Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

PODCAST - Attention! Attention!


Your ears and mouths are requested next Monday night, January 26th, from the 8PM to 9PM hour, when my podcast, The Obenson Report airs live, via BlogTalkRadio.

Special guests for the episode include:

- Barry Jenkins, writer/director of the SXSW hit Medicine For Melancholy (a film that I don't think needs an introduction for those regular readers of this blog). Barry's film opens at IFC Theatres, here in NYC, next week Friday, and he'll be on to talk about the film, and much more, I'm sure.


- Scott Sanders
, writer/director of Black Dynamite (also a film that doesn't need an intro), which razzled and dazzled Sundance audiences earlier this week, and was quickly acquired by Sony Pictures for $ 2 Million, with a theatrical release planned for later this year. I'm certain Scott will have a lot to say about his film, and Sundance experience.

Both gentlemen should make for an interesting, enlightening and entertaining hour, and I'm certainly looking forward to chatting with them, alongside my co-host of course, the self-proclaimed Genius Bastard himself, Monsieur Brandon Wilson of The Man Who Couldn't fame.

So, do tune in if you can, on Monday night, the 26th, from 8PM to 9PM, via BlogTalkRadio.

Of course, those who can't listen live will always be able to download the entire episode via iTunes, within a couple of hours after the show is over. Just open up iTunes on your computer and search for "Obenson Report" in the iTunes store, where you will also find archives of previous shows.


VIDEO - Tambay's First Film!

A nostalgic trip on a not-so chilly Friday morning...

Roughly 9 years ago, I was living in the San Francisco bay area, taking film workshop classes at a local University, daily raiding the city's largest, most eclectic video rental store, called simply, Le Video, for every Godard, Fellini and Tarkovsky film I could get my hands on (mostly on VHS by the way). And, eventually, towards the end of my second year there, I worked on my final class assignment, which was also the very first film I ever made!!

Sure, I had picked up a 16MM Bolex and Scoopic, as well as several Super 8 brands earlier in the semester, and shot 50ft and 100ft rolls of Kodak and Fuji film at random, just to get a feel for the equipment (cameras, light meters and such); but I didn't do any of that with the intent to produce a completed film.

As most filmmakers will agree, there's a thrill one gets from picking up a film camera the very first time, and heading out into the "wilderness" to point and shoot, uncertain of what will develop later in the lab. And it's an even bigger thrill when one does so as part of some grand planned strategy to piece together a finished work of art that will be seen by others other than your mother and sisters, who do so more out of familial obligation than a genuine desire.

So, I unveil, for your viewing pleasure (or displeasure, depending on how you look at it), the very first film I made, as a young 20-something starry-eyed, self-involved, wannabe filmmaker, who genuinely felt that he had a voice that needed to be heard.

Watching it again after many years, I must say that I'm not cringing at the sight of it as much as I thought I would, when I dug it up last night, and uploaded it to YouTube.

It was shot with a 16MM Canon Scoopic, and cost about $900, including film stock, lab work, and transfer to DV.

It's 8 minutes long, and I'm in it, with my then over-sized clothing (very much embracing the zeitgeist). There was no script, and little planning. My girlfriend at the time starred in it, and I recall she had almost no faith in the production, because it seemed like I had no idea what the hell I was doing; and, honestly, some of the time, that was true! But when she saw the final cut, she was moved.

Enjoy :o)

THEATRE - Obama Musical Headed For London Stage... Minus Obama

It's too bad that the man can't profit from the commercialization of his own image. He'd be in Bill Gates net worth territory right about now.

The tee-shirts, dolls, buttons, stickers, cartoon characters, figurines, and this:

"Obama On My Mind," a stage musical about the historic campaign of President Barack Obama, is due to premiere in London this spring, producers announced this week.

The play's book, music and lyrics are by U.S.-born writer Teddy Hayes. On Wednesday, he described the show as a humorous romp set in an Obama campaign office, with songs that mix pop, gospel, jazz, "some Motownish stuff" and even tango, reports the Associated Press.

The musical will run at the Hen and Chickens theater in north London from March 3 to March 21. Casting has not been announced, but producers won't have to worry about finding a presidential lookalike — the Obama character never appears onstage.

"Nobody can really impersonate Obama, can they?" said Hayes. "He's a one-off."

Another Obama musical ran in Kenya, homeland of the president's late father, in November.

An Obama musical without an Obama. Ok. You'd expect that to be the real audience draw. Maybe they know something I don't.

The "Hen and Chickens" theater (image above) sounds like a riot!


TOYS - New Japanese Obama Action Figures!

HA! I had a good time looking at these images. Gotta admit, the manufacturer did a decent job with his facial features. The doll looks eerily like the real Obama - maybe a "dieseled," chiseled interpretation of the man, but there's a likeness there, especially when compared to THIS SILLY FELLOW from last year.

And now, presenting the rest, in order: Darth Obama, Yakuza/Samurai Obama, Barack Bond and Obama the motivational speaker...

I have no idea how big these figurines are, or how much they cost, or if they are even for sale. The site I found them on is written in Japanese. But my trusty Google translator told me the following: All clothing is removable; it comes with other parts & accessories, like different hands making different gestures, as well as a selection of heads - each with its own facial expression. Cool right?

Check out more HERE. Maybe you'll learn more than I.


Man, Fred Williamson starred in so many of these blaxploitation flicks during the era. Take a gander at the man's IMDB resume, and you'll find about 20 films with titles like Boss Nigger, Black Ceasar, Black Eye, and Mean Johnny Barrows. And the write-ups for each reads about the same.

If I had the will and the courage, I would participate in a Fred Williamson 70s marathon - watch every film he made in that decade, summarize and critique on this blog... or my podcast.

I don't think so... I'll leave that up to somebody else.

Never seen The Legend Of Nigger Charley above; although I've certainly heard of it.

Quick facts: It's the story of a trio of escaped slaves, headed by Fred Williamson as Nigger Charley.

It was followed by two sequels, The Soul of Nigger Charley and Boss Nigger. And based on those successive follow-ups, one could suggest that Charley moved up in the world.

The film was renamed The Legend of Black Charley for broadcast television. I'm surprised it actually screened on television. With that in mind, surely it couldn't be that bad, could it?


PRINT - Barack "Washington" Obama

The cover for the current issue of The New Yorker.

No satire this time, huh, fellas?

Recall, it wasn't so long ago when...


ARTICLE - Movie Marketing 102

I stumbled upon the below lengthy article in The New Yorker titled, The Cobra: Inside a movie marketer’s playbook, which gives the reader an insiders look at how film studio marketing departments operate.

Much of what I read I was already familiar with; however, it all still depresses me to be reminded of just how much "business" has devoured the "show" in show business. Forget the art and mechanics involved in the production process; to any marketing exec, your film is no different than a Double Cheese Burger from your choice of fast-food joints. How can we make it accessible to as wide an audience demographic as possible? Thicker slabs of beef? More ketchup? 6 slices instead of 4 slices of cheese? Eliminate the buns altogether? Sure, it just might kill them, or at least, lead to unhealthy bodies, but, we're making money, and that's more important.

Piece by piece, your film is taken apart in an attempt to find something within it (or sometimes something that's not even in it) that can be packaged and easily sold to audiences that are thought of as not much more than sheep. And whatever vision you as the filmmaker may have had for the film means very, very little to them. So, you might see a finished version of your film that is vastly different from what you created, even though your name remains stamped on it.

By any means necessary.

Here's a snippet:

It is often said in Hollywood that no one sets out to make a bad movie, but the truth is that people cheerfully set out to make bad movies all the time. It is more accurate to say that no one sets out to make a movie without having a particular audience in mind. Many studio executives argue that films can’t objectively be categorized as “good” or “bad”: either they appeal to a given demographic—and make the studio at least a ten-per-cent profit—or they don’t. “Most critics are not the target audience for most of the films being made today, so they’re not going to respond to them,” Sony Screen Gems’ Clint Culpepper says. “How a fifty-six-year-old man feels about a movie aimed at teen-age girls is irrelevant.”

Interesting take - especially the first 3 sentences! And I might be inclined to agree. There are no bad movies; it's all subjective anyway, right? One man's trash is another man's treasure? Our life experiences contribute immensely to who we are. So, I may not like a Tyler Perry movie, for example, since he's such a polarizing figure; but I'm not going to dismiss anyone who does, if they connect with something within the movie, even though I didn't.

Here's more...

An unexpected corollary of the modern marketing-and-distribution model is that films no longer have time to find their audience; that audience has to be identified and solicited well in advance. Marketers segment the audience in a variety of ways, but the most common form of partition is the four quadrants: men under twenty-five; older men; women under twenty-five; older women. A studio rarely makes a film that it doesn’t expect will succeed with at least two quadrants, and a film’s budget is usually directly related to the number of quadrants it is anticipated to reach. The most expensive tent-pole movies, such as the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, are aimed at all four quadrants.

The collective wisdom is that young males like explosions, blood, cars flying through the air, pratfalls, poop jokes, “you’re so gay” banter, and sex—but not romance. Young women like friendship, pop music, fashion, sarcasm, sensitive boys who think with their hearts, and romance—but not sex (though they like to hear the naughty girl telling her friends about it). They go to horror films as much as young men, but they hate gore; you lure them by having the ingénue take her time walking down the dark hall.

Older women like feel-good films and Nicholas Sparks-style weepies: they are the core audience for stories of doomed love and triumphs of the human spirit. They enjoy seeing an older woman having her pick of men; they hate seeing a child in danger. Particularly once they reach thirty, these women are the most “review-sensitive”: a chorus of critical praise for a movie aimed at older women can increase the opening weekend’s gross by five million dollars. In other words, older women are discriminating, which is why so few films are made for them.

Older men like darker films, classic genres such as Westerns and war movies, men protecting their homes, and men behaving like idiots. Older men are easy to please, particularly if a film stars Clint Eastwood and is about guys just like them, but they’re hard to motivate. “Guys only get off their couches twice a year, to go to ‘Wild Hogs’ or ‘3:10 to Yuma,’ ” the marketing consultant Terry Press says. “If all you have is older males, it’s time to take a pill.”

There's a lot more where that came from.

If articles like these are meant to dissuade novice filmmakers from entering the business, it might work. It certainly has an effect on me. I don't want to have to play this game, but it's a game that one has to play to succeed.

Of course, you can completely bypass the studio system altogether, and instead tread down the just-as-challenging DIY path many filmmakers have, are, and will continue to take. No matter which way you go, the road will be bumpy.

Read the entire piece HERE.

TELEVISION - Michelle Obama's Hairstylist Inks TV Deal

I wonder if Barack's barber will get a similar look...

Take advantage man... take advantage... strike while the iron is hot!

Michelle Obama's hairstylist has landed a development deal to star in a reality show.

Former Chicagoan Johnny Wright has styled the first lady's coif for the Democratic National Convention, her upcoming appearance on the cover of Vogue magazine and other occasions. He has signed a deal with 44 Blue, which produces such reality shows as Style Network's "Split Ends" and A&E's "L.A. Gang Unit."

44 Blue executive vp Stephanie Drachkovitch said she discovered Wright while searching for a reality host.

"There aren't many people of color doing makeover and beauty," she said. "We figured there's got to be somebody out there with a mainstream clientele, but brings a different point of view."

Enter Wright, who moved to Los Angeles recently and also has worked on Vivica A. Fox, Rebecca Gayheart, Lauren London and Candace Bushnell, among others. Drachkovitch said she was impressed with the hairstylist's personality before she knew his Obama connection.
Rock on. Although, I can't be bothered with reality TV shows much. There are far too many of them now; cheap to make, high returns - and if the formula works, then one shouldn't be surprised when its replicated repeatedly.


THINGS THAT MADE ME GO HMM - 50 Cent To Direct And More...

Boasting about his business empire at the Sundance Film Festival, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson talked to Reuters specifically about his plans for cinematic infamy.

Under his newly-formed Cheetah Vision film production company, 50 claims to have already bought eight scripts.

Among the first to be produced will be something called The Dance, which will star himself and Nicolas Cage.

In the film, Cage will play the founder of a boxing program, and 50 will play a fighter who goes to state prison.

"They are all different types of movies that I bought the rights to, and we're developing projects. You will see different things from me in the future," he said.

Mr Cent also plans to make his directorial debut this year on a feature-length film titled, Before I Self Destruct, - a film he says he will give away for free with his next album of the same name, which is due to be released in February/March.

IMDB describes the film as, "A coming of age story about an inner-city youth raised by a hardworking single mother who is shot to death, leaving the youth to take up a life of crime in order to support his younger brother."

50 also stars in the film, by the way.

He's certainly becoming a big screen fixture.

Later this year, he will be seen in
Streets of Blood with Val Kilmer and Sharon Stone, and he is also due to start filming 13 with Mickey Rourke - a remake of a 2006 French film of the same name, which I saw and dug, despite its morbidity! A decent first effort for Géla Babluani, the Georgian-French filmmaker of the original who will also write and direct the remake. Here's its trailer... I'm not sure who will be playing what:


SCREENING SIGHTING - Indie Film Blogger Road Trip

It's finally here...!

Of course, I'm referring to Sujewa Ekanayake's documentary, Indie Film Blogger Road Trip - a project I previously mentioned, which was produced last summer, and which I'm proud to have been a part of.

In the feature-length documentary, Sujewa, the self-described "Brooklyn based, ultra-indie/low-budget/superdelicious filmmaker, who generally rocks," interviews a cadre of bloggers (including yours truly) who blog about movies (mainstream, indie, underground, etc), 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 the movie industry overall, as seen through the lenses of each blogger interviewed.

I certainly learned something participating in the project, and watching it after it was all done. And I think you will too... after you see it!

The 95-minute documentary will premiere in less than a month (February 17th) at the theatres at The Anthology Film Archives, in lower Manhattan, NYC, with its DVD available for purchase soon thereafter.

So, come watch me explode on screen on the 17th of February, along with a handful of other like minds. Or contact Sujewa about purchasing the DVD, for those unable to be present for the theatrical.

For more information and news about the project or the screening, see the poster above, or visit Sujewa's website for the film at:


Good Tuesday Morning!

Well... I'm sure you're all aware of that little event taking place in our nation's capital today.

The excitement is palpable. It's been reported that this will be the most expensive inauguration ceremony ever - $150 million - about 4 times the cost of the previous most expensive inauguration. That's a lotta dough... ya know!

Although, I actually can't wait until it's all over! I recognize the significance of the moment, but we've still got a loooooooong way to go. This is one step in the right direction, I suppose.

I'll let Jay Smooth of IllDoctrine put it all into perspective:

TRAILER - Next Day Air

This looks like something directed by Guy Ritchie. I immediately thought of films like
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, as well as Snatch, with predominantly black faces.

If you've been reading this blog, you saw my "2009 black films list" post last week, which included a write-up on the film.

Based on what the trailer below, I think I'll pass on this one!

Thanks to Sergio for the heads-up.

SUNDANCE 2009 - Black Dynamite Picked Up!!


This is good news... from the moment I first saw the trailer, its commercial potential was evident, and figured it would eventually find a distributor. I didn't think it would happen this early into the festival, but it did!

From indieWIRE:

Hours after the film’s debut last night, the North American rights to Scott Sanders’ “Black Dynamite,” an homage to the blaxpolitation films starring Michael Jai White, was sold to Sony Worldwide Acquisitions Group for $2 million. While the deal has yet to be announced, insiders said that the pact closed in the wee hours of Monday morning here in Park City. The film debuted on Sunday night at 11:30 p.m. and the deal with Sony Worldwide Acquisitions Group was negotiated at the Endeavor Independent condo where Graham Taylor, Alexis Garcia, Mark Ankner and Liesl Copland negotiated the pact repping the filmmakers.

The film will be released theatrically later this year.


Kudos to Scott Sanders and company. Hope to have him on my podcast soon!

El Mayimbe at has an early review from the Sundance screening. In short,
BLACK DYNAMITE is straight up pure comedic genius and totally bad ass!
That says it all I suppose. You can read his entire review HERE.

And Neil Miller at Film School Rejects, also fresh from the Sundance screening of the film had this to say:

Expertly towing the line between satire and spoof, Scott Sanders’ film utilizes a wonderfully crafted retro aesthetic and a massive cast to transport us back to the campy world of 70s blaxploitation. The pitch is perfect and the leading man is the quintessential badass, causing the movie to attain a palpable momentum. Not affraid to bang on the fourth wall with boom mics appearing in shots and camera crews visible in windows — clear callbacks to classics such as Dolamite — Sanders’ film shamelessly kicks and punches the hell out of its audience, leaving only the stiffest and humorless viewer without loads of laughs. Its real brilliance though, is in the details.

You can read his full review HERE.

Sounds like we've got ourselves a winner!

For those in need of a reminder, here's the film's trailer:


FILM FINDS - American Violet


News to me... this didn't show up on my radar as I hunted for "black films" of 2009 with distributors and scheduled release dates.

... Until now.

It's titled, American Violet - a factual story set in small town Texas, in 2000, about Dee Roberts, a 24 year old African-American mother of four, who is swept up in a drug raid and falsely accused based on the uncorroborated testimony of a single informant. Despite the urgings of her mother Alma, Dee rejects a plea bargain that would release her from jail but forever brand her as a felon. With the custody of her children at stake, she instead decides to take on the powerful district attorney behind it all, Calvin Beckett. Roberts finds herself in an unlikely alliance with ACLU attorney David Cohen and former local narcotics officer Sam Conroy. With inspiring courage and dignity, Dee overcomes seemingly insurmountable obstacles, forever changing her and the Texas justice system.

I'm not at all familiar with the real-life story. I don't recall hearing about it, so it's news to me, and definitely reads like something that would translate well to film - David taking on Goliath; beating the system that failed you; the "little guy" taking on corrupt officials and winning, etc...

The film stars newcomer, Nicole Beharie as Dee, multiple Emmy-award winning Alfre Woodard as Dee's mother, Charles S Dutton as a reverend, and many more.

Tim Disney, the great-grand nephew of Walt Disney, directed the film.

As I learned today, the film traveled the festival circuit last year, until it was finally acquired for distribution by Samuel Goldwyn Films in November, with a limited theatrical release in March of this year planned.

No trailer is available, to my knowledge. I'll be looking out for one.

The film's website can be found HERE.

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SUNDANCE 2009 - Brooklyn's Finest Picked Up

Well... no surprise here. Did anyone really doubt that it wouldn't be acquired for distribution, given how high profile a film it is, with all the "name" talent involved?

It's always been of a matter of WHEN the film will reach theatres, not if.

From THR:

PARK CITY - The Sundance Film Festival has its first major deal. Senator Distribution snapped up North American rights to Antoine Fuqua's cop drama "Brooklyn's Finest" on Saturday evening.

The Marco Weber/Mark Urman banner (Weber is CEO, and Urman is president) is believed to have paid in the low- to mid-seven figures for rights to the pic, which played strongly at its Eccles debut Friday night.

Sony Pictures, which has a deal with Senator, will partner with the outfit, with Senator handling theatrical and Sony handling all ancillary rights.

CAA and WMA are co-repping rights to the morality tale, which stars Richard Gere, Don Cheadle and Ethan Hawke as cops at very different stages of their career, each faced with moral dilemmas.

While billed as a thriller, it also operates as a character study of its trio of complex protagonists.

A number of distributors were circling the picture, though some were concerned about the length and potential for backend deals for the many star actors.

Fuqua will edit the film as part of the deal, insiders said.

The only somewhat surprising piece of the above is that Fuqua will be re-editing the film as part of the deal. Certainly nothing we haven't heard before - filmmakers asked to re-cut their films as part of a distribution agreement. I wonder how long it is, and how long they would like it to be. IMDB doesn't tell much.

SlashFilm screened the film yesterday at Sundance, and have a snapshot review of it up on their site. Here's a snippet:

Hawke and Cheadle’s storylines are probably worthy of a film in their own right, but I found Gere’s arc completely uninteresting. And that was one of the problems I had with this film — the stories are almost completely unrelated in every single way. Most of the times with these type of films, the character are more connected, either by story or theme. But in Brooklyn’s Finest, the characters intersect for seconds and the climax takes place in the same location, but for the most part, the film is comprised of three completely unconnected storylines with themes that are only broadly connected.
You can read the rest of it HERE.

via THR