it's about life and living, and one person's desire to do something memorable and affecting before his clock stops ticking (hey, that rhymes)!

It's no accident that the film centers on a theatre director (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), and his attempts to stage a grand production of the mundane. The Shakespearean phrase, all the world's a stage, immediately comes to mind; Hoffman's character is essentially directing his life - as if he's not fully participating in it, but rather watching it unfold from the outside, as it takes on a life of its own.

It left me feeling depressed! I was already emotionally occupied before going into the theatre to see the film, and I felt even worse after I'd seen it.

But, maybe that's a good thing. Maybe it served its purpose.

The film touches on subjects we don't like to discuss (until we are faced with one of them, whether directly or indirectly), even though they are all very real, and should be fully acknowledged and reckoned with.

Who wants to talk about death? Or the meaning of life? Those kinds of existential conversations only reaffirm our limits as human beings, the somewhat fatalistic nature of life, and what awaits us in the end. How depressing, right?

Well, not really. These are things that I think about daily, and don't understand how anyone couldn't. But maybe that's my problem... if I wasn't so consumed, I could be a regular VIP on P Diddy's annual White Party guest list...

... Or something...

I'm sure Charlie Kaufman knows exactly what he wants us to get from the film - at least, I'd like to think so. I've never been a David Lynch fan, even though I've seen nearly all of his films. If I could slap a label on Synecdoche, I would call it "David Lynch lite." Not that Lynch has a monopoly on unorthodox narratives flushed with surreal, nightmarish and dreamlike images. But, he's likely the most recognizable name working within those boundaries.

There is a narrative, certainly. However, I stopped paying attention to it about an hour into its 2-hour running time, and instead found myself trying to make sense of each and every moment, like pieces to a puzzle, but forgetting about the entire puzzle altogether, once I felt that I had a good grasp on what the grand picture meant. So, it feels rather pointless to dissect it as I would, with any other review.

At just over 2 hours, it felt unnecessarily long, and could have packed more of an emotional punch if it were 30 minutes shorter. Spike Jonze who directed Kaufman's first feature screenplay, Being John Malkovich, was original supposed to direct Synecdoche as well, but he opted out to direct Where The Wild Things Are instead. Thus, we will never know what could have been, because I think the screenplay for Synecdoche would have been better handled in the experienced hands of Jonze, instead of Kaufman's.

It's a film you just have to experience firsthand. And once you do, I'd be interested in hearing all your thoughts!

If I had to rate it, using the star system, I would give it 3 stars out of 5 - if only for the effort.

This was probably the first "non-review" review of a film I've ever given. But, the film deserves it... if that makes any sense :o)

Go see it!

TRAILER - Madea Goes To Jail

Get ready for yet another uplifting message of hope and glory, packaged in a 6ft 6inch man dressed in drag... I present to you the full trailer for Tyler Perry's next gospel, Madea Goes To Jail.

Little Rudy Huxtable is all grown up, isn't she?

The film hits theatres, February 20th, 2009.


Katrina's Hidden Race War


It was great!” said one vigilante. “It was like pheasant season in South Dakota. If it moved, you shot it.”

First the video:

And here are the notes from Color Of Change:

A new report in The Nation documents what many have claimed for years - for some Black New Orleanians the threat of being killed by White vigilantes in Katrina’s aftermath became a bigger threat than the storm itself.

After the storm, White vigilantes roamed Algiers Point shooting and, according to their own accounts, killing Black men at will – with no threat of a police response. For the last three years, the shootings and the police force’s role in them have been an open secret to many New Orleanians. To date, no one has been charged with a crime and law enforcement officials have refused to investigate.


Join us in calling on Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, and the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a full investigation of these crimes and any police cover-up.

In the two weeks after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, the media created a climate of fear with trumped-up stories of Black lawlessness. Meanwhile, an armed group of White vigilantes took over the Algiers Point neighborhood in New Orleans and mercilessly hunted down Black people.

“It was great!” said one vigilante. “It was like pheasant season in South Dakota. If it moved, you shot it.”

The Nation’s article tells the story of Donnell Herrington, Marcel Alexander, and Chris Collins — a group of friends who were attacked by shotgun-wielding White men as they entered Algiers Point on September 1, 2005. As they tried to escape, Herrington recalls, their attackers shouted, “Get him! Get that nigger!” He managed to get away. Alexander and Collins were told that they would be allowed to live on the condition that they told other Black folks not to come to Algiers Point. Herrington, shot in the neck, barely survived.


Then there’s the story of White militiamen who tried to drive their Black neighbors from their homes. Reggie Bell, who lived just two blocks down the street from the vigilantes’ ringleader, was told at gunpoint, “We don’t want you around here. You loot, we shoot.” Later, another group of armed White men confronted him at his home, asking, “Whatcha still doing around here? We don’t want you around here. You gotta go.”

These are only a few of the stories of Black folks who were accosted in Algiers Point, and you can read more in The Nation... Journalists have encountered a wall of silence on the part of the authorities. The coroner had to be sued to turn over autopsy records. When he finally complied, the records were incomplete, with files on several suspicious deaths suddenly empty. The New Orleans police and the District Attorney repeatedly refused to talk to journalists about Algiers Point. And according to journalist A.C. Thompson, “the city has in nearly every case refused to investigate or prosecute people for assaults and murders committed in the wake of the storm.”


Please join us in calling on state and federal officials to investigate these brutal attacks and the conduct of Orleans Parish law enforcement agencies, and please ask your friends and family to do the same.

I'd like to think that I'm well-informed, especially on such matters, given how much reading I do everyday, on and offline; yet, in the 3 years since Hurricane Katrina dissipated, I've never heard any of these stories. Now I know... and now you know as well, if you didn't know before.


Watch Me Explode... On Camera!

Ok... so I'm not really exploding, but I look like I'm about to in this clip below from
Sujewa Ekanayake's documentary, Indie Film Blogger Road Trip - a project I previously mentioned, which was produced over the summer.

In the feature-length documentary, Sujewa, the self-described "Brooklyn based, ultra-indie/low-budget/superdelicious filmmaker, who generally rocks," interviews a cadre of people who blog about independent movies, the film scene/industry, and related matters. And the result is a medley of diverse and interesting portraits of each subject, as well as a revealing report on the varied states of both the independent and mainstream movie industries, as seen through the lenses of each blogger interviewed.

I certainly learned something. And I think you will too... after you see it!

To whet your appetites, Sujewa unveiled the first 9 minutes of the documentary, on his website, which I've included below. In it, we see: Anthony Kaufman talk about the moment when he knew he would "make it" as a professional film journalist; we see Sujewa himself introduce the documentary; and lastly, you see my recorded segment, as I speak about the blogging community that I've become a part of, and how blogging has helped me as both a blogger and a filmmaker.

The full 95-minute documentary will be available at screenings and on DVD in 2009. For more information and news about the project visit:

And now, watch me almost explode in all my nervousness :o):

WEEKEND - Black Faces At The Movies, 12/19

So, who will be appearing in what, in the new batch of films opening this weekend?

Of course, as I'm sure you've heard, there's a little movie called Seven Pounds opening today, with Will Smith starring. But there are others in the film of note - Michael Ealy plays Will's character's younger bro; Connor Cruise (Tom Cruise's adopted African American son) plays Will Smith as a boy, and Robinne Lee of Hav Plenty fame also shares screen time.

Opening in limited release is a political thriller called Nothing But The Truth (what a useless name), about a Washington, DC political journalist, played by Kate Beckinsale, who writes an explosive story about a government scandal in which she reveals the name of a covert CIA agent; and when a government prosecutor demands she divulge her source, she refuses and finds herself behind bars, "struggling to defend the principles she has based her career upon."

Altogether now... OOooooooooh!

Well. not really.

Anyway. The film co-stars Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance, who, by the way, are married in real life.

And... that's all folks! Slim pickings...

Check your local listings for venues and screening times.

I plan on seeing both Seven Pounds and Mickey Rourke's so-called comeback film, The Wrestler, some time this weekend. Reviews will, of course, follow.

PICS - Halle Berry On Location (Part 2)


I'm sure you all saw the first batch of pics of Ms Berry on location in Vancouver, BC, shooting Frankie And Alice, her first production since given birth. I posted those a couple of days ago, and you can see them HERE.

Now, more pics have surfaced online, and these are scary! She really seems to be going all out for this one, doesn't she? Is that the Academy Awards I hear calling?

As we saw in the first set of pics, she'll be showing mucho skin, including some boobage.

Now we get these... (Click to enlarge)


Related posts: PICS - Halle Berry On Location

DVD Spotlight - Kirikou And The Sorceress

I just received my copy of the special edition, 2-disc DVD package of the award winning, 1998 animated feature,
Kirikou And The Sorceress, and I'm ecstatic (as Mike Tyson used to say).

If you haven't heard of, nor seen this film, you should do so pronto! And if you're thinking of purchasing it, may I suggest you do as I did, and get the special edition, which is actually not easily found.

Based on West African folklore, this fanciful, animated feature from French artist and director Michel Ocelot is based on a popular West African folklore. It's the story of a remarkable baby boy, the titular Kirikou, who is born with the ability to speak, amazing intelligence, resourcefulness, and incredible physical abilities.

After learning that his parents' village is being threatened by a sorceress with a taste for human flesh, Kirikou takes on the burden of village hero, and goes on a journey of discovery, encountering friends and foes along the way, including a monster who can drain waterfalls and lakes with his enormous thirst, and a wise man living on a magic mountain - all with the end goal of defeating the sorceress, Karaba, and undoing the deadly curses she placed on his village.

The film, by the way, features an extraordinary original musical score by Senegalese music icon Youssou N'Dour.

Easily one of the most enchanting animated features I've seen in awhile.

If you appreciated films like the Lord of The Rings trilogy, you'll like this one as well.

With the 2-disc special edition, you'll enjoy a second animated feature film by Michel Ocelot, titled Princes and Princesses.

I couldn't find a proper trailer for Kirikou, so the below clip will have to do. The film is in French, with several subtitle options, including English, of course.

PHILANTHROPY - Will And Jada Pinkett-Smith

Interesting seeing where the bulk of their donations have gone - mostly religious organizations (church ministries and such). That tells us a bit about them - most obviously that they are devoted Christians, and definitely interested in Scientology.

Of the $1.3 million in donations their foundation gave in the last year, at least 50% went to religious groups, including half a million dollars to 2 different Christian ministries, $122,500 to the church of Scientology, and another several thousand to a Los Angeles mosque, amongst others...

I've always wonder where all that money goes... what do the churches who receive such large sums of money do with all that money? Could there be some better use for the money - maybe more deserving recipients?

Questions... questions...

At least, they are giving, right?

Courtesy of EURWeb:

Will and Jada Pinkett Smith have deep pockets when it comes to charities. Tax returns for their foundation show the couple gave $1.3 million in donations last year to a variety of religious, civic and arts groups, reports Fox411's Roger Friedman.

The columnist wrote Wednesday: Smith’s biggest single contribution was, as usual, Yesha Ministries of Philadelphia. He gave the born-again Christian based organization run by Reverend James Robinson a whopping $250,000. That’s a hefty raise from the $140,000 he gave them the previous year. Another $200,000 went to a Christian ministry outside Los Angeles called Living Waters.

He also gave a combined $122,500 to the Church of Scientology, broken into these donations: $67,500 to the New York Rescue Workers Detoxication Fund, $50,000 to the group’s Celebrity Center in Hollywood and $5,000 to ABLE, another Scientology offshoot. Smith and his wife have also supported a private school called New Village Academy they opened this fall in suburban Los Angeles that uses Scientology learning concepts.

The star of movies like “Hancock,” “I Am Legend,” and the upcoming “Seven Pounds” also donated thousands of dollars to a Los Angeles mosque, other Christian-based schools and churches, and to the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Center in Israel. And though Smith is not featured in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” he also sent $25,000 to the Progeria Research Foundation. Progeria is a disease that causes rapid aging.

Quite a diverse group of recipients.

I'll be seeing Seven Pounds this weekend. Full review after...


Good Friday Morning!

A trailer for my first feature-length film, which I made and self-distributed in 2005.

You can find it on

IFC Extends "Che" Roadshow Into January

IFC Extends
Che Roadshow Into January

My review of the film can be heard HERE.

Touting the continued success of the week-long "roadshow" screenings of Steven Soderbergh's "Che" in New York and Los Angeles, IFC Films has announced return engagements of the two-part roadshow at theaters in both cities, re-opening it next week and continuing the event through early January. The film, which earned more than $100,000 on two screens this week, selling out all of its Los Angeles screenings. It will re-open on December 24th at the IFC Center in New York and on December 26th at the Nuart in Los Angeles, with Soderbergh planning to do Q & A's in conjunction with the roadshow showings. "Che" will then debut theatrically as two separate films on January 9th in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and on cable video-on-demand on January 21st. By January 23rd, the film will be on screen in the top 25 markets, according to IFC's Mark Boxer.

via indieWIRE

TRAILER - Obsessed (Beyonce, Idris Elba)

I posted an entry about this film last week (you can read it HERE). I was somewhat hopeful then about its potential. But after seeing its new trailer below, I'm much less hopeful.

This looks incredibly silly and likely should go straight to home video.

I'll pass!

The film hits theatres next spring.

HULU PICK - Amos 'n' Andy: Anatomy of a Controversy

Just stumbled across the documentary below on Hulu this afternoon. It's an hour-long piece on the once popular, yet highly controversial radio and eventual TV series on CBS, Amos 'n' Andy, which I'm sure we've all heard of.

CBS eventually took the series off the air in 1953 due to fervent protests from civil rights groups at the time; although it continued in syndicated reruns from 1954 until 1966.

In this 1978, a one-hour documentary, titled, Amos 'n' Andy: Anatomy of a Controversy, we are given a history of the franchise, from its radio days, to the CBS series, and features interviews with then-surviving cast members. The who, what, where, when, how and why of it all... It could be much more extensive and thorough, but it's a start.

Watch it now:

Movie Posters - 1970s

This was released in 1973 - the year I was born. I guess I missed it.

What's it all about?

From co-star Roy Thinnes' mouth, it's...
... a two-character film about an African American Union soldier who gets into a scrape with a white lieutenant’s wife and has to run, escaping to the desert, where he finds a Native American who has survived out there alone, with his pet chicken. The chicken's name is Charlie One-Eye - it's literally a chicken with one eye. The African American soldier realizes that the only way he can survive is by hooking up with the Indian, because he knows how to live in the desert wilderness, away from civilization. And he knows he’s being hunted. It's a humorous character-driven relationship movie.
Hmmm... curious... I'd check it out! Although, I wonder what role Charley One-Eye the chicken plays in the whole thing :o) I like the tag lines though...


August Wilson - "I Want A Black Director!"

The following essay by the late African American Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, August Wilson, was first published in Spin Magazine, October 1990, and was later reprinted as a New York Times op-ed piece.

Consider it another item to throw into my ongoing deconstruction of the category we call "black cinema."

As I come across worthwhile essays/articles that broach the subject, I'll post them here for you all to ingest and digest... what you do after that is entirely up to you. However, I'd love to hear your thoughts after you read it all.

I Want A Black Director!

"I don't want to hire nobody just 'cause they're black." Eddie Murphy said that to me. We were discussing the possibility of Paramount Pictures purchasing the rights to my play "Fences." I said I wanted a black director for the film. My response [to his remark] was immediate. "Neither do I," I said.

What Mr. Murphy meant I am not sure. I meant I wanted to hire somebody talented, who understood the play and saw the possibilities of the film, who would approach my work with the same amount of passion and measure of respect with which I approach it, and who shared the cultural responsibilities of the characters.

That was more than three years ago. I have not talked to Mr. Murphy about the subject since. Paramount did purchase rights to make the film in 1987. What I thought of as a straightforward, logical request has been greeted by blank, vacant stares and the pious shaking of heads as if in response to my unfortunate naiveté.

I usually have had to repeat my request, "I want a black director," as though it were a complex statement in a foreign tongue. I have often heard the same response: "We don't want to hire anyone just because they are black." What is being implied is that the only qualification any black has is the color of his skin.

In the film industry, the prevailing attitude is that a black director couldn't do the job, and to insist upon one is to make the film "unmakeable," partly because no one is going to turn a budget of $15 million over to a black director. That this is routinely done for novice white directors is beside the point.

The ideas of ability and qualification are not new to blacks. The skills of black lawyers, doctors, dentists, accountants and mechanics are often greeted with skepticism, even from other blacks. "Man, you sure you know what you doing?"

At the time of my last meeting with Paramount, in January 1990, a well-known, highly respected white director wanted very much to direct the film. I don't know his work, but he is universally praised for sensitive and intelligent direction. I accept that he is a very fine film director. But he is not black. He is not a product of black American culture-a culture that was honed out of the black experience and fired in the kiln of slavery and survival - and he does not share the sensibilities of black Americans.

I have been asked if I am not, by rejecting him on the basis of his race, doing the same thing Paramount is doing by not hiring a black director. That is a fair, if shortsighted, question which deserves a response.

I am not carrying a banner for black directors. I think they should carry their own. I am not trying to get work for black directors. I am trying to get the film of my play made in the best possible way.

As Americans of various races, we share a broad cultural ground, a commonality of society that links its diverse elements into a cohesive whole that can be defined as "American."

We share certain mythologies. A history. We share political and economic systems and a rapidly developing, if suspect, ethos. Within these commonalities are specifics. Specific ideas and attitudes that are not shared on the common cultural ground. These remain the property and possession of the people who develop them, and on that "field of manners and rituals of intercourse" (to use James Baldwin's eloquent phrase) lives are played out.

At the point where they intercept and link to the broad commonality of American culture, they influence how that culture is shared and to what purpose.

White American society is made up of various European ethnic groups which share a common history and sensibility. Black Americans are a racial group which do not share the same sensibilities. The specifics of our cultural history are very much different.

We are an African people who have been here since the early 17th century. We have a different way of responding to the world. We have different ideas about religion, different manners of social intercourse. We have different ideas about style, about language. We have different esthetics.

Someone who does not share the specifics of a culture remains an outsider, no matter how astute a student or how well-meaning their intentions.

I declined a white director not on the basis of race but on the basis of culture. White directors are not qualified for the job. The job requires someone who shares the specifics of the culture of black Americans.

Webster's "Third New International Dictionary" gives the following character definitions listed under black and white.

White: free from blemish, moral stain or impurity: outstandingly righteous; innocent; not marked by malignant influence; notably pleasing or auspicious; fortunate; notably ardent; decent; in a fair upright manner; a sterling man; etc.

Black: outrageously wicked; a villain; dishonorable; expressing or indicating disgrace, discredit or guilt; connected with the devil; expressing menace; sullen; hostile; unqualified; committing a violation of public regulation, illicit, illegal; affected by some undesirable condition; etc.

No wonder I had been greeted with incredulous looks when I suggested a black director for "Fences." I sat in the offices of Paramount suggesting that someone who was affected by an undesirable condition, who was a violator of public regulations, who was sullen, unqualified and marked by a malignant influence, direct the film.

While they were offering a sterling man, who was free from blemish, notably pleasing, fair and upright; decent and outstandingly righteous with a reputation to boot!

Despite such a linguistic environment, the culture of black Americans has emerged and defined itself in strong and effective vehicles that have become the flag-bearers for self-determination and self-identity.

In the face of such, those who are opposed to the ideas of a "foreign" culture permeating the ideal of an American culture founded on the icons of Europe seek to dilute and control it by setting themselves up as the assayers of its value and the custodians of its offspring.

Therein lies the crux of the matter as it relates to Paramount and the film "Fences" - whether we as blacks are going to have control over our own culture and its products.

Some Americans, black and white, do not see any value to black American lives that do not contribute to the leisure or profit of white America. Some Americans, black and white, would deny that a black American culture even exists. Some Americans, black and white, would say that by insisting on a black director for "Fences" I am doing irreparable harm to the efforts of black directors who have spent the last 15 years trying to get Hollywood to ignore the fact that they are black. The origins of such ideas are so very old and shallow that I am amazed to see them so vividly displayed in 1990.

What to do? Let's make a rule. Blacks don't direct Italian films. Italians don't direct Jewish films. Jews don't direct black American films. That might account for about 3 percent of the films that are made in this country. The other 97 percent - the action-adventure, horror, comedy, romance, suspense, western or any combination thereof, that the Hollywood and independent mills grind out - let it be every man for himself.

That's it!

Share your thoughts in the comment section...

INTERVIEW - Will Smith Talks To Newsweek

Ahead of this weekend's release of Seven Pounds, his 18th feature film in almost as many years, superstar Will Smith spoke to Allison Samuels for Newsweek magazine, a few days ago.

A notable quote from the session:

Samuels asks - Why doesn't Hollywood make more African-American love stories?

answers - Hollywood sees green as in dollars, and that's just the bottom line. You have to show them you can make money with your story no matter what color the characters are. Martin Scorsese has proven to Hollywood he can make Italian-American stories that bring in the money, and that's what Hollywood wants to hear. Every time an executive greenlights a film, he's putting his job and his future on the line. I don't think Hollywood is racist, but I do think they work with what they know. And since many of the top studios or people who greenlight features are not familiar with our stories, it's just much easier to go with what they know and not delve into what they don't. I think that's where my responsibility comes in as someone who can make a difference, because I can get my films made and choose the people I want in those films and the stories I want to tell. It really comes down to that. We have to tell our own stories, really.
And Will also stated that he and Tom Cruise are looking for some projects to work on together. That could be a coup - 2 superstars (although Tom's light is dimmer than it once was) starring in some, likely mega-budgeted, summer blockbuster... or, a buddy comedy.
Regardless, I'm sure their salaries alone would consume at least half the production budget.

Read the entire interview here: THE GOSPEL OF WILL SMITH

DVD Spotlight - The Great Silence: Rape In The Congo

HBO recently aired a documentary titled,
The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo - a shocking exposé of a decade-old epidemic of kidnapping, rape and torture of women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo, often carried out with impunity by gangs of armed militias, leaving survivors traumatized and isolated - shunned by society and their families, and suffering lifelong physical and psychological effects.

The doc was a Sundance 2008 entry and won the "Grand Jury Prize" for best documentary.

If you didn't catch the HBO broadcast, the film is now available on DVD via Women Make Movies, and I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy.

War has raged through the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for more than a decade - it has been called the deadliest worldwide conflict since World War II.

The United Nations estimates that 200,000 women and girls have been raped in the DRC during the last 10 years - some victims as young as three years old.

Armed groups use rape as a weapon of war to tear apart families, spread disease and weaken communities, and the women are often victimized doubly - first by their rapists; and secondly by spouses or family members who then find it dishonorable or socially unacceptable to associate with them.

Worldfocus recently reported on all this from eastern Congo:

PICS - Obama The College Years


Chance Encounter

In 1980, when President-Elect Barack Obama was a freshman at Occidental College in Los Angeles, he was approached by an aspiring photographer named Lisa Jack, who asked him if he would be willing to pose for some black and white photographs that she could use in her portfolio. I'll guess that Lisa Jack is one happy photographer today - probably a rich one too, after selling these pictures...

You can see all 12 photographs here: TIME

PICS - Halle Berry On Location

Didn't she recently have a baby?

The pics below (which probably won't stay online for very long) are of Ms Berry on location in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she's currently shooting her next film, titled Frankie And Alice (co-starring Chandra Wilson of Grey's Anatomy, and Phylicia Rashad) - a drama centered on a young woman with multiple personality disorder who struggles to remain her true self and not give in to her racist alter-personality.


I wonder which personality she is here - Frankie or Alice (click to enlarge):

Yes, that really is her breast showing.

The film is scheduled for a 2009 release. Not sure what month.

Yet another dramatic turn for Halle -
Things We Lost In The Fire being the last one, which I did see. She probably put on her strongest performance in that film. Although, it barely registered at the box office.


Tracy Morgan in "Coming To American Part 2"

Well, not really...

The gentleman on the left, also known as Tracy Morgan, has signed on to star in a new comedy feature called Freshman Roommates, a film revolving around the idea that those scam emails from supposed Nigerian princes and princesses, that have been flooding the web in recent years, might actually not be scams after all.

So when TJ Miller – best known as the deeply annoying Hud from this year's Cloverfield – answers one of those emails, but in a drunken stupor, he gets the shock of his life when, soon afterward, the spoiled son of a deposed African dictator (played by Tracy Morgan) shows up at his door, and moves in with him. And together, the two work to regain Morgan’s stolen inheritance.

The film is written by stand-up comedy veterans, Nick Kroll and John Mulaney. Mulaney worked with Morgan on Saturday Night Live.

No director is yet attached, but Paramount will sign the checks.

Sounds like Coming To America Part 2 - except, this time, Prince Akeem isn't in search of a bride; he's looking for his loot.

I actually like the idea; it hasn't been done yet. However, it's the execution that I'm worried about. And the team assembled for this, both in front and behind the camera, doesn't do anything to calm my fears.

I assume Morgan will put on an "African" accent (whatever the hell that is), sounding and looking like a buffoon... much like Eddie Murphy did in Coming To America.


Good Wednesday Morning!

Robo-Porn alert...!

Michael Sullivan has a thing for robots, sex and stop-motion animation. His ongoing film project, The Sex Life of Robots, shows animated bots practicing moves that seem to be ripped right out of a twisted, industrial Kama Sutra.

Movie Posters - 1970s

The Klansman
(not to be confused with The Clansman - the novel upon which D.W. Griffith's 1915 silent movie The Birth of a Nation was based) is a 1974 drama based on the book of the same name by William Bradford Huie. The film recounts what happens to an African American man in a small town in the south, after a young white woman (Linda Evans) is sexually assaulted and beaten. Events spiral out of control when a sniper shoots a Ku Klux Klan member at a funeral.

Despite the casting of major stars, the film was not well received. O.J. Simpson plays the role of a black militant. It seemed appropriate to post this, given his recent judicial system dealings. If I could think of 2 words to describe "The Juice," they certainly wouldn't be "black militant." :o)

Lola Falana also co-stars.

How about that tagline? "Red necks. White hoods. And raped black girls. OJ's grabbing a gun and going to war."

Riiiiiggght... going to jail is more like it.


Laurence Fishburne: Screw The Big Screen!

Well... he didn't actually say that, but his recently announced plans can be interpreted as such.

The story goes... Apparently joining the cast of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation isn't going to be the only small screen opportunity taken advantage of by star Laurence Fishburne.

Variety Magazine reports that Fish is aggressively looking to expand his TV production reach by signing a first-look deal with the CBS TV network to develop projects for the small screen.

Fishburne has tapped former TV One executive Rose Catherine Pinkney to oversee his television arm.

Previous TV projects produced by Fishburne include: HBO's Miss Evers' Boys and Always Outnumbered.

It certainly would be grand to see more black and brown faces on CBS. I can't immediately think of a single program on the network that features a non-Caucasian cast. The same could probably be said of every other major television network.


VIDEO - Steven Soderbergh At "Che" Screening, 12/12

Below is a clip of director Steven Soderbergh during one of the more explosive segments of the Q&A session that followed the 4 1/2-hour screening of Che - an event I attended, after which I was able to get a photo with Mr Soderbergh, which I posted yesterday.

I also shared my extended thoughts on the film during last night's podcast, which you can listen to HERE.


Whoopi Goldberg Plans Online Horror Series

It seems like not-so long ago, the only alternative performers had to starring in big screen feature-length movies was to head to television and star in a serial drama or comedy show.

Now, the Internet is becoming yet another alternative - a third option for actors, actresses and filmmakers to utilize their talents and express themselves.

It used to be just a playground for the "little guy," but it's quickly becoming a respectable companion to theatrical studio films and television productions, and numerous Hollywood-types are taking advantage.

Announced a couple of days ago, Whoopi Goldberg will executive produce and play the lead character in a new science-fiction miniseries called Stream, which will debut next month on the Internet.

The Oscar-winning actress and co-host of ABC's The View will star as Jodi, a woman trying to come to terms with her lifelong fears, reports Variety.

The series, airing in six five-minute weekly segments, will debut online at and on video-on-demand beginning Jan. 15.

This will be the sixth original series for FEARnet, which is a joint venture between Comcast, Sony Pictures Television and Lionsgate.


Good Tuesday Morning!


Yesterday, The Sartorialist posted the above photo on his website (if you're not familiar with the Sartorialist and his website, then this may not mean much to you, and I don't want to have to explain who he is or what he does, but you can find out on your own, I'm sure he has a Wikipedia Page)...

Anyway... so, he posted the above photo on his website, and the discussions that followed in the comments section since then have been quite intense and fun to read. So far, there are a total of 165 comments! Who would have thought that a single picture would cause such a stir... so much that Monsieur Le Sartorialist himself had to post a message this morning, essentially defending his reasons for posting the above photo...

For example, one dude said,
I'm a black man and I love your site, but I'm really tired of how 80 percent of the time you show a black guy it's of some "fashion don't" freaky guy or some weirdly dressed space pimp. Seriously. When you show a normal, very well dressed black man I'm almost shocked. The way a person edits usually tells you how they see the world. I can't tell you how to see the world, but at least realize that some of us can see that you have some different glasses on when it comes to non-white guys.

And another said,
I don't agree that 'we' have a problem with "diversity." This isn't about diversity. In each situation, you show something you appreciate. In most cases, you appreciate it because you like it. In this case, you appreciate it for the 'effort' and for the splash it makes on the street/web page. But, as said above, this, if not a "fashion don't" is certainly not a "do." A guy dressed like this is not going to be at your dinner party. If we're talking about "diversity," in my view, it doesn't include simple 'illustrations.' It's as if this fellow is here for comedic effect. Yes, i believe the words written here in response — that people 'appreciate' this man's love of fashion. But, i find it hard to believe that anyone here likes his choices or RESPECTS those choices.

This is like the upper west side folks going to Central Park and pausing for a moment to watch the 'urban' kids dancing for change. Clearly, it's different than the other examples.

Please, Sart - admit it. There's nothing in that image that you would wear. In the other examples, though, you choose people/clothes you actually ADMIRE.

The Sartorialist defends himself by stating,
The start of my style education was with those guys in The Time. Just because I never wore a Zoot Suit or Stacy Adams (I did have baggies - ask my sister, she might have pictures) doesn't mean that I wasn't heavily influenced by the concept. Again, and I hate to use the term, but it was a case of abstract inspiration.

These guys were all about style with a capital "S". Style for them was all about getting women, and as a teenage boy in Indianapolis that sounded pretty good to me. As a result, I never thought that fashion wasn't something most straight guys talked about. If I felt totally comfortable talking about clothes with my guy friends it's because it was so normal in the music I was listening to at the time. I'm sure that is a part of why I like Kanye now.

If you are embarrassed by the image I posted today or see no value (aesthetic or educational) then you really need to ask a few questions before you attack. This gentleman is as basic to my personal catalog of style as any old Italian gent that I have ever shot. I hold him no higher or lower on the style scale, he just is what he is and I accept it and delight in it.

I'd consider myself somewhat fashion conscious, but I've never been too keen on Stacy Adams. Crocs and baggies just aren't my thing... but I won't knock others for donning them though :o)

See the carnage and judge for yourself: ZOOT SUITS, MORRIS DAY AND HARLEM

Podcast #40 - Listener Mailbag; Reviews Of "Che", "Doubt", "Grand Torino"; Defining Black Film Cont'd...

Time: 12/15/2008 08:00 PM EST

TRT: 58 Minutes

Episode Notes:

1. Listener comments
2. Brandon Wilson ( and I reviewed Steven Soderbergh's 4 1/2-hour Che, Viola Davis, Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt, and Clint Eastwood's Grand Torino
3. Continuing Discussion on how to define "Black Cinema" - Your participation strongly encouraged!

Listen below, or subscribe and download for FREE via iTunes:

Pharrell Williams' "Zoom" - Coming Soon!

Preston Whitmore has been hired to write the screenplay for a film called Zoom, a music-themed drama being produced by N.E.R.D.'s Pharrell Williams, along with producer-extraordinaire, Brian Grazer.

Zoom follows a troubled West Virginian youth (I'm guessing he's black) who attends a music academy which allows him to find his voice and place in the world.

Yadi-yadi-yah... sounds a little familiar doesn't it? You can probably guess how this one goes.

Pharell is writing the score and soundtrack for the film (of course), as well as producing.

Whitmore previously wrote, produced and directed This Christmas last year (with Delroy Lindo, Chris Brown, Idris Elba and Loretta Divine) and a film called Crossover with Anthony Mackie before that.


Cool Movie Posters - 1960s

It's not the coolest poster, but the tagline at the top was worth the post... "A Story As Fresh As The Girls In Their Minis...?"


For obvious reasons (an authoritative-looking black man, with a bit of a smirk on his face, towering over superimposed images of frolicking "girls in their minis," who happen to be white) - I wonder how well this poster was received when it was released in 1967 - it was a British-made movie, but was released in the States. So, I'm not sure if it was made strictly for the Brits, who would likely have been more embracing of it, or if it was part of the American marketing package.

Good Monday Morning!

Watch the video below and get out there and inspire people!

So... I Went To A Screening of "Che" On Friday Night

... And all I got was this photo with Steven Soderbergh... :o)

Guess who's who?

Twice during the 5-hour screening event - the first time as we sat in the theatre, waiting for the film to begin; the second time during the 30-minute intermission - I was approached by 2 different people asking me if I was "that guy from TV On The Radio," the New York City experimental rock band. I don't think we look alike, other than the fact that we are both black, with full lips and noses, just like most black people I know :o) You be the judge:

I will review Che on Monday night's podcast...