|FILM (Studio)||RELEASED||N-WORD||BNW Says…||DVD?|
|This Is It
|Law Abiding Citizen
* limited release in select cities.
** the south african n-word equivalent of “kaffir” was used in this film.
The BN-W/Educate-Empower monitor notes and cast/production details of the film(s) listed above are farther down in this eNewsletter. As noted in BN-W #97, our new at-a-glance chart format above details the pertinent facts up front – N-word usage, BN-W’s one-word film overview (BS, Mediocre, Worthy), and whether we would spend the dollars to purchase the DVD.
BN-W/EDUCATE-EMPOWER: TOPICS AND ISSUES
Marcia Harris of BN-W is presenting Imagery & Its Power! as part of a fundraiser for DIVAS (Digital Interactive Visual Arts Sciences) for Social Justice, which is a non-profit organization that “ aims to bridge the digital divide by combining media literacy and cultural awareness along with a vast understanding of technology to encourage young women of color to pursue careers in computer science and new media.” For more on this organization and its wonderful work visit: DIVAS for Social Justice. Please come out and support the DIVAS and see the powerful BN-W Imagery & Its Power! presentation. See what the DIVAS and BN-W are all about. Event details (including a short video) are at this Facebook link as well as below:
Date: December 1, 2009
Time: 6:30pm – 9:00pm
Place: Magnolia Tree Earth Center
677 Lafayette Avenue (Tompkins and Marcy Avenues)
Brooklyn, New York
[All funds are tax-deductible and go directly for the students of DIVAS for Social Justice]
Light refreshments will be served.
Although it’s closing on November 22nd, if you’re in New York City and can make it, check out Off Broadway’s Broke-ology. It’s playing at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater (at Lincoln Center) located at 150 West 65th Street, New York. Get the discount code to purchase tickets for $42.50 at this link. As referenced in the last eNewsletter, Fela! has transitioned to Broadway. We’ve seen it again and can tell you – again – it’s a must-see. It’s still in previews through this weekend but officially opens on November 23rd. Visit the Fela! site here for recent updates (do you know who the newly added producers are?) and visit BroadwayBox for the discount code to purchase tickets in person or online. Listen to Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie speak about the stereotyping of African culture and read this Village Voice article – West Africa Story: Fela! on Broadway. Let’s support these live theatre productions!
Kudos to those behind Good Hair and Precious which have generated huge coverage of “taboo” topics that so many of us want to hide from or avoid talking about. Of course, most of these topics can affect anyone regardless of background or ethnicity. But the focus in these films is on people of African descent. It’s very well known that many – not all – Black women have major hair issues and are, quite frankly, just not comfortable with what grows out of their scalp – aka their God-given hair. Fortunately, that trend is starting a slow reversal. Back in July 2006,BN-W #67 touched on this topic about the tactics Koreans are using to takeover the billion dollar Black hair business. Chris Rock does acknowledge this issue in his documentary, but this Black Hair Documentary by Aron Ranen, which has been out there for a while, delves much deeper:
On this financial aspect, both films point out what everybody already knows, Black women are paying handsomely – more than likely overpaying and being ripped off – for wigs, weaves, and other hair products but they own little to none of this highly lucrative industry. Beautiful Black women, if you insist on wearing and/or using these items, don’t you think it’s time to put a marketing and business strategy together to get at least 50% ownership of this industry in your hands? The Black dollar is a powerful thing, see the statistics here: Target Market News. Do we realize the billions of dollars other people are making off of our sloppy and unfocused consumer spending habits? Do we realize how our dollar does not circulate in our communities? Ladies, if you must do the wig/weave/perm/relaxer thing, wise up and start to own it financially as well. You’ve got the smarts. We’ve all got to get that entrepreneurial spirit flowing again. Incidents like the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma race riot have discouraged many of us from re-creating “Little Africa” on a global scale but that spirit of entrepreneurship must return or others will continue becoming multi-millionaires and creating economic powerhouses with our money based on what they, perhaps aptly, perceive as our insecurities.
We highly encourage you to see these films for yourself and, if applicable, make your own judgment call on the N-word usage – appropriate/inappropriate? necessary/unnecessary? sensible/nonsensical? does it add to or take away from the film’s concept? does the N-word have to be used at all? is there a valid reason for doing so? is it mandatory for the scene(s) to be effective? what are the circumstances/situation that necessitate any use of the word? is it just thrown in for humor, fear, crime, insult? are other culturally insulting slang terms used as much – or at all – as the N-word in the film? Lots of questions and a whole lot of reasons to wonder what’s the real purpose and thought process behind why these entertainers, writers, directors, producers, executive producers, distributors, and studios/studio heads and executives give the “greenlight” for these crews to liberally use (or allow to be used) the N-word.
FEATURE FILM(S) :
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
Starring Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, Sherri Shepherd; screenplay written by Geoffrey Fletcher; directed by Lee Daniels; produced by Lee Daniels, Gary Magness, Sarah Siegel-Magness; executive produced by Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Lisa Cortes, Tom Heller; studio – Lionsgate
This film focuses on a difficult topic (abuse in multiple forms) and it’s not always easy to watch for that reason but the film is laced with positivity throughout and ends on a high note because this young girl has found herself, has learned how not to accept the abuse anymore, will take care of her children, and is clearly moving onward and upward even though it’s evident that it will be a challenging road – but it’s her only option and it’s worthwhile. In many aspects of this film, we (regardless of so-called race) will know this story from being a victim directly; knowing someone directly or indirectly; or will know or have heard of the possibility of such a situation through traveling, reading or the work environment. There’s not been a film in the Black community with this much controversy in a while. Some of the hot button issues not related to the main theme of abuse in the story are: color (light skin/dark skin); hair (straight, nappy/good, bad); weight; class; negative portrayal of Black males; and homosexuality. Because of centuries of conditioning and mental/physical manipulation through enslavement and then severe miseducation and misinformation thereafter on these issues (particularly skin color and hair texture), they are all still very controversial in the Black community. The abuse – physical, sexual, verbal, mental, spiritual – in this film was heartbreaking. But it happens; even if not necessarily from every angle as the Precious character received it. Way too many of us have a sense of class superiority and want our public image to be all about the Huxtables, so a movie like this showcases too much of our so-called “dirt.” With the recent murder and rape of 5-year Shaniya Davis (and the many other cases no one knows about), this topic needs to be on the table. Additionally, the concern by many of us about what White folks might think is evident as well. With all the issues they have and their history of rape and mistreatment of our ancestors legally for centuries, being concerned about their thoughts is ridiculous. They still have the same pedophiles, rapists, and other issues running rampant that plagued our ancestors, which is why they, too, have so much dysfunction in their own households. It’s wonderful that director Lee Daniels is bold enough to go where many are hesitant. A lot of people think he has serious issues, which might be true on a certain level, but you have to admire his gutsy attitude. Unconventional and divisive films such as Monster’s Ball, Shadowboxer, andThe Woodsman are all films he’s been involved in as either producer or director, which makes Precious a perfect fit for him. There’s mass confusion on blogs, Internet posts, and radio talk shows about his personal background, but a quick rundown is that he is gay and the father of twins whom he and his former partner adopted shortly after birth when their biological father (Daniels’ brother) and his girlfriend weren’t able to take care of them. Listen/read Daniels’ NPR interview: audio-NPR or transcript-NPR . Also read his New York Times article: NYT – The Audacity of ‘Precious.’ The book’s writer, Sapphire, also did several interviews, two of which are here: Sapphire-Katie Couricand Sapphire-NPR .
Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Cusack, Danny Glover, Thandie Newton, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Woody Harrelson; screenplay written by Harald Kloser, Roland Emmerich; directed by Roland Emmerich; produced by Harald Kloser, Mark Gordon, Larry Franco; executive produced by Roland Emmerich, Ute Emmerich, Michael Wimer; studio – Columbia Pictures
Although very over the top with some of the special effects, very standard acting, and clichéd down, the film was entertaining. And as would be expected, you know what character saves the day (John Cusack) and which do-gooder presidential character goes down with mostly everybody else (Danny Glover). One plus is that even though it’s at the end, Africa is quietly and subtly given its proper respect by being the safe haven and the only continent NOT affected by the disaster. Lastly, if nothing else, the overkill on special effects brings the spotlight once again to the “facts” about 9/11. Aren’t buildings supposed to fall crooked, lopsided, uneven, jagged – and not evenly within its own base or formation as did the World Trade Center towers?
Starring Sophie Okonedo, Sam Neill, Alice Krige, Tony Kgoroge; screenplay written by Helen Crawley, Helena Kriel, Jessie Keyt; directed by Anthony Fabian; produced by Anthony Fabian, Genevieve Hofmeyr, Margaret Matheson; executive produced by Alasdair MacCuish, Hellen Kalenga, Laurence Paltiel, Moses Silinda, Robbie Little, Simon Fawcett; studio – Elysian Films/Bard Entertainments
Apartheid in South Africa existed legally for 46 years (1948-1994). This film is based on the real life story of Sandra Laing, who was born to White Afrikaners, and the treatment she received because she was darker-skinned while her parents were white-skinned. The twist on this scenario is that her parents didn’t know about their African ancestry. The importance of this film and what it touches on about the absurd level of racism in South Africa during those years cannot be diminished. But the story could have been told more effectively, including more detail about the parents’ history in relation to the African ancestry. Okonedo is an excellent actress but she doesn’t shine in this film and that’s primarily because she’s being true to her subject (view an interview with Laing and director Anthony Fabian). Even though the film doesn’t feel complete, this story needs to be told, especially when there are still major issues inSouth Africa regarding racism and unequal land distribution. Also, one of its main supporters during the apartheid government was Israel, which is now being accused of the same type of apartheid system against the Palestinians (including demolishing homes and stealing land). For more on this at least historically worthy film, visit its site: Skin the movie .
This Is It
Concert documentary starring Michael Jackson; screenplay written by [N/A]; directed by Kenny Ortega; produced by Randy Phillips, Kenny Ortega, Paul Gongaware; executive produced by John Branca, John McClain; studio – Columbia Pictures
Michael Jackson fans will love this film because it shows Jackson preparing to do what he loves – perform. Jacksonis detail oriented, passionate, focused, and a kindhearted soul. He did have a lot of pressure on him because he was feeding a lot of people – not just his family but literally thousands of others counted on him to generate money to feed themselves, their families, and their businesses. How many families and businesses is he supporting and generating money for this moment, even in death? This film alone is on its way to $200 million and the DVD isn’t even out yet. If handled properly, the rest of his empire will continue feeding, housing, clothing, and employing thousands for years to come. It’s unfortunate that a man who was into nature and preserving the earth couldn’t find peace within himself to find a naturally healthy way to deal with his insomnia or the other physical issues he appears to have suffered from. Nevertheless, as far as Jackson’s performance capabilities, if Mick Jagger, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, and even Barbara Streisand can still be touring at 50-plus years of age, based on this footage, Jacksoncertainly was up to the task. Alas, however, it was simply not meant to be, probably because he’d already given us 45 years of his life. Rest in peace, MJJ.
Documentary starring Chris Rock [with Nia Long, Ice-T, Lauren London, Raven Symone, Meagan Good, Salt & Pepa, Maya Angelou, Ice-T, Al Sharpton, Paul Mooney]; screenplay written by Chris Rock, Jeff Stilson, Lance Crouther, Chuck Sklar; directed by Jeff Stilson; produced by Chris Rock, Kevin O’Donnell, Nelson George; executive produced by [Not Listed]; studio – Roadside Attractions
As a comedian, Rock will always put a humorous spin on any serious topic. He does, however, get many important points across, including the need to do away with putting chemicals – “creamy crack” or sodium hydroxide – into children’s hair. It not only destroys their hair follicles but it’s the beginning of planting the seeds that their natural hair is not good enough. A chemist shows the hideous effects of this dangerous lye on cans, which, unfortunately, many women who use this chemical can attest to the damage it’s done to their scalp and hair. Rock also shows some disappointment in the fact that this billion dollar hair industry is primarily owned by Koreans with 80% of the products purchased by Black women, who are only 12% of the population. You can also tell that in this film as well as the many interviews he did promoting the documentary that he wishes more women – Black women in particular – had the confidence to trust in their natural beauty more and not feel the need to look like everybody else or assimilate to the status quo or “relax” people with conformity. Overall the film was very refreshing, although the time spent on the hair show could have been better used – perhaps by putting in a more balanced viewpoint by including more than one sister with natural hair. Nia Long was also a disappointment in how she ignorantly used the N-word. Of course, there are many funny lines in the film, but one of the funniest had to be on the Oprah Winfrey Show when he said “If you’ve got a weave, your scalp is like a beat up highway.” Read the full interview here: Rock on Oprah . You can also view a video on the movie’s site here . In addition to Aron Ranen’s film mentioned above, producer/director Regina Kimbell also has what seems to be a more culturally centered documentary out on natural hair, My Nappy Roots. Kimbell recently took Rock to court accusing him of stealing her concept when she showed him her film some years back. Whatever the case may be, they both offer viewers plenty. Here is link to a video snippet of her film: Kimbell – Video . Rock closes his film with what he will tell his daughters when they get age appropriate to make their own hair choices and that will be “the stuff on top of their heads is nowhere near as important as the stuff inside their heads,” which is very true but that philosophy only works as long as they’re taught to understand that there is nothing wrong with what’s on top of their head naturally and if they have that core understanding then, yes, they will rock those various styles – with true confidence. Rock’s film only played in about 460 venues, but it will be on HBO and on available on DVD soon enough, so you “boycotters” be sure to sneak a look in the privacy of your own home.
Starring Michael Jai White, Tommy Davidson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Kym E. Whitley; screenplay written by Michael Jai White, Byron Minns, Scott Sanders; directed by Scott Sanders; produced by Jon Steingart, Jenny Wiener Steingart; executive produced by Deanna Berkeley, James Berkeley; studio – Apparition/Destination Films
A combination of a satire, parody, and spoof of the blaxploitation films. For fans of this 70s era film period, this will certainly be considered a cult favorite. At this point, however, with all of the familiar Black men in this film, it makes you wish they chose a powerful film to be in and not this one, which uses the N-word at least 14 times and is ultimately a waste of time. There are already enough of these films in existence and that have been on the big screen, we didn’t need yet another one.
Law Abiding Citizen
Starring Jamie Foxx, Gerard Butler, Viola Davis, Regina Hall; screenplay written by Kurt Wimmer; directed by F. Gary Gray; produced by Lucas Foster, Gerard Butler, Alan Siegel, Mark Gill, Kurt Wimmer, Robert Katz; executive produced by Neil Sacker, Michael Goguen; studio – Overture Films/The Film Department
If you know how corrupt law enforcement, lawyers, judges, and the whole system can be, then you can relate to and understand the concept of this film. Many took offense or didn’t see the realism or possibilities of this type of behavior, especially the corruption side. Based on history and what can be easily factually proven, these law enforcement and judicial strategies (forced plea deals and making decisions based on maintaining or achieving a “high conviction rate”) happen every day and has for centuries. Many especially know the history of it in relation to people of African descent. The more unrealistic parts came from the Butler character being able to really pull off so many acts solo, but he did have knowledge of engineering and intensely studied the law and legal system for about ten years so it’s not impossible, just unlikely. Foxx wasn’t too much of a standout in this one. It’s still in the top 10 and heading toward $70 million, so moviegoers are obviously feeling it.
Starring Naturi Naughton, Debbie Allen, Charles S. Dutton, Kelsey Grammer, Megan Mullally, Bebe Neuwirth; screenplay written by Allison Burnett; directed by Kevin Tancharoeon; produced by Richard Wright, Mark Canton, Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi; executive produced by Eric Reid, David Kern, Beth DePatie, Harley Tannebaum; studio – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Lakeshore Entertainment/United Artists
Nothing like the original, which just seemed to have more feeling and more soul. There were the usual messages in it for young people about growing up, properly appropriating the desire for “fame,” and dealing with the ups/downs of high school life and, for the purposes of this school, the world of entertainment. Naughton was the most talented of the bunch with there being too many characters to really connect fully with any. It may have been better as a cable or network movie.
BN-W Monitor Coming Soon : The Blind Side [Sandra Bullock, Quinton Aaron, Tim McGraw]; The Princess and the Frog [animated and voiced by Anika Noni Rose, Terrence Howard, Oprah Winfrey]; Invictus [Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon]; Armored [Laurence Fishburne, Columbus Short]; Wonderful World [Sanaa Lathan, Matthew Broderick]; The Book of Eli [ Denzel Washington]; and more…
Also Coming : Part II: Black-Jewish Relations (read the BN-W links on this issue: Blacks and Jews); Music Monitors