Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

Good Saturday Morning!

A tribute to the 2008 year in movies... he missed a few; but most of the biggies are here:

FYI - Project Direct Finalists Announced!

This just in...

The judges have settled on 10 short films, out of several thousand submissions, for Project Direct, the annual short film competition brought to you by the Sundance Film Festival and YouTube.

What is Project Direct?

In a nutshell, filmmakers submit a 5-minute or less film that meets specific criteria, as provided by the competition's organizers.

This year, each film submitted had to somehow incorporate 3 items from a list of props.

The winning short film gets a special screening at the Sundance Film Festival this month, along with other prizes. Accolades are also awarded to the 2nd and 3rd place winners.

I wanted to participate, but found out about the contest with just 2 weeks before the December 14th submission deadline, and decided not to, given the limited amount of time I had available.

Today, I received an email announcing that the contest's judges have selected 10 films from all submissions, and they request that we all watch each film finalist, and vote for the piece we like most.

The film with the most votes wins the first place prize, and so on.

I watched all ten shorts, and can't say that there's any that I really love.

You can see all 10 of them for yourself here: YOUTUBE PROJECT DIRECT.

This below is one of the better of the bunch:


As I read the plot for the above film, I realized that there are very few sci-fi films with blacks in starring roles, or any prominent roles at all!

It also seems rare that Black filmmakers wrap their stories in sci-fi lore.

If I'm wrong about any of this, I'm sure someone will say so!

I think the sci-fi genre provides filmmakers with a world of opportunities to explore issues of race and diversity... something to consider as you begin writing your next opus.

The above film, The World, The Flesh and the Devil, is one that I've never seen, nor heard of. It reads mighty appealing as yet another take on the "last man on earth" scenario we've seen as the basis for many stories, both in print and on celluloid.

However, this one was made in 1959, and stars Harry Belafonte, in the prime of his career.

Reading the plot outline, similarities to several recent "last man" settings should be immediately obvious:

African-American Ralph Burton (Belafonte) becomes trapped for many days underground in a cave-in while inspecting a mine in Pennsylvania. Eventually, he digs his own way out. Reaching the surface, he finds a deserted world. Apparently everybody on Earth has been killed in a war.

Traveling to New York City in search of other survivors, he finds the city vacant. (Although the bridge into New York is jammed with abandoned cars, no bodies are ever seen.)

Ralph busies himself restoring power to a building where he takes up residence. He regularly broadcasts on the radio, listening for other people.

Just as the loneliness starts to become intolerable, he encounters a second survivor: Sarah Crandall (Inger Stevens), a white woman in her twenties.

They become fast friends, but Ralph grows distant when it becomes clear that Sarah is developing stronger feelings for him. Despite living in a post-apocalyptic world, he can't overcome the issue of race that pervaded society before the disaster.

Things become vastly more complicated when an ill Benson Thacker (Mel Ferrer), a white man, arrives by boat. Ralph and Sarah nurse him back to health, but once he recovers, the white man sets his sights on Sarah and sees Ralph as a rival.

Cue staccato dramatic score here!

I'm definitely intrigued!

I searched YouTube for a trailer, and instead found the entire freaking film, divided into 10 ten-minute blocks of time (it's a 95-minute film); so you can head over there and watch them all, in small-screen glory, or you can wait until it's available on DVD (I was surprised it wasn't already; I read that Warner Bros is working on one).

If anyone has seen this, do share your thoughts...

Here are the film's second 10-minutes:

CALENDAR - January 2009


I'm populating my calendar with notable film-related events for the month - specifically, cinema of the Diaspora.

If you know of something I'm not aware of that should be on my calendar, please do share.

I'll update as I learn of new events.

In theatres this month:

On the 9th, look for the second adaptation of a T.D. Jakes novel, titled, Not Easily Broken, starring Morris Chestnut and Taraji P Henson. A couple's love and faith are tested when the wife is injured in a car crash and the husband becomes attracted to another woman. Surprisingly, it's getting a wide release! Sony Pictures, the distributor, must have high box office hopes for it! Dill Duke directed it.

Also on the 9th, a "slimmed-down" version of Steven Sodebergh's 2-part Che Guevara bio-pic, simply titled Che, will see a limited release. I already saw the full 4 1/2 hour version, which I reviewed on The Obenson Report podcast.

The following week, on the 16th, the Biggie Smalls bio-pic, aptly titled Notorious, will be released in select cities by Fox Searchlight. Newcomer Jamal Woolard stars as the notorious one, aka Christopher Wallace, capturing both his life and death. George Tillman Jr of Babershop fame is director.

In limited release, on the 30th, is "Best Picture" Cannes winner, from French filmmaker Laurent Cantent, titled, The Class (or, Entre les murs). Based on an autobiographical novel, the film follows the year in the life of a French schoolteacher working at a high-school in a tough neighborhood of Paris. Ethnicities, cultures and attitudes clash in the classroom.

Also on the 30th, Barry Jenkins' feature debut, Medicine For Melancholy, which I'm sure you've all heard or read about, especially if you've been a reader of this blog, will open at IFC theatres in New York City. Not sure about the rest of the country.

And lastly, of course, from the 15th through the 25th, Park City, Utah will be the place to be for cinephiles like yourselves, as the 2009 Sundance Film Festival begins another year of film festival peaks and valleys. You can read my Sundance prep entries HERE and HERE.

Competing for press attention will be the Slamdance Film Festival, which takes place from the 15th to the 23rd, also in Park City, Utah! Read my Slamdance preview HERE.

That's all I've got! All of you hosting "microcinema" screening events this month (and in the future), feel free to send me info on your film and all other relevant facts, and I'll add to the calendar.

Happy 2009!


If you've been a reader of this blog in recent months, then I'm sure you're fully aware of a site called, where anyone with a computer and broadband Internet access can watch documentary films, both short-form and feature-length!

Yesterday, on SnagFilms, I watched the below documentary titled, Dreams on Spec, a film I think many of you screenwriters will appreciate.

Every year screenwriters across the globe finish tens of thousands of screenplays, but only a tiny percentage are produced as movies - whether for the theatrical or television screen.

Dreams on Spec takes an intimate look at how far some will go - and how much they will sacrifice - for the chance to pursue their screenwriting dreams. It delves into the lives of three aspiring Hollywood screenwriters, each with ever-evolving scripts, pitching their ideas to anyone with an ear, from one meeting to the next, all while working at low-level day-jobs, with the hope that someday, they will see one of their beloved creations produced as a film.

It's not going to blow your mind with its rawness and revelations, but it's worth a viewing.

Screenwriters, you're not alone in this :o)

Click below to watch it now!

Good Friday Morning!

Vacation's over! But unfortunately, I'm fighting a cold/cough! So far, I'm winning the battle. Wish me luck!

A reminder: This Monday, January 5th 2009, from 8PM to 9PM, Brandon Wilson and I will countdown our top 5 films of 2008, on The Obenson Report Podcast on black cinema (you can listen to past episodes of the program via iTunes. Just search for "Obenson Report" in the iTunes store).

Your participation is strongly encouraged. We would love to know what your top 5 films of 2008 are, so please do share! The January 5th recording of the podcast will be dedicated entirely to top 5 lists of 2008, and we will read some of the submissions we receive on the air.

You can post your selections here, on this blog, or you can email them to; or call and leave a voice message on our toll-free voicemail with your choices at 1-800-765-7249, and we'll play your message on the air.

We're looking specifically for films that were released in 2008 - but the format on which they were released is not important. So, they can be films you saw on DVD, that weren't released theatrically, or films that were only released on television (whether network or cable), or films you saw at film festivals, or other microcinema screening events that have no distribution, etc...

Brandon and I will share ours on the podcast.

So... let the good times roll!

Cheers to 2009!

Happy New Year!

I'm outta here until Friday folks!

An immensely joyous New Year to you all!

It's been a reflective 2008 for me, and I learned a lot about myself and the world around me; and I hope you all have as well!

As trite a saying as it might be, it's always worth mentioning that life is indeed short. Enjoy it fully while you can, because you only have one chance at it!

A toast to cinema of the African Diaspora in 2009!

Cheers to you all!


DIVERSIONS - Sita Sings The Blues

Roger Ebert heaps plenty of praise on this 2008 "best film not playing at a theatre near you," titled Sita Sings The Blues - described as "an animated version of the epic Indian tale of Ramayana set to the 1920's jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw," by cartoonist and filmmaker Nina Paley.

Ebert states,

It hardly ever happens this way. I get a DVD in the mail. I'm told it's an animated film directed by "a girl from Urbana." That's my home town. It is titled "Sita Sings the Blues." I know nothing about it, and the plot description on IMDb is not exactly a barn-burner... I carefully file it with other movies I will watch when they introduce the 8-day week.


I put on the DVD and start watching. I am enchanted. I am swept away. I am smiling from one end of the film to the other. It is astonishingly original. It brings together four entirely separate elements and combines them into a great whimsical chord.


I obtain Nina Paley's e-mail address and invite the film to my film festival in April 2009...
The stuff filmmaker dreams are made of...

You can read his entire enthusiastic entry HERE.

As of today, despite all the attention Nina and her film have received thanks in large part to Ebert's mention last week (although it did play at several prominent film festivals over the last 12 months), Sita Sings The Blues is still without a distributor.

HOWEVER, that certainly hasn't stopped Paley from attempting an effort of her own. You filmmakers reading this will certainly appreciate her thorough explanation of her plans to get the film in front of audiences, by any means necessary! You can read it all here: Nina Paley announces her new distribution plan.

Here's the film's fun little trailer (not quite Waltz With Bashir, but it still intrigues):

Good Wednesday Morning!

Courtesy of Interview Magazine...

I didn't realize they'd ever met... then again, I shouldn't be surprised.

An odd interview between director Steven Spielberg and artist Andy Warhol, while Bianca Jagger watches on...

Happy New Year!!

FIGHT! - Time Warner Cable To Lose All Viacom Owned Stations!

UPDATE - 9AM, 1/1/09

No surprise... According to Variety,

Viacom, Time Warner Cable strike deal

After running past the initial midnight deadline and into 2009, Viacom and Time Warner Cable reached a tentative deal to keep MTV Networks' 19 channels on the MSO's 13.3 million households nationwide.

Although Viacom threatened to shut off the signal in Time Warner Cable's markets of New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1, Viacom granted a one-hour extension just before midnight ET Wednesday and the two sides announced they'd reached an agreement in principle soon afterward. The move avoided the looming blackout of MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, among other channels.

In a joint release, Viacom and TWC said they expected to finalize the details of the agreement over the next several days.

"We are pleased that our customers will continue to be able to watch the programming they enjoy on MTV Networks," TWC's president and CEO Glenn Britt said. "We are sorry they had to endure a day of public disagreement as we worked through this negotiation."

Viacom's president and CEO Philippe Dauman stressed the company's long relationship with TWC.

"We're happy to be renewing that partnership for the benefit of their customers and our loyal viewers," he said. "It's gratifying that we could reach an agreement that benefits not only our audiences but that is also in the best interest of both of our companies."
The agreement followed a last-minute offer by TWC on Wednesday that was rejected by Viacom, which qualified it as "a pittance."

Viacom had been seeking about a 12% fee increase, or $39 million on top of the estimated $300 million it is paid by TWC every year. TWC had said it was no time, given the economy, to raise subscriber fees that would have to be passed on to consumers.
As I said, no surprise... there was too much at stake for a deal not to be reached. Everyone's happy... for now anyway...

UPDATE - 2PM, 12/31

Time Warner
retaliates, responding to Viacom's initial statement, and scrolling warning messages on subscriber television screens earlier today... releasing the following statement. It's like little kids having an argument (where's a grown-up when you need one):

Christmas is over, but Viacom is still playing Scrooge, threatening to pull its MTV Networks off of Time Warner Cable at midnight tonight unless we ask our customers to pay exorbitant price increases.

Viacom claims their demands equate to “pennies,” but that is misleading and insulting to our customers, from whom Viacom is trying to extort another $39 million annually – on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars our customers already pay to Viacom each year. That doesn’t sound like pennies to us. Demanding that our customers pay so much more for these few networks would be unreasonable in any economy, but it is particularly outrageous given the current economic conditions.

We sympathize with the fact that Viacom’s advertising business is suffering and that their networks’ ratings have largely been declining. However, we can’t abide their attempt to make up their lost revenue on the backs of Time Warner Cable customers. We’ve negotiated in good faith and made several concessions to help reach a fair and reasonable deal. We’ve asked for an extension of the current contract while we continue to negotiate. But Viacom doesn’t appear to be interested in what’s fair and reasonable for American consumers – they’re only interested in propping up their sagging bottom line, and they are poised to pull their networks from Time Warner Cable customers tonight.

Huge price increases like what Viacom is demanding threaten the ultimate value of cable TV. Time Warner Cable is a retail distributor of products we purchase wholesale. Wholesale programming costs are rising dramatically every year, and, like all multichannel distributors, we have to pass on at least a portion of the increases to our customers. Viacom’s MTV Networks are just a few of the hundreds of channels we carry. If every channel demanded huge, double-digit increases like what Viacom is trying to force our customers to pay, it would be impossible to keep the price of cable reasonable for our customers.

Time Warner Cable has reached hundreds of distribution agreements with other networks. In fact, we currently have deals with every other cable programmer. The negotiations aren’t always easy, but we work hard to reach agreements that are fair to our customers and to both businesses.

We hope Viacom won’t pull the MTV Networks from Time Warner Cable customers, and we’ll negotiate up to the last possible minute and beyond. But ultimately, it is Viacom’s decision. We implore them to join with us to reach a fair resolution or grant an extension, and we hope they won’t carry through with their threat to take their networks away from our customers tonight.
Story continues below...

UPDATE - 11AM, 12/31

According to Deadline Hollywood Daily,

It appears Time Warner Cable customer service was unprepared for the onslaught of complaints from subscribers flooding into call centers. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many reps were unaware of the dispute with Viacom, which began running news crawls below its programming that 19 channels would go dark on the cable system operation at 12:01 AM on January 1st. Viacom also placed full-page advertisements in some major market newspapers today featuring protests by its media programming characters, including Dora the Explorer who is shown crying because she is being taken away from her fans. The cable company says it is prepared to refund customers for the lost programming if a deal can't be reached by New Year's, though the amount hasn’t been determined yet.
Story continues below...

- 1:55AM, 12/31

I'm watching SPIKE TV (a Viacom channel) at the moment, and for the last several minutes, a warning message (obviously sponsored by Viacom) has been scrolling at the bottom of my TV screen, instructing Time Warner Cable subscribers to call their local Time Warner Cable offices ASAP, and demand that they keep all 19 Viacom channels as mentioned in the press release below. I'm sure the same message is on display in every city in which Time Warner has a subscriber base.


I just read this over at
Deadline Hollywood Daily.

I'm sure a deal will eventually be reached! There's too much at stake!

However, as it stands currently, per the Viacom press release below, at 12:01AM on January 1st, 2009, all Time Warner cable subscribers, across the USA, will lose all Viacom owned cable TV stations - and that includes,
MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, and Nickelodeon, amongst many others - all prime small screen real estate! I don't watch any of those channels, so even if I was a Time Warner Cable subscriber, I wouldn't think much of the loss - other than the fact that I'd still be paying my regular fee despite having 19 fewer channels, which obviously wouldn't go over well with me!

However, I do catch clips of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart online, from time to time.

Here's the just-issued statement from Viacom. Of course it's all about money. Viacom wants more from Time Warner, but Time Warner doesn't want to give:

This move by Time Warner Cable to force such channels as Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and MTV off the air is another example of a cable company overreaching for profit at the expense of its viewers.

The renewal we are seeking is reasonable and modest relative to the profits TWC enjoys from our networks. We have asked for an increase of less than 25 cents per month, per subscriber, which adds up to less than a penny per day for all 19 of MTV Networks’ channels. We make this request because TWC has so greatly undervalued our channels for so long. Americans spend more than 20% of their TV viewing time watching our networks, yet our fees amount to less than 2.5% of what Time Warner generates from their average customer.

Throughout the country, we have negotiated equitable license agreement renewals, or are in the final stages of renewals, with virtually every cable and satellite carrier. Nevertheless, Time Warner Cable has dismissed our efforts at a fair compromise and has effectively chosen to deny its customers some of the most popular TV shows on the air.

As a result, we are sorry to say that for Time Warner Cable customers our networks will go dark as of 12:01 on January 1st, denying Time Warner customers shows like Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, and The Hills.

Ultimately, however, if Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV and the rest of our programming is discontinued – over less than a penny per day - we believe viewers will see this behavior by their cable company as outrageous.

Time Warner Cable subscribers who are being handed a January 1st $3 monthly increase in Raleigh, Orange County, Los Angeles, and New York City are simultaneously facing the removal of beloved shows across 19 channels.

We find it a shame that Time Warner Cable remains unreasonable at this time. We hope its leadership will have a change of heart and will seek to negotiate a fair renewal agreement.

Any Time Warner Cable subscribers out there? If this does occur as stated, on January 1, I'm guessing Time Warner's customer service lines will be immensely busy that day, and beyond. But, as I said at the top, I'm sure a deal will be worked out - if not by tomorrow, then, sometime soon thereafter!

I'll keep you updated...


DID YOU KNOW...? - "Best Picture" Eligibility

Did you know...

In order for a feature film to be considered for "Best Picture" Academy Award honors, it has to meet the following 2 relatively simple criteria:

1. It must open in a commercial motion picture theatre in Los Angeles County by midnight, December 31 of the year of consideration.

2. It must be given a minimum theatrical run of seven consecutive days, also before the December 31st deadline.

That's it!!

Yes, I know, I know... it's not quite that simple - a robust marketing budget will certainly be of some help. However, there's just something thrilling about the fact that anyone with a feature film, as well as several thousand dollars to four-wall a theatre in L.A. for a week, (assuming you have no other distribution agreements), will be within the Academy's consideration radar!

Knowing all of that, any filmmaker with a completed feature - especially one with some critical acclaim on its resume, no matter how minor - should look for ways to exploit the awards process to their advantage. I'm not quite sure how, but I think there's some potential there. You likely won't be nominated for any awards, but you just might be able to generate some publicity for your film!

This year, 281 feature films are eligible for the Academy Award for Best Picture of 2008. The 81st Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 22 at 5:30 a.m. PST in the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater.


ILL DOCTRINE - Hip-Hop Wargames

Sometimes... "the only way to win is not to play."

Checking in with Jay Smooth over at Ill Doctrine...

TRAILER - Dance Flick

Apparently, the Wayans brothers still think they're funny... and, apparently, some studio executives still believe so as well, because they continue to give the brothers money to make these horrible, horrible spoofs!

Here's the trailer for the next one titled, Dance Flick. I'm sure you can guess what it's spoofing based on the title alone.

Paramount Pictures will release the film on August 6, 2009. I pray that it bombs!

DVD Spotlight - Vidor's 'Hallelujah' Added To Film Registry

The National Film Registry
is the registry of films selected by the United States National Film Preservation Board for preservation in the Library of Congress.

The National Film Registry is meant to preserve up to twenty-five "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films" each year, to showcase the full range and diversity of American film heritage, and includes films ranging from Hollywood classics to newsreels, silent films, experimental films, films out of copyright protection, significant amateur footage, documentary films, independent films, home movies and even TV movies. As of 2008, there were 500 films preserved in the National Film Registry.

Add Hallelujah to the list of 25 film titles selected this year by the Library of Congress for inclusion in its National Film Registry - King Vidor's 1929 all-black cast musical (quite a gamble at the time - Vidor is said to have deferred his salary for the film's sake).

Centered around themes of religion, sexuality and family,
Hallelujah tells the tale of a cotton sharecropper who loses his year’s earnings, his brother, and his freedom, as well as his relationship with a dance-hall girl (played by the then unknown Nina Mae McKinney).

It was one of the first films by a major studio that featured an all-black cast, and its treatment of the lives of African Americans sharply contrasts the racist revisionist portrayals in films like Birth of a Nation.

Hallelujah was Vidor's first sound film, and he was nominated for the "Best Director" Oscar for his efforts.

I couldn't find any clips of the film on YouTube (I'll grab some from my copy and upload shortly), but the film is available for sale at

It's recommended viewing for any of you who have yet to see it!


RANT - Holocaust Movies


Good Morning!

A quick rant...

Today, I'm calling for a moratorium on Holocaust-related movies! Yes, that's right! I'll likely receive some flack for this, but I've done enough research on my reasons to feel comfortable enough to say it!

This weekend will see the release of just 2 films - one called Defiance, starring Daniel Craig in the true story of Jewish brothers living in Nazi-occupied Poland who escape to become resistance fighters; the other titled Good, starring Viggo Mortensen as a German professor who is forced to choose between his career and a Jewish friend during World War II.

Last weekend, Tom Cruise donned an eye patch to star in the true story of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg and the daring plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, in Valkyrie.

Can anyone name another historical tragedy that's been given as much big screen treatment as that which occurred between the years of 1941 and 1945, commonly now referred to as The Holocaust?

More than 6 million Jews, as well as members of other persecuted groups, were murdered in concentration camps such as Auschwitz.

By some estimates, the number of African slaves who died during the transatlantic slave trade is as much as 5 times the number of Jews who died in Nazi concentration camps (possibly a lot more); yet, the number of films (both theatrical and for television) that tell stories about Holocaust-era occurrences, dwarfs in multiples those told about the lives of the enslaved black men, women and children who lived and died - whether killed during their storage, shipment and initial landing in the "New World," or as a result of their actual labor, slave revolts or diseases they caught while living among "New World" populations.


As the death toll continues to rise in the centuries-old clash between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East - specifically between the Israelis and the Palestinians - be sure to arm yourself with knowledge of all accounts of the story before taking a side. Just about every article I've read on mainstream American news websites on the subject, as well as reports on television, unabashedly favor the Jews, while completely vilifying the Arabs.

Clearly, there's a powerful machine at work here that intends to ensure America doesn't forget one tragedy (The Holocaust and its victims), even though it seems to want to completely ignore another (slavery and its effects) - one that we can arguably consider has had a much more significant overall impact on the current state of world affairs!


Good Tuesday Morning!

Predator Rap.

A rap video based on the 1987 sci-fi thriller Predator, starring AhNuld - a film I've seen countless times, as well as its sequel, Predator 2, which starred Danny Glover.

The rap video summarizes the film in 6 1/2 minutes, and took almost 9 months to create. It's actually not bad!

MAILBAG - Defining "Black Cinema"

During my last podcast recording, I requested listener input on how each of you chooses to define "black cinema," or whether a definition was at all necessary, especially at this juncture.

Since then, I've received a few email responses, and I hope those of you who haven't done so will share your thoughts on the matter - whether on this blog, on my podcast, or via email (

I believe in the importance of having this discussion, and want to engage as many of you as possible. Reaching a solution isn't my goal, because I don't think we will ever get to true a consensus on the issue. The journey taken as we deconstruct the classification is of more value.

Starting today, I will share some of the responses I've received since posing the question on my podcast (minus the names of the senders, of course... unless they say otherwise).

Here's the first of many (share your thoughts below):

In response to your question on "Black Cinema"

The subject matter of the label "black cinema" and "black film makers" and whether these labels/definitions continue to be relevant in the 21st century. The other question posed was, does the concept of "blackness" or "what is black", also need be defined/redefined. Overall the concept of "blackness" itself seemed to be in question within the posed questions for future discussions.

I understand your angst over these subjects – but the truth of the matter is no people can escape their own history, nor can they reconstruct the consequential events created by that history. That however does not negate the desire to remove these historical "shackles" so that we can get on with simply being human beings. However, within the context of the cinematic milieu, if one is to create a cinema based upon one's own physiological construct, the ultimate question is can one escape from oneself.

Black people did not invent themselves as "black" with all its raging unrelenting connotations, historically or currently. Nor did black people create black cinema, or "race pictures", or "colored pictures", or "jungle music". Nevertheless, these concepts have stuck similar to the way the concept "nigger" has stuck. Put another way, in order to change poison to medicine, one must become an alchemist. Like taking chitterlings and making them into a delicious delicacy. It all boils down to how you present it.

Your question(s) feels like they are coming from someone carrying a heavy burden. I mean, for example does this conversation also apply to the "Japanese cinema", or the "Indian Cinema", or the "Italian Cinema". And if not, why not? While I understand the "burden" (if that is an appropriate description) of re-defining what "black cinema" or "African American Cinema", or "African Cinema", or even "American Cinema", what all these turns mean within the body politic of cinema overall. The power of the cinematic image and its influence on the human physic cannot be denied or underestimated in it's various agendas, both historically and currently. For example, the fact that no black male hero film has ever received an academy award, speaks volumes to this discussion of blacks in American cinema. While both, "Malcolm X", and"Ali" received nominations, neither was awarded. However, subsequent awards were given to Washington for portraying lesser characters.

Again, while this topic of the relevancy of the term "black", including the first "black" president of the United States, all have a direct link to the history of a country and a people. These realities are undeniable. How this generation of black filmmakers struggle with these realities remains to be seen. However, I encourage each one to endeavor to discover the power in the word "black" rather than to feel limited by it. While I understood Gordon's (Parks) position on black filmmakers being able to make films about Russians, and whomever else. However the old philosophy that insists that the best stories are those told from one's own experiences, still rings true. That does deny the universality of the human experience; nevertheless it is the authentic spirit that shines through a story told from the authentic self. That self is truly the thing in question here is it note, the question you've pose concerning the relevance of the term "black cinema".

There was a time when black people could not even feel good about having their photographs taken because of their retched life conditions. And than along came James Van Derzee, a "black photographer" whose photographs redefined who black people were. He found the beauty and the power in the black image.

I challenge young aspiring African American filmmakers to not only embrace being black, and begin to redefine what black cinema is. I challenge them to make incredible films about their life experiences, and about the world from their points of view. I challenge them be audacious enough to say that being black is still relevant in the 21st century, and to not succumb to illusion of being something other than who they are. They are Africans in America, and until the world rids itself of the atrocities of in humanity towards "colored people', or is "people of color", or "people of non-color", which ever physiological spin fits the current vogue, at the end of the day it is what it is.

Perhaps your next quarry will be, 'how do we turn make black cinema the new cinema in America. Perhaps someone should ask the new black President that question. In case you haven't noticed, black is in, at least in the White House.

Thoughts? More to come later...

Filmmaker Spotlight - Michelange Quay

Skimming over indieWIRE's list of the best films of 2008 without distribution, I found this seemingly surrealistic trip through the Caribbean - specifically Haiti - by Haitian filmmaker, Michelange Quay, titled, Eat, For This Is My Body, which screened at this year's Sundance, and Toronto Film Festivals.

The film is described as, "an unusual relationship between a privileged white woman and her young servant, Patrick, which sets them on a visceral and hypnotic journey of self-discovery across poverty stricken Haiti. For the first time, she will see and hear the land and its people, witness their suffering, and sense the reality of her own body."

According to the film's website, it was released in France in October. However, since it's without an American distributor, I wouldn't expect to see it around these parts anytime soon. If ever... maybe a DVD release eventually...

Here's the film's lovely trailer (below that is an interview with filmmaker Quay):

SHORT SHOT - Black Women Walking

Speaking of over-sexualized black men...

I remember once, as I walked down a busy mid-town New York city sidewalk, about 10 feet behind a young black lady, who was soon accosted by a black man, as he put his arms around her, pulling her into his body, as if he knew who she was, and had that kind of intimate relationship with her. At least, from my POV, that's what it looked like.

However, I quickly realized that wasn't quite the case, when the woman immediately shoved the man, pushing him away from her, angrily, as she yelled various obscenities at him, all while he simply laughed.

By now, the mass of people around me, walking in my direction, had reached a red "Don't Walk" traffic light. The young lady and the man who harassed her were also at the light, still several feet ahead of me. It was then that her words became much clearer to me, when I heard her say something like, "who the fuck do you think you are, walking up on me like you know me. If my boyfriend was here he would kick your fucking ass. Fucking asshole!"

And still this poor excuse for a man continued to laugh, responding to her with words like, "oh come on baby... honey... sistah..." etc.

The light changed, and the young lady stormed ahead, while the dude went off in another direction, laughing it all off, obviously not realizing just how incredibly wrong what he did was - or maybe he was aware, but just didn't care... because he's a man, and she's a woman, and he believed that he had the upper hand.

I was dumbfounded at his boldness! I've seen and heard men call out to women as they pass by, sometimes incorporating insults, and other times not so much. But rarely have I seen a man actually put his hands on a woman the way the above idiot did.

Of course, neither scenario is appropriate.

Black Woman Walking, created by artist, Tracey Rose, presents a dialogue among women of color that explores the nuances of street harassment. Through personal stories and analysis, the women interviewed reveal how this accepted, socially tolerable form of violence affects the way they view themselves, the men in their communities, and the potential for violence that lives at the intersection of race and gender. Brooklyn Arts Festival

I appreciate and applaud the effort by the artist in the video below, but I don't necessarily like what feels like an obvious comparison of black men (the bad) and white men (the good). A few times in the film, black female interviewees make distinctions between the two - often implying that the above kind of behavior is common only amongst black men, which is misleading, and I think dangerous to continue to emphasize! I'd say that this is less about race and more about class (a word that always make me cringe whenever I hear/see/speak it). None of the black men I know personally would behave this way. And I've witnessed several instances in which white men are the culprits.

Movie Posters - 1970s

It's interesting how black male actors in contemporary mainstream movies and television have been almost entirely de-sexualized, especially in comparison to their blaxploitation forefathers of the 70s - an era in which we saw over-sexualized representations of black men in countless films. The trailer below could be for almost any film made during that period - he's great in the sack with the ladies (both black and white), and he'll kick your ass - or more specifically, Whitey's ass! That about sums them all up! He may as well have been a walking penis... a walking penis with martial arts skills... and a gun... plus a blow-dryer in this specific instance.

A man for all ages, right?

Thanks Sweetback!

I dare any of today's black male actors to be even half as bold :o)

Anyway... here's Black Shampoo (trailer below):

Good Monday Morning!

A trailer for 2006's
The Man Who Couldn't, the first feature-length film written and directed by the self-proclaimed Genius Bastard himself, Brandon Wilson - also co-host of my podcast.

You can find it on

IN THE BEGINNING - Steven Spielberg

Below is Steven Spielberg’s first completed 35mm short film titled, Amblin.

Shot in 1968 with a $15,000 budget, the 26-minute short film resulted in Sid Sheinberg signing Spielberg to a long-term deal at Universal Studios in the television division.

At just 22, Spielberg became the youngest director at the time to ever be signed to such a deal by a big Hollywood studio.

Amblin won several film festival awards, and later became the name for Spielberg’s production company - Amblin Entertainment.

The film tells the story of a young couple who meet while hitchhiking across the desert. The film is mostly silent, accompanied by some sound effects and acoustic guitar.

Frankly, after watching it, I'm not quite sure what Universal saw that encouraged them to sign Spielberg, especially at such a young age. There's nothing here that I found particularly fresh nor riveting. I also can't see (or hear) why it cost $15,000 - not adjusted for inflation, by the way; the same $15,000 1968 film would cost approximately $88,000 today! I could make a feature with that.

Of course, Spielberg did go on to prove that Universal's decision was a smart one.