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African American Cinema Challenge; Official - February 2018
Topic Started: Jan 27 2018, 10:12:05 PM (2,024 Views)
maxwelldeux
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African American Cinema Challenge
Official, February 2018
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What Exactly Is African-American Cinema?

Far be it from me to actually define what African-American Cinema is. So I'll offer up the following (taken from an introduction to an essay on this very topic):
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The category “African American Cinema” presents important conceptual challenges for scholars, critics, and moviegoers. Before laying out those challenges, though, it is important to note that African American cinema is often thought of as part of American cinema, while at the same time, African American cinema is also often thought of as part of a global black diasporic cinema. Consequently, other articles in this bibliography that focus on elements of American cinema include entries relevant to research on African American cinema, and many articles on non-US cinemas—for example, African Cinema, British Cinema, Cuban Cinema, and Transnational and Diasporic Cinemas—include entries relevant to researching topics in “black cinema.” Now back to the conceptual challenges African American cinema presents: To clarify these challenges, think about three prepositions: by, of, for. Does African American cinema mean films made by African Americans? If so, who are the key figures in the making: director, writer, performers, producers, financiers? Does it matter if the finance comes from Hollywood or independent sources? If a researcher is interested in “by,” then the articles on Authorship and Auteur Theory and on the black directors Charles Burnett, Spike Lee, and Oscar Micheaux, and actor- director Sidney Poitier, may be of interest. Does African American cinema mean films of—films that depict—African Americans? If so, must such depictions make an African American a central figure? Must that figure be “positive” or “realistic” or, indeed, performed by an actor who would self-identify as African American or black? If a researcher is interested in “of,” see also The Birth of a Nation, The Jazz Singer, King Kong, and more general categories like blackface, blaxploitation, Exploitation Film, Pop, Blues, and Jazz in Films, Race and Cinema, and African American Stars. Does African American cinema mean films that seem to be for African Americans—films that aim to address or appeal to African American moviegoers or films that, by whatever measures (say, box office success or critical approbation by black critics), succeed with African American audiences? If a researcher is interested in “for,” see also Exhibition and Distribution and also entries on various genres and modes of filmmaking. Underlying many of the critical and scholarly studies of African American cinema are additional questions of—and passionate arguments about—how politics, activism, social connections and commitments, aesthetics, pleasure, entertainment, art, and commerce interrelate with one another—and how they should interrelate with one another. This article does not favor one position in these debates over another, but aims to present a range of positions in the scholarship on African American cinema.

- source


How Will This Challenge Be Judged?

To my knowledge, we've never run an official African-American cinema challenge on this forum, so I guess I get to set a little precedent. This is a challenge that's going to focus on the Black experience in America. A "Black Cinema" challenge would include the Black experience from all over the world - but an "African-American Cinema" challenge narrows that scope considerable. By definition, it's going to be (almost) exclusively American films. (There is an African challenge in June, FYI.) So any film that illustrates the Black experience in America would be acceptable for this challenge.

My goal is not to police what is and isn't African-American cinema - I'm going to be pretty permissive about what counts for this challenge. But I would ask that you be able to provide reasoning for your decision to include a film. I want to use this thread to promote conversations about African-American cinema, and encourage discussion - after all, that's how we learn about different points of view. So I will strongly encourage discussion about the films we watch (and yes, I'll prompt it at times).

Rules:
- Rewatches allowed.
- A feature film (at least 40 min) counts as one entry.
- A total of 60 minutes of short films count as one entry.
- For mini-series, the usual 40/60 rules apply.

Stats & Formatting:
- Title (year, Country) is the preferred format
- For TV episodes, please use "Series Title: Episode Title" as the title
- New posts are preferred over edited posts
- I'll be tracking years and number of official lists with this challenge

Official Lists:
None - and I think this is a critical gap on ICM.

African-American Cinema Lists:
http://www.library.ufl.edu/spec/belknap/cinema/cinemaaa.htm <-- I really like this list.
http://www.listchallenges.com/100-must-see-african-american-films
https://www.ranker.com/crowdranked-list/all-black-movies-or-list-of-black-movies
https://www.icheckmovies.com/lists/slates+the+black+film+canon/monoglot/ (via 3eyes)
https://www.icheckmovies.com/lists/28+days+28+films+for+black+history+month/brodosonix/ (via 3eyes/frbrown)

Netflix African American Cinema collection: https://www.netflix.com/title/80161851

Unofficial lists and other resources (in progress)


Participants:
Participants
RankParticipantNumber of WatchesTotal Official Lists
1 psychotronicbeatnik 42 45
2 maxwelldeux 17 50
3 sebby 14 12
4 Eve-Lang-El-Coup 11 2
4 Mate_cosido 11 25
6 OldAle1 9 11
7 jeroeno 8 6
7 hurluberlu 8 17
9 3eyes 7 6
10 VincentPrice 5 2
11 sol 4 8
11 Simba63 4 16
11 jdidaco 4 2
11 Gorro 4 0
15 nimimerkillinen 3 11
16 72allinncallme 2 10
17 Ivan0716 1 9


Fun Stats:
Week 1 Stats
Week 2 Stats
Edited by maxwelldeux, Feb 16 2018, 05:41:05 PM.
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VincentPrice
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weirdboy
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Oh, African American challenge.

I am not sure how many I'll watch, given other commitments. But I might suggest I Am Not Your Negro to contenders.
Edited by weirdboy, Jan 28 2018, 06:07:19 AM.
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maxwelldeux
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weirdboy
Jan 28 2018, 06:02:35 AM
But I might suggest I Am Not Your Negro to contenders.
Can't guarantee I'll watch that first, but it's #1 on my watchlist. Kinda surprised I haven't seen it already.
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sebby
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Now's my chance to watch all those Madea films I've been stockpiling.
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3eyes
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Thanks, Max, for your thoughtful approach to this novel challenge.

I'm in, modestly.

Unofficial ICM list: https://www.icheckmovies.com/lists/slates+the+black+film+canon/monoglot/

A comedy, largely forgotten now, which satirized the obstacles faced by African Americans in Hollywood: Robert Townsend's Hollywood Shuffle (1987)
Edited by 3eyes, Jan 28 2018, 09:07:38 PM.
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OldAle1
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Probably in. Hopefully will catch up on some of the Spike Lee films I haven't seen, and some earlier cinema from the Pioneers of African American Cinema box set. And of course some blaxploitation.

No Madea though.
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psychotronicbeatnik
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In & excited.
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rnilsson19
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I won't participate but it seems like a good chance to ask if anyone would happen to have ehrm, a link for any of these two?

https://www.icheckmovies.com/movies/illusions/
https://www.icheckmovies.com/movies/when+it+rains/
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Lilarcor
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3eyes
Jan 28 2018, 09:06:22 PM
This strikes me as a good contender for official list status.
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weirdboy
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3eyes
Jan 28 2018, 09:06:22 PM
Thanks, Max, for your thoughtful approach to this novel challenge.

I'm in, modestly.

Unofficial ICM list: https://www.icheckmovies.com/lists/slates+the+black+film+canon/monoglot/

A comedy, largely forgotten now, which satirized the obstacles faced by African Americans in Hollywood: Robert Townsend's Hollywood Shuffle (1987)
There are several non-American films on that list, too.

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Eve-Lang-El-Coup
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I'm gonna watch Cooly High!

Coolie High
(How do I embed videos? I tried using the automated code and it did not work. It is just a regular youtube video.)

Actually, only just now looking at the 100 Must-See African-American Films list did I find out that Camp Lo were referencing a movie.

Edited by Eve-Lang-El-Coup, Jan 31 2018, 08:14:05 AM.
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jdidaco
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Great intro, maxwelldeux, thanks for hosting. My participation will be modest though, but looking for it with excitement!
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maxwelldeux
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I guess I get to kick off my own challenge? Sweet!

1. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

I don't think there is a better way to kick off this challenge than TKaM. This was so good on so many levels. Having read the book and seen the film before, I knew I liked it, but I was curious how it would hold up having learned more about film over the last couple years. And I still think it's amazing - the message in it is clear, but the subtler aspects about the Black American experience were much more apparent to me this time. The subtle look of understanding from Calpurnia when Atticus asked if she could stay the night. How the Finch kids were upstairs with the Black trial audience. The range of social attitudes from Atticus Finch to the literal lynch mob, with the Sheriff falling right in the middle. And of course the "standing ovation" when the trial was over. There are more reasons why, but it's a 10/10 for me.

2. Richard Pryor: Live in Concert (1979)

If you're not aware, there's this standard rule in stand-up comedy: You can say whatever you want, as long as it's funny. And this is Pryor's strength - he's fucking hilarious. But the brilliance of him is working the Black American experience into his comedy seamlessly. You're laughing about the experience at the doctor's office one minute, then you're laughing about Black/White differences. You're laughing about sex and orgasms one second, then you're laughing about police brutality towards Black people. Hilarious and poignant, it's a great example of why Pryor is consistently rated among the best comedians.
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sebby
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01. Slam (1998) - 6/10

Starts off great but loses the thread about halfway through.

2018 Black Cinema Challenge
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VincentPrice
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1. Blacula-1972: 7/10 (Rewatch)

I mean, it's better than Blackenstein.
Edited by VincentPrice, Feb 1 2018, 10:24:04 PM.
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psychotronicbeatnik
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"The longing of black men must have respect. The rich and bitter depth of their experience, the unknown treasures of their inner life, the strange rendings of nature they have seen, may give the world new points of view and make their loving, living, and doing precious to all human hearts. And to themselves in these days that try their souls, the chance to soar in the dim blue air above smoke is to their finer spirits boon and guerdon for what they lose on earth by being black."
from W.E.B. Du Bois' Of the Training of Black Men (1903)

There's a scene in Sounder where that passage is read and I thought it was a beautiful evocation of what this challenge is all about for me - expanding my cinematic view. I've seen a fair amount of African American cinema but never in a concentrated time frame, except for an all day program of recently rediscovered films from the Harlem Renaissance period of filmmaking. Those films were amazing and have stayed with me for over 30 years. I hope to revisit some of them for this challenge.

I began my challenge with the earliest surviving feature from an African American and hope to make up a lot of the ground covered since then.

1. Within Our Gates (1920) Oscar Micheaux / FTV / Rating: 8
2. Body and Soul (1925) Oscar Micheaux / Rating: 7+
3. Sounder (1972) Martin Ritt / FTV / Rating: 8+
4. Mean Johnny Barrows (1976) Fred Williamson / FTV / Rating: 6+

Total: 4
FTV Total: 3
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maxwelldeux
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psychotronicbeatnik
Feb 2 2018, 12:00:12 AM
3. Sounder (1972) Martin Ritt / FTV / Rating: 8+
Sounder is the only one of that batch I've seen, and I enjoyed it - I didn't think the film was all that special, but it was a really good story. It was one of those stories that helps serve the purpose of humanizing individuals and making people who don't look like you into actual people, and not just others.

And good finds on those Micheaux films - they've moved up my watchlist pretty far...
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3eyes
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1. Gone are the days! / Purlie Victorious (63) - rewatch

Like Max, I started with an old favorite - saw it in a theater when it first came out, been wanting to see it again ever since. Based on a Broadway comedy by Ossie Davis and featuring most of the original cast. I'm more familiar with many aspects of the language and style than I was back then, but it was still good to have subtitles.
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maxwelldeux
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3. Uncle Tom's Cabin (1976) <-- First to check at ICM

I'm familiar-ish with the story (never read the book or seen a film adaptation, but I've read a bit about the book), and the story holds the film. But this was just a poor adaptation. Made on the cheap, and it really shows. The director is apparently known for making oodles of cheap blaxploitation and/or nudie films, so this wasn't surprising.

4. Within Our Gates (1920)

Fun fact: this is available on Netflix (US at least). Watched this based on psycho...'s viewing, and I thought it was fantastic. Several things struck me about this, including the discussions about the differences between the North and South, the language used in the cards to describe various aspects of American culture, and how the language shifted when the black character was being hounded by a mob. Fascinating look back at the past, and the restoration notes in the beginning provide some cool history on the film itself.

Netflix African American Cinema collection: https://www.netflix.com/title/80161851

February is Black History Month
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maxwelldeux
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Honorable Mention: The Manchurian Candidate (1962) - According to IMDB, Joe Adams as the army psychiatrist, was the first black actor cast in a part that wasn't specified as a black character.
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3eyes
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https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/01/movies/28-essential-films-black-history-month.html
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frbrown
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3eyes
Feb 2 2018, 12:49:32 PM
On iCM

https://www.icheckmovies.com/lists/28+days+28+films+for+black+history+month/brodosonix/
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XxXApathy420XxX
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sebby
Jan 28 2018, 07:03:29 PM
Now's my chance to watch all those Madea films I've been stockpiling.
Watch Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor if you wanna see one of the most ridiculous endings ever.
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psychotronicbeatnik
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maxwelldeux
Feb 2 2018, 01:17:35 AM
psychotronicbeatnik
Feb 2 2018, 12:00:12 AM
3. Sounder (1972) Martin Ritt / FTV / Rating: 8+
Sounder is the only one of that batch I've seen, and I enjoyed it - I didn't think the film was all that special, but it was a really good story. It was one of those stories that helps serve the purpose of humanizing individuals and making people who don't look like you into actual people, and not just others.

And good finds on those Micheaux films - they've moved up my watchlist pretty far...
I found Sounder fairly typical of Martin Ritt's films - very solid storytelling, strong emotional involvement in the story, great performances, but not particularly compelling visually. The one exception to that may be Hud, which uses the widescreen to great effect (perhaps that was James Wong Howe's influence). Ritt always succeeding in making characters of diverse ethnicity and social class come to life in his films and that is a very commendable thing - we could use more Martin Ritts making films today.

What is really memorable to me just 24 hours after seeing it for the first time is the Taj Mahal music that weaves throughout the film - Mahal himself plays a supporting role, guitar almost always in hand. Although Ritt is white, the use of music in this film is very much in keeping with the central role it often takes in African American cinema.

I found all the Micheaux I've watched so far on YouTube. Decent prints with really amazing soundtracks that add to the experience.
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psychotronicbeatnik
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3eyes
Feb 2 2018, 12:49:32 PM
Thanks for posting this great annotated list. I found some new discoveries to look for on it as well as some very deserving choices that I've already seen.

:cheers:
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flaiky
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3eyes
Feb 2 2018, 12:49:32 PM
Very surprised they missed Nothing But a Man.

Dammit, all 3 challenges this month are really interesting. I'm sure I'll join in here too.
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hurluberlu
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1. The Intruder (Roger Corman, 1962) 8-/10
The manipulation story is confusing a bit the anti-segregation message I thought but Old South setting and performances are very convincing.

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psychotronicbeatnik
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Focus on Blaxplo & Beyond (African American Cinema)

5. Swing! (1938) Oscar Micheaux / FTV / Rating: 6
6. Fences (2016) Denzel Washington / FTV / Rating: 8+
7. Lady Cocoa (1975) Matt Cimber / Rating: 7+

Total: 7
FTV Total: 5

Swing! was a lot less interesting than the two Micheaux silent I began with. Similar to the backstage musicals of the time but with a black perspective. Micheaux' filmmaking seems to be clumsier here, and the actors are not as convincing in their portrayals. The bare sets are evidence of the film's poverty row budget. Supposedly, Micheaux could
never afford more than one take of any scene and it shows. Despite those criticisms, the film is still entertaining, especially during the musical numbers.

Fences features mesmerizing dialogue by the half dozen or so characters who inhabit the film. Based on a Pulitzer prize winning play by August Wilson, Denzel Washington and his cast do an impeccable job of bringing the characters to life. As a film, it still feels like a play - a strength or weakness depending on your POV. But, there are moments when Washington opens it up into a more cinematic universe - some of them more successful than others
Spoiler: click to toggle


Lady Cocoa is a fun little gem, the second of three blaxplo flicks directed by Matt Cimber, an Italian-American. The dialogue is snappy and often funny and there are some creative action scenes. Best of all, Cocoa is a great character. Tarantino is a fan of this film and you can see how it might have influenced him.

Cinema Soul Food Already Ingested:
Spoiler: click to toggle


"The longing of black men must have respect. The rich and bitter depth of their experience, the unknown treasures of their inner life, the strange rendings of nature they have seen, may give the world new points of view and make their loving, living, and doing precious to all human hearts. And to themselves in these days that try their souls, the chance to soar in the dim blue air above smoke is to their finer spirits boon and guerdon for what they lose on earth by being black."
from W.E.B. Du Bois' Of the Training of Black Men (1903)
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3eyes
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2. Inside man (06, Spike Lee)
Heist flick starring Denzel Washington. African-American themes more muted than usual for SL.
Edited by 3eyes, Feb 3 2018, 04:03:27 AM.
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maxwelldeux
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3eyes
Feb 3 2018, 04:02:56 AM
2. Inside man (06, Spike Lee)
Heist flick starring Denzel Washington. African-American themes more muted than usual for SL.
I really like that film. Like you, I was a bit surprised it was a Spike Lee film, but in that respect I think it was effective as a modeling movie - you have a really intriguing plot and a well-crafted movie, but also the bad-ass police detective is Denzel Fucking Washington (pretty sure that's his full given name). It's great movies like this that help role model the "yes, Black people can be awesome at more than sports" thing.
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sebby
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02. Losing Ground (1982) - 7.5/10

2018 Black Cinema Challenge
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hurluberlu
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2. Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (Melvin Van Peebles, 1971) 7/10
I liked the visual surimpressions and the funky soundtrack really helped stirring up my interest in the too many weak moments of the plot development.

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afrostream
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nimimerkillinen
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1. Shaft - boring 1+/10
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blocho
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nimimerkillinen
Feb 3 2018, 12:52:14 PM
1. Shaft - boring 1+/10
The key question, of course, is which shaft? The original or the Sam Jackson-Christian Bale porno flick?
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blocho
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My "deep cut" challenge recommendations for the African-American cinema challenge are ... maybe the best two films ever made about slave rebellion (or about slavery):

Queimada (1969) - Pontecorvo's follow-up to Algiers, with Brando at his most louche as a colonial hatchet man extraordinaire. Alternative title: Burn! Also qualifies for 1960s challenge.

La Ultima Cena (1976) - Perhaps Tomas Alea's best movie, which I suppose means that it is also perhaps Cuba's best movie
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nimimerkillinen
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blocho
Feb 3 2018, 02:48:57 PM
nimimerkillinen
Feb 3 2018, 12:52:14 PM
1. Shaft - boring 1+/10
The key question, of course, is which shaft? The original or the Sam Jackson-Christian Bale porno flick?
the original. idk maybe im tired of movies but thought it was boringly shot and not well acted
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3eyes
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blocho
Feb 3 2018, 03:01:41 PM
My "deep cut" challenge recommendations for the African-American cinema challenge are ... maybe the best two films ever made about slave rebellion (or about slavery):

Queimada (1969) - Pontecorvo's follow-up to Algiers, with Brando at his most louche as a colonial hatchet man extraordinaire. Alternative title: Burn! Also qualifies for 1960s challenge.

La Ultima Cena (1976) - Perhaps Tomas Alea's best movie, which I suppose means that it is also perhaps Cuba's best movie
Blocho, I've seen & liked both of those, especially La ultima cena. Your including them here encourages me to add Raoul Peck's Moloch Tropical (Haiti/Fr 2009) to my list for this challenge.
Edited by 3eyes, Feb 3 2018, 03:39:02 PM.
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OldAle1
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1. The Symbol of the Unconquered (Oscar Micheaux, 1920)

From the Pioneers of African American Cinema box set. Not as impressive as Within Our Gates overall and certainly lacking in any performances on the level of Paul Robeson's in Body and Soul, this is nevertheless just as interesting as the other Micheaux silents I've seen, for what it tells us about the director's attitudes about mixed-race people, "passing", and the hypocrisies associated with all kinds of racial differences. Here for example we have a white man, married to an apparently black or mulatto woman (I don't think it's ever stated), plotting with an Indian "fakir" (played by an African-American actor I believe) and a mulatto man passing for white to steal away the land from an acknowledged black man and his passing-for-white neighbor. The mulatto man deeply hates his black heritage; the black man fears to show his love for the "white" woman next door who is actually not white....there's a whole lot to think about here, even if it's not all that smoothly plotted or acted, and a significant amount of footage is lost. There are also some really impressive visuals of a Klan ride, torches and white robes against a totally black background, as exciting and scary as anything in Birth of a Nation. Certainly a problematic film for all kinds of reasons but like all the Micheaux I've seen fascinating.
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maxwelldeux
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5. I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

Probably not the best choice for to watch after I had spent a sizable portion of the evening drinking beer and playing Dr. Mario with my wife. This was a lot to take in - fascinating information, and something that begs for a rewatch under better sobriety conditions. I am finding it increasingly interesting as I dig more into Black cinema and culture just how important Malcolm X is, and how that is not communicated in mainstream (mostly White) teachings - I basically grew up being taught Martin Luther King = good, but Malcolm X advocated violence, so we don't talk about him.

6a. The Mayor: Mama Rose Best (2017) (22m)
6b. The Mayor: The Lockdown (2017) (22m)

If you're not familiar with the show, The Mayor (now cancelled, btw), is a sitcom about a young Black man who runs for mayor of his small town to promote his rap album, but accidentally gets elected. The series has had some funny moments, but basically settled into "let's try not to offend anyone" mode, and got boring without any real message to it.

6c. Darktown Revue (1931) (18m)

From the Pioneers of African American Cinema collection. Some music and comedy skits from Micheaux that just didn't really work for me.

February is Black History Month
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