Thursday, January 2, 2014

Better Mus Come

The Narrative Better Mus Come takes place in the explosive political landscape of early 1970's Kingston, Jamaica.  A country in the midst of a heated campaign struggle between the People's National Party (whose campaign slogan was "Better Mus Come") and the more conservative incumbent Jamaican Labor Party. The warring parties aspire to clench governing rulership of Jamaica by any means necessary.  

With hired gangsters sabotaging rallies and enforcing political protection things get out-of-hand quickly.  An excellent and intense cadre of first-time performances by lead man of Reggae poetry band No Maddz, Sheldon Shepherd, who won Best Actor at the American Black Film Festival, Nicole Sky Grey, Everaldo Creary, Ricardo Orgil and Duane Pusey.   

Under the circumstance of poverty and politics these characters are placed between a rock and a hard place and there is no room for riding the fence. 

Director: Storm Saulter
Starring: Sheldon Shepherd, Nicole Sky Grey, Ricardo Orgil, Everaldo Creary, Duane Pusey and Robert Guenveur Smith
Length: 104 mins.
Origin: Jamaica, West Indies

Sunday, December 8, 2013

12 Years a Slave

At a time when Blaxploitation was THE ONLY representation of black life on screen, Alex Haley's mini-series Roots (1977 ABC), reawakened the collective Black conscious to the atrocities forced upon African Ancestors through the European Atlantic Slave Trade.

Though Roots was a landmark accomplishment, 12 Years a Slave catapults the unresolved legacy of enslavement into public discourse once again. The film is a fresh take on enslavement in a contemporary American context that some refer to as post-racial, simply because the Commander in Chief is Black.  Many folks felt compelled to get online complaining that they are tired of seeing films about Slavery. However, Hollywood produces hundreds of films per year, many of those films are Period films about European's historical experience.  No one complains about the number of films depicting the ironclad European war hero of antiquity or any film perpetuating the white male savior for that matter.  The sentiment of exhaustion may be a result of the lack of variety in Black images and film representation, but nevertheless 12 Years a Slave is exceptional.

The cast, well... all but one (Adepero Oduye who portrayed Eliza), gives a phenomenal performance, the direction is both figurative and artful.  The script is an adaptation from the pages of Solomon Northrup's non-fictional memoir of the same name.  Mr. Northrup's horrific tale of abduction and humiliation sheds light on the complexity of the seemingly insurmountable predicament many enslaved people faced.  Solomon Northrup, an educated, free man is coaxed into believing that he is being hired for his talent as a musician only to be bamboozled, beatened, blind-folded and sold into slavery.

12 Years a Slave burrows into the dehumanizing tapestry of American Slavery, revealing its barbaric practices, far reaching socio-political infrastructure and innate hypocrisy.
If for no other reason, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong'o, Micheal Fassbender and director Steve McQueen's brilliance are four excellent incentives to see this film.

Director: Steve McQueen
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong'o, Micheal Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodard, Brad Pitt
Length: 133 mins
Origin: North America

Director: Steve McQueen interview

Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender Interview

Mother of George

The story of newlyweds Adenike (Danai Gurira) and Ayodele Balogun (Isaach de BakolĂ©) is a typical Nollywood theme that focuses on issues of infertility.  However, the film is based in Brooklyn, New York's Crown Heights neighborhood. It's a brilliantly weaved drama that uses the lens to allure the visual senses and avoids unnecessary exposition and foreshadowing at all costs (Thank God).Did I mention it is absolutely, aesthetically gorgeous? Cinematographer, Bradford Young, all but put his foot in this film, garnering the best Cinematography award at this years Sundance film festival.Mother of George exudes the value Yoruba place upon children. Historically, those who are unable to bear children are considered cursed by the Gods and are in danger of breaking the cycle of life between the ancestors and the living.
Being a woman, the expectation and all fault lands in Adenike's lap and creates tension tighter than a sewn in weave.  She also struggles to find a life of her own that is not solely dependent upon being Ayo's wife.  This classic clash of tradition and modernity is certainly worth its 107 minutes in gold.

Directed by: Andrew Dosunmu

Starring: Danai Gurira, Isaach de Bankolé, Anthony Okungbowa, Yaya DaCosta and Bukky Ajayi
Length: 107 mins
Origin: North America

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Last King of Scotland

One would find themselves greatly misinformed if they relied upon the distorted lens of cinema in place of diligent historical research. The Last King of Scotland is based upon a concoction of truth and imagination, directly from the pages of English Journalist Giles Foden's 1998 novel of the same name.  The film adaptation places a fictional, young bourgeoning, Scottish doctor in the rural middle of Uganda under the auspice of a
humanitarian effort to provide locals with much needed medical care. Dr. Garigan (James McCovy) completely ignorant of Uganda's history, culture, language and political instability learns from another doctor's wife that Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker), who has just usurped the presidency will be speaking at a rally nearby. 

Garigan attends the rally in naivety and shortly after becomes quickly acquainted with President Amin as a result of an accident in which he was beaconed to the scene. It is also shortly after that I realize that this film is not at all about Idi Amin Dada Oumee, or the British machine that built the monstrosity and unleashed him upon Uganda. It would solely perpetuate the idea that tribal genocide is inherent to Africa and occurs only because a control freak becomes a dictorial president.  I feel it is important to note a couple of significant facts in order to understand the intensity of the political landscape of the late 70's in Uganda and Amin's rise to power. 

Amin nearly 20 years old joined the King's African Rifles, which was an extension of the imperialist British army. Within the KAR he was quickly promoted to corporal because of his eagerness. He had accomplished skipping four ranks to sergeant-major. Through out his military career he had served as a weapon conduit for Israeli forces involved in oppressing the Sudanese, and he played an intricate role in British attacks against the Kikuyu uprising that was a result of British imposition and economic depravation. Amin is able to evade being brought to the British court for his barbaric brutality in the Turkana Massacre with the help of his comrade and superior Prime Minister Milton Obote. Along the way he found time to grasp the heavyweight boxing championship and keep it for nearly a decade. Once Uganda achieves independence from Britain in 1962 and former President Sir Edward Mutesa is exiled, Amin and Obote become arch rivals.

The film picks up where Amin is at the height of his vainglorious climb to corruption and absolute power.
Unfortunately we are privy to the personal experience of a naive Scotsman who became a victim to Amin's paranoia. Many scenes relish in Amin's affinity for Scottish culture. Meanwhile this undermines the vast loss and devastation that Uganda suffered. Still today one can only imagine the impact that 300,000 people
killed can have upon the spirit of Uganda. So, if you are looking for entertainment, this is the movie for you. If you are hoping to understand Amin's tyrannical relationship to Uganda, I suggest you hit the books.

Directed by: Kevin McDonald 2006

Starring: Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington & David Oyelowo
Length: 123 minutes 
Origin: North America

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Black Women Filmmakers

Yaba Badoe
The Witches of Gambaga

Jihan al-Tahri
Behind the Rainbow 2010

Julie Dash
The Rosa Parks Story 2002
Lov Song 2000
Subway Stories 1997
Daughters of the Dust 1991
Safi Faye 
Kaddu Beykat 1975
Nngest Likke 
Phat Girlz 2006

Ngozi Onwurah

Shoot the Messenger 2007
Mama Africa 2001
Hangtime ( one of three films on compilation Mama Africa: Growing Up Urban) 2001
The Desired Number 1995
Monday's Girls 1993

Euzhan Palcy

Ruby Bridges 1998
A Dry White Season 1989
La Rue Cases Negres (Sugar Cane Alley) 1983

Interview with Euzhan Palcy and a clip of La Rue Cases Negres (Sugar Cane Alley)

Darnell Martin

The Lost Valentine 2011
Cadillac Records 2008
Their Eyes Are Watching God 2005
Prison Song 2001
I Like It Like That 1994

Gina Prince-Bythewood
Our Family Wedding 2010
The Secret Life of Bees 2008
Biker Boyz 2003
Disappearing Acts 2000

Neema Barnett
Civil Brand 2002

Kasi Lemmons

Talk to Me 2007
The Caveman's Valentine 2001
Eve's Bayou 1997