It’s been a big year in Black film, but Shani O. Hilton points out over at Buzzfeed that there’s trouble with lumping this year’s black films — “Fruitvale Station”, “12 Years a Slave”, “The Butler”, etc. — together:
…honoring the achievements of Black filmmakers by declaring it “their” year does them a disservice. Lumping together heavy dramas with lighthearted romcoms simply because of the skin color of the actors or director prevents these films from being measured against the whiter counterparts that actually share their genre — inadvertently ghettoizing the former and protecting the latter from scrutiny. It’s difficult to imagine pulling, say, Blue Is the Warmest Colour, The Great Gatsby, The Hangover Part III, and The Fifth Estate into a story declaring 2013 the year of the “white movie.”
If 2013 is notable for Black filmmakers in any way, it’s that the models for distribution are more diverse than ever. [London black filmmaker Patrick Victor] Monroe’s smart script led Cumberbatch and his SunnyMarch production company partners to jump on board. The team launched a crowdfunding campaign, leaning on the actor’s name in an attempt to raise about $40,000 on IndieGogo — and ended up with nearly $140,000. (Monroe noted, “I wasn’t sure about using Benedict’s name to raise money — it just didn’t feel right to me — but Benedict was totally in to do it and to be involved.”)
And not only that, according to Hilton, but we’ve also been here before:
The independent Black film wave adds a layer of richness to an experience familiar to many Black Americans. “Back in the late ’80s and ’90s, it was, ‘Spike Lee has a movie and we have to go see it — gotta go support it,’” said Malcolm D. Lee. “Now there’s a bunch of movies and talented filmmakers out there, and they’re getting their movies funded and they’re going to festivals — and that’s a beautiful thing for filmgoers, the popcorn filmgoer, and the search-out-the-arthouse-theater filmgoer.”
It’s a compelling argument. Read more over at Buzzfeed.
“Like a character who develops a discreet but noticeable cough at the end of the first act, the movies have been dying for a long time. The latest chapter in their decline — which began, depending on who is telling the story, with the introduction of sound, the rise of television, the fall of the old studios, the spread of home video or the arrival of the Internet — was written earlier this year. …
It is no longer news that video games are, measured in dollars and hours spent by the young, bigger than movies. And the notion that television is better, a provocative claim just a few years ago, when the memory of “The Sopranos” was still fresh and “The Wire” was winding down, is now conventional wisdom in the era of “Mad Men,” “Game of Thrones,” “The Walking Dead” and “Girls.” …
It is easy to conclude that movies have surrendered that long-held vanguard position. The creative flowering of television has exposed the complacency and conservatism that rules big-money filmmaking at the studio level, the deep malaise that Soderbergh, Spielberg, Obst and many others, aesthetes and populists alike, have lamented. Audiences are expected to see the same thing — the planet-shaking battle of good and evil; the high jinks of overgrown boy-men; the adventures of a plucky animated creature out to prove himself in a world of celebrity voices — again and again, up to and past the point of exhaustion. Winning formulas and popular brands (Pixar, Marvel, J.R.R. Tolkien, Johnny Depp) are run into the ground, stripped of novelty and magic in pursuit of profit. Visual clichés run amok. If the fight on the speeding train in “The Lone Ranger” wasn’t enough for you, there’s one in “The Wolverine.” At the climax of the latest “Star Trek” movie, Spock and Khan fight it out while San Francisco is smashed to pieces. In the Superman reboot, the Man of Steel and Zog do the same in Metropolis. Does anyone care?
But within this landscape of bloat and desolation, there is quite a lot worth caring about. More important, there are filmmakers determined to refine and reinvigorate the medium, to recapture its newness and uniqueness and to figure out, in a post-film, platform-agnostic, digital-everything era, what the art of cinema might be. Like every previous period of decline — which is to say like just about every other moment in the past century — this is an age of wild and restless experimentation. Maybe even a golden age.”
When gorgeous lesbian Samantha has a drunken one night stand with a strange man, she contracts what she thinks is a sexually-transmitted disease. But the truth is far more disturbing. As her horrific condition worsens, her friends begin to fear for her… and themselves. A gory body-horror film in the vein of David Cronenberg, Contracted provides truly gut-wrenching, visceral terror.
The project was born out of the ashes of a national news report that slandered Gallup, along with its significant Indian population. In Ms. Freeland’s own words:When I was growing up I saw a news piece on ABC’s 20/20 describing my hometown as “Drunktown, USA”. This film is my effort to defy that judgement of my community. With your support my film will show the world that label was wrong, and that my community has complexity, dimension and hope.The project has a Facebook page, as well, and the individual postings there are especially interesting. In one, Ms. Freeland points out that of the entire cast of 36 actors, 32 are American Indian — 18 Navajo, 2 Zuni, and 12 from other tribal nations. That is, frankly, an astounding cast ratio.
As important as the cast and production itself are, equally important is the storyline. It’s an effort to show the dominant culture what it means to be Indian in the 21st Century — and what Indian Gallup actually is. Which is to say, like any other municipality, it’s not all alcoholism and violence and dysfunction: It’s a community of real people, with fully three-dimensional lives that include love, joy, pain, sadness, and all the layers of human emotion and complexity found anywhere and everywhere in the world.
The plotline follows the daily lives of three young Navajo adults who have learned that they are in line to become the next generation of medicine persons for their people. One is young woman who had fully converted to Christianity; one is a young man (Breaking Bad's Jeremiah Bitsui) who has also just learned that he is about to become a father, like it or not and ready or not; and one is a young transgendered woman who will have to learn to call upon her people’s traditions to take her place as a Nádleeh (a Two-Spirit, or member of the LGBTQI community).
Particularly encouraging is the casting of (and storyline involving) Carmen Moore, the transgendered woman actor who plays Fellxia, a transgendered woman character. Many Native cultures have historically understood and respected the fact that gender identity and sexual orientation exist at a multitude of points and interstices along a continuum. Too many, however, have had much of that knowledge excised by post-Contact conversion and immersion in the bigotries of the contemporary dominant culture. The role of Felixia reportedly attempts to recapture the respect with which the Diné have traditional regarded those who serve their people as Nádleeh, placed firmly in the context of all the micro- and macro-aggressions that Carmen Moore and other members of Native LGBTQI communities must navigate on a daily basis.
As noted above, Drunktown’s Finest is still seeking funding to bring filming to completion. Right now, Ms. Freeland and her crew are racing to beat the deadline for acceptance into the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. To that end, she has launched a Kickstarter project to try to close the financial gap; only seven days remain on the current campaign. [Today] is Ms. Freeland’s 33rd birthday; if you’re inclined to show your appreciation, you can give her a birthday present by supporting the film project here.
from their Indiegogo page:
The Monster Slayer Project is a contemporary visual retelling of the story of the Navajo Hero Twins, Monster Slayer and Born for Water. This project attempts to explore who these figures might be today, and what foes they might face. Our film is set in a small town on the Navajo Nation and follows our protagonists, Shondiin and Nathan Yazzie as they follow in the footsteps of the legendary Hero Twins to gain the ability to defeat fearsome monsters that have been emerging from the wilderness, and to solve the mystery of their origin.
Our film seeks to bring the story of the twins to a younger generation, and to create mainstream images of native characters who are strong, self-reliant, and motivated heroes. We want to make something that will appeal to a large audience, but especially to youth from the Four Corners region…The end goal of this project is the production of a feature film or television series to be produced in the Gallup area, and on the Navajo Nation. By melding the ancient storytelling traditions of the southwest with current revolutions in digital image-making and special effects, we seek to bring these characters to life.
THE GUERRILLA ANGEL REPORT — Update: Sept. 8, 2013. I feel Lana Wachowski’s video here is worth watching over and over again — she’s inspiring to us all.)
Filmmaker and trans woman Lana Wachowski, who (along with her brother Andy) directed the The Matrix series films, accepted the Visibility Award by the Human Rights Campaign and rewarded attendees of the event with a truly emotional — sometimes humorous, sometimes gut wrenching — speech about her transition into Lana. (She got this award and gave this speech in 2012.)
A private person, somewhat shy and unaccustomed to giving a speech in front of a large audience, Lana Wachowski pulled off the impossible — she had the audience hanging on to every word, mesmerized for the entire 25 minutes she spoke.
GLAAD’s Studio Responsibility Index On Gay Representation Recalls Last Year’s Awful Movies
With yesterday’s release of the inaugural Studio Responsibility Index, GLAAD confirmed that thing…
Otherworldly Videos: Kina Sky + Ain’t Nothing But a She Thing #afrofuturism
Sorry everyone that I have been gone so long. I kind of was distracted for a bit. But I am back! In light of some of the recent internet controversies that happened last week, including one involving Harriet Tubman (shame on you Russell!), here is a some…
Destination: Planet Negro! (2013, directed by Kevin Willmott)
Lean back, turn up the volume and enjoy our graduation film, “Small Penis”.
Be sure to watch all the way to the end as we have a great set of bloopers:)
It’s the story of Daniel, a man who all of his life has felt insecure because of his penis size. This changes when he joins a support group a little bit out of the ordinary.
The budget was about 4-500 dollars. Filmed in 5 days in Bergen, Norway.
Shot on Sony XDcam, 1920x1080, 25p. Edited in Final Cut.
In case you are wondering, the language they are speaking is Norwegian.
Fáðu Já! (“Get Yes!”) is a fantastic educational film from Iceland on sexual consent.
The film is 20 minutes long. The screenshot below directly links to the version with English subtitles; you can find versions in other languages as well on the website link above. And after you watch, come back to read a short email interview I did with Þórdís Elva Þorvaldsdóttir, one of the filmmakers.
“Afro-futurism is a culture lineage,” Mathambo said. “As Africans, because of our education systems, we’re not fed a history of ourselves and of our culture. And people are not necessarily digging through that history and that culture. Afro-futurists [offer] an alternate history. If the white man is going to say we came from trees and the jungle and we were nothing before [he came along], we’re going to create our own incredibly proud alternate lineage based on our history, but also based on whatever we see fit to do. A lot of it has to do with pride and building ourselves as a people. … But on the flipside my biggest influences are like the jazz pianist Sun Ra in that he’d create a whole universe. He’s from Saturn. … I enjoy and appreciate that” (5).
“Lucia Puenzo’s drama XXY probes the psychological aftereffects that adolescent transsexuality can yield. With a name easily applicable to either gender, young teenager Alex’s (Ines Efron) hermaphroditic physiology causes a massive identity crisis and severe emotional withdrawal. The problems create social problems in the family’s home of Argentina and virtually force Alex and his/her sympathetic parents, Kraken (Ricardo Darín) and Suli (Valeria Bertuchelli) to move to nearby Uruguay, at a point when Alex wrestles with the throes of puberty. The situation grows increasingly complex when several friends of the family arrive: marrieds Erika (Carolina Pelereti) and Ramiro (German Palacios), a plastic surgeon, and their adolescent son, Alvaro (Martin Piroyanski), whom Alex instantly propositions for sex. As Alex battles some local punks who try unsuccessfully to rape him/her (saved at the last minute by Kraken), Alvaro finally accepts Alex’s promptings for intercourse and comes to a gradual realization of his own gayness. Meanwhile, the rift between the adults and the youth widens with increasing rapidity.” ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi
Just got this in the mail, can’t wait to watch it!