Friday, May 31, 2013

Filmmakers of Color Speak at Tribecca Film Festival

Last month the Tribecca Film Festival hosted a panel of filmmakers of color called "Look Who's Talking." The panel consisted of Nelson George, Tambay Obenson, Frida Torresblanco, and Terrence Nance. It was moderated by Beth Jansen. The members speak on diversity in film, opportunities for people of color within the industry and their own experiences in making and distributing their work.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

42: Right Movie, Wrong Perspective

There are some advantages in life when it comes to procrastination. One of those advantages extends to seeing movies long after they've been released. Seeing a movie in theaters six weeks after it opened guarantees you two things: 1) there's a good chance there won't be many people in the theater 2) you have about a 95% chance of getting a good seat.

So after taking my time seeing the movie "42" I finally watched it a week ago, and while there were certainly enjoyable parts of the film, it left me wanting more. It's like going to a restaurant and only having money to buy a couple of appetizers, but you really wanted the steak entree. At the end of your meal, you may be full, but not necessarily satisfied. I felt the same way towards "42." Good attempt, but it wasn't the entree I was hoping for.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Shooting Breaks Out, But National Coverage Is Slow To Follow

Imagine being at a parade on Mother's Day in your neighborhood enjoying yourself. People are dancing and singing and just having a good time. Now imagine a shooting breaks out and people in your vicinity are shot and wounded. Sounds like a pretty frightful experience. This scenario needs no imagination for it's exactly what happened at a second line celebration in New Orleans last weekend.

Violence has been a problem in New Orleans for a few years now since the rebuilding effort after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Still, it's disheartening to hear 19 people wounded in a shooting when their only crime was enjoying a parade on Mother's Day of all days. Perhaps even more troubling however, is the lack of national media attention this shooting received.

I remember seeing the word 'New Orleans' trending on Twitter that following Sunday evening, and CNN did mention the shooting in their nightly newscast, but within a couple of days it seemed to blow over. At a time when guns and gun ownership is a hotly debated topic in our nation, you would think a shooting at such a public event would warrant more attention. But it didn't. Sadly, this lack of attention about the causes and circumstances behind these crimes has too often been missing in dealing with communities of color.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Projecting Beyond The Wall

There was an interesting article a couple weeks back by the NY Times talking about the powerful impact that film was having on a group of female students. The twist? All of the students were inmates.

The article profiles one former inmate, 20-year-old Amirah Harris, and the impact that Tribecca Teaches had on her. Tribecca Teaches is a film program run by the Tribecca Film Institute that teaches students in New York City and Los Angeles the craft of filmmaking. The NY Times article speaks with one of the teachers in the program who taught at Rikers Island (a prison facility) and noted the positive impact it had on the women in her class. She also notes that she didn't fear for her safety at all during the time she was teaching.

I remember hearing of a similar story on NPR radio host Michele Martin's "Tell Me More" program, where a woman in Indiana who is a public school teacher, volunteers her time teaching inmates Shakespeare. She said that the inmates brought their own experiences into their analysis of the work, raising questions and positions that she as a teacher had never even considered before. She too stated that she had no fear for her own safety in the classroom, and that many of the inmates were just happy that someone was willing to take time out of their day to work with them.

In both these cases we see the power that art can have on a population deemed 'undesirable' by society. If art - whether it be film, Shakespeare, or poetry - can have these dramatic effects on prisoners, maybe we ought to rethink about arts being the first thing cut when school budgets get tight. Just a thought.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Remembering Chris Kelly and Kris Kross

There are some songs that you recognize immediately when they're played over the airwaves. "Jump" by the rap duo Kris Kross was one of those songs.

That's why it's sad to hear of the passing of Chris Kelly last week who was Mac Daddy to partner Chris Smith's Daddy Mac. The two of them combined to form Kriss Kross and in 1992 their single "Jump" appeared No 1. on the Billboard Top 100 for 8 weeks. More than 20 years later that single is still being played. R.I.P. Chris Kelly.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Was 1993 A Banner Year for Black Cinema?

There was an interesting article posted last month on The Grio that looked at the year 1993 and the amount of 'black' films that were released during those 12 months. Could there be another renaissance coming 20 years later?

When we talk about films starring, directed, or produced by people of color being released in theaters, it usually revolves around the dearth of such films. This is in large part due to a lack of financing many filmmakers of color simply don't have access to. Although in recent years that has changed a bit with crowdfunding, it is still a rather large hurdle to overcome.

What makes 1993 so unique was the plethora of 'black' films that hit the screen that year. It was as if someone parted the seas and gave these films passage to the big screen instead of taking the all to common straight to video route.

There were biographies like "What's Love Got To Do With It," starring Angela Bassett as Tina Turner. There were comedies such as "Cool Runnings" and "Sister Act 2," which starred Whoopi Goldberg. And then there were the inner-city dramas like "Menace II Society," and "Poetic Justice," starring Janet Jackson and the late Tupac Shakur.

Many look at the early 90s and 1993 in particular as a time when 'black' films had a higher chance of getting major distribution deals then at any point before or since. Do you agree? Here's the original article.