Tag Archives: Spike Lee

25Aug/19
DC Black Film Festival

The DC Black Film Festival Rocked its Third Year

If you didn’t attend the DC Black Film Festival this past weekend then you missed out on some really great films from some talented creatives. Hollywood still struggles to represent diversity in the industry but, with events like the DC Black Film Festival,  people can enjoy quality films about people of color and not the rhetoric that Hollywood loves to repeat. 

There were over 50 films shown that had me laughing, crying (I call it eye sweat, lol), and, most of all, sympathizing with some of the characters on screen that look that like me.

“People of color have a constant frustration of not being represented, or being misrepresented, and these images go around the world.” – Spike Lee 

Below are some films that I loved.  

We Want to Make It A film that explores the journey of young musicians (Jourdan, 14yrs old, and Tarron) as they strive to make their way from performing on the DC metro to stardom. It’s a very well done piece that shines light on Black youth doing something positive with their talents instead of becoming a statistic out on the streets. 

The DC Black Film FestivalMe Time A hilarious short, done by Iyabo Boyd, that had me laughing the whole time. This film goes into the thoughts of a young Black woman (portrayed by Adnike Thomas) who just wants to find her own peace of mind while reaching her happy place and maybe an orgasm along the way. This film has a Nutty Professor feel as the very talented actress takes on all the various roles in the film. I went from chuckling in my seat to choking on my water with laughter. 

Slave Cry A film, by Jai Johnson, speaks volumes on the issue of token characters that Black people are offered in hollywood. With films like Black Panther having much success and displaying diversity in the Black community, hollywood still has a long way to go. Slave Cry was a well written film that made me feel so bad for the lead character, played by Courtney Jamison, as she learns that no matter the level of talent, the entertainment business still needs to work on diversifying characters in their projects. Thank God we have a well selected Ariel for the Little Mermaid and thank God Jai Jackson made this film artist can relate to. 

Roasted A hilarious short film that has a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off feel which follows a coffee shop employee who talks about his work day dealing with customers, making coffee, putting up with his boss, working solo and enjoying time listening to music while writing. His expression and body language change from animated to annoyance as he switches his focus from the audience to the characters in the film. 

The DC Black Film FestivalEmmett One of the standout features about a boy genius  (Miles Brown from Grown-ish) that deals with social issues, being a championed student of color, and adapting to change and maturity. This great film was both relatable and touching as it took me back to my days in my youth and adapting to life as an over achiever in academics. This film sets the tone as it really touches on some of the issues we’ve all dealt with. 

LiME A story of a young man’s hardwork and success of achieving his goals threatened by bullies who attack him based on his lifestyle. Truly a touching story of how cruel people can be and how beautiful the human spirit can manifest surrounded by the right crowd. Creator/director, Donta Story, put together a great short. 

East of the River East of the River, by Hannah Peterson, is a compelling story of how a young girl, her highschool mate, and former schoolmate now sex worker connect through exploring the streets of DC. I think this film had great chemistry amongst the actors. Their relationship was very ambivalent, because it felt a little romantic. Nonetheless, the young DC natives did an amazing job!  

The DC Black Film FestivalUna Great Movie Explores the world of a Black female screenwriter and her hopes of getting her film picked up. The film also follows the lead character in her film as the two worlds reflect the difficulties of having creative and unconventional Black love stories, as the character portrayed in the screenwriter’s film looks to rekindle an old love that is of Mexican descent. The creator and director, Jennifer Sharp, explained the difficulty in getting new and fresh content 

The Call Angel Weaver’s work is a film that captures the moment when a girl receives the phone call from her brother locked up in the prison system. The film showcased the unsettling experience of receiving the call, with a hilarious beginning that shows that the call can come at any moment.  

Corey Creator/director/actor, Steven St. Pierre, put together a touching film about a Black man that has a difficult relationship with his wife, who has a drug addiction, and is raising his daughter while shielding her from the ugly truth about her mom. By the end of the film, the audience discovers why Corey works hard to keep his emotions together and his daughter safe emotionally. 

The Right Swipe A show about two female friends that start a business helping men find matches on a dating app by curating their profiles. Although I have had little experience on dating apps, I found the pilot interesting and humorous. When I asked co-creator and Maryland native, Kyra Jones, about the show, she explained, Through our research, we found that Black women and Asian men are less likely to get different matches. Even the cast is diverse, we wanted to make sure that we brought Black love to the forefront of the show. The show discusses how complex and how difficult it is to find romantic partners.” Watch the pilot here!

Together This film was one of the moving films of the festival. The story of Black love between an older married couple as they hold true to their vows through sickness and health. The film left me and those in attendance in tears as we saw the astonishing acting of EFE (2019 DC Black Films Best Actress) and her co-star show love at its best. There is talks of this being developed into a full feature film and I can’t wait to see it. 

Having the Peele Appeal Night at the table and Dog Person are films from the film festival that had a Jordan Peele feel to them. It’s no surprise that the creatives of the films are inspired by Jordan Peele. 

Night at the table A horror film that had definitely gave me a chill, from start to finish, as the film introduces a normal Black family that is more than just that. The director was inspired by the film Hereditary and even coached the lead actress to channel the mother of the film Hereditary. The multi-talented creative describes her films as being consequential pain in two words. 

Dog Person If you loved watching the film Us by Peele or Tusk then you have to see this short film by Justin Fairweather. It’s a little disturbing in some parts but entertaining nonetheless. With a good performance by Jordanna Hernandez, Dog Person left me wanting to see what more films from Fairweather and hopefully a feature that have audiences everywhere entertained. 

Who is Kevin Sampson?

Kevin Sampson is the BrainChild behind the DC Black Film Festival. He said it all started when Think Like a Man 2 came out and he was a little upset while he watched it because it was less about Black love and more of the Kevin Hart show. He explained that “We (Black people) only get a few movies per year and this is how we wasted it and maybe sometimes we need that.” 

He then wrote an open letter to creatives everywhere explaining that black creatives have to do better. Many people including some hollywood actors commented on it. This inspired him to start a kickstarter for a documentary about Black Hollywood. The Kickstarter wasn’t successful but that led Kevin to create the DC Black Film festival. A place where Black people can showcase their talent and love for Black people. 

Fast Facts About Kevin Sampson:
  • Graduated from American University Film school with a MFA in Film & Electronic Media 
  • Created Picture Lock, an entertainment website, radio show/podcast, and hour long film review TV show.
  • Director of the Rosebud Film Festival since 2013. 
  • Created Picture Lock PR to represent independent films. 

The DC Black Film Festival was an amazing event and a success in it’s third year. It is important that we have events like these to not only show people of color on screen or Black culture but the diversity within the Black community. I think the DC Black Film festival will continue to grow to inspire young creatives and encourage people to watch quality films.

Winners From the Festival:

DC Best Film “ We Want to Make It”

Best Student Film “Masks” 

Best Web Series “The History of White People in America”

 Best Short Film “East of the River” 

 Best Experimental Film “Here”

 Best Documentary Feature “Owned: The Tale of Two Americas”  

 Best Narrative Feature “Una a Great Movie” 

 Best Director Mahaliy Ahayla O

 Best Actress Efe

 Best Actor  Roderick Bradford Jr. 

 

14Aug/18
Blackkklansman x Uncle Spike

Blackkklansman and Double Consciousness

Blackkklansman. Wow. My face is still hot.

As I am sitting outside the theater in my car, the images keep flashing. The movie was phenomenal, to say the least. But it was also too much for me.

Is it because I too deal with this double conscious? Struggling between wanting to work within the system to change it and wanting to burn the whole thing down. Worrying nonstop about whether my son will become a hashtag.

If you’re not familiar with W.E.B. duBois’ understanding of double consciousness, it is basically the way Black people have to straddle between being too white and too Black. You know how we switch between our job interview voice and our “get it girl” voice? That is a part of double consciousness. It is the difference between the boardroom and the barbershop. This film explores double consciousness masterfully.

Set to a spectacular score by Black composer Terence Blanchard, Blackkklansman will transport you to an era when #TeamNatural was a movement and not a meme.

Spoiler alert.

Since the 80s, I’ve looked up to Spike Lee’s work for a reflection of the emotions I had trouble expressing when it comes to race. I have been Mookie: frustrated with how messed up the world is while simultaneously trying to navigate it. As much as everyone wants to be Mookie at the end of Do the Right Thing, I am Mookie at the beginning. I have been Betty Shabazz: ready to rise up and sacrifice myself while still wanting to protect the people I love. Now I am Ron Stallworth: trying to defend and protect and uplift and hide my Blackness at the same time.

Weirdly enough–I think I was the only Black person in the theater (I saw it on a Monday). It felt the same as any other day being the only Black person in a room where Black people were the topic of discussion.

Blackkklansman x Uncle Spike

And props to Jordan Peele as well. Peele brought me back to that place of fear from Get Out. John David Washington PLAYED HIS ASS OFF. From the beginning, Laura Harrier had my attention every time she was on screen as BSU president and chief agitator Patrice Dumas and Corey Hawkins gave me chills as Kwame Ture.

It was Spike’s signature cinematic touches that resonated most with me though. I felt the intentional uplifting of the faces of Black beauty displayed in the crowd, with their features prominently celebrated in close-up shots. When Kwame Ture is speaking at the Colorado College Black Student Union event, it reawakened something that I have been suppressing–that fight in me from college. The hidden hood rat in my heart who I have actively ignored to make way for a more acceptable negro that can gain access to the master’s tools. I thought hiding under the radar was the move.

But there is no such thing as under the radar for Black people. We are under the gun from birth. I once heard a poet in DC say that doctors wrote Black babies’ birth certificates on the backs of toe tags.

As much as people complain about his, I am grateful for Uncle Spike.

Two scenes stood out because they directly parallel to my professional life.

The first part is when Stallworth feels there may be a delay in getting the official klan member card. Stallworth called David Duke and talked his way into getting the coronation pushed up. This cognitive dissonance is astoundingly relatable. There was a clear juxtaposition.

The second scene worth mentioning is when he actually receives the card in the mail. That card is a symbol of his acceptance into whiteness. It is a coveted position in our community; it is a survival strategy we have been taught for decades. Generations of sharecroppers prayed that integrated schools, the right to vote, and general respectability politics would save our Black souls. Regardless of how many times that sentiment is proven wrong, we still cling to it like white supremacists cling to the ridiculous notion that they are superior. The genius of this film stems from the fact that it is based on the true story of Detective Ron Stallworth.

In the last ten minutes or so of the film, I saw the flashes of Black death and white hatred I have avoided on social media for so long. I have never watched any of the police killings. I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Blackkklansman forced me to confront brutality. It was a call to action.

I cried at the end of Blackkklansman because it hurts. I am in pain. We are in a seemingly unending pattern that both cripples and propels us. While I was in that theater, I cried because I am sick of shrinking myself until I am small enough not to bother Becky. I cried because my future husband is more likely to be a felon than a philosophy professor. One weight was lifted and another was placed on my shoulders. I cried because it is hard to believe in God when my people are targeted like we’re demons and people still defend cops.

“Not all cops”

“All lives matter”

I cried because I am tired of this matter-of-fact racism remixed and reborn in 45’s image.

I am so sick of this.

At the same time, I am grateful for Black artistry in the midst of all this ignorance. What I have loved about Uncle Spike since Crooklyn was his ability to take something I thought only I felt and turned it into a universally understood reality. His free-floating dolly shots have long captivated me.

  • Malcolm X (the scene right before he died)
  • School Daze (Laurence Fishburne screaming ‘wake up!’)
  • Crooklyn (Troy floating away in her dream)

…and now in Blackkklansman (the last scene before we fast forward to the Charlottesville attacks). The film is visually stimulating and incredibly insightful.

As if the acting and filmography weren’t enough, the soundtrack is so on point to the double consciousness that runs through the script.

Blackkklansman will have you questioning your contribution to the cause and our collective position in this anti-Black world.

19Jan/16

Boycott the Oscars: Should You Do it? See Chart…

Boycott the Oscars and #OscarsSoWhite have taken over the web with so much drama and controversy that, once again, the points have gotten lost in a sea of bitter pettiness…The question at hand is “Should the Black community boycott the Oscar awards?”, with the follow up question being, “Why are we seeking validation from an organization that cares nothing about us?” Let’s dive into this a bit…

boycott

So lately we have heard about Jada Pinkett Smith’s call to boycott the Oscars, followed up by support from Spike Lee, Snoop Dogg, and other celeb friends, as well as Janet Hubert’s response to Jada’s call to boycott. Needless to say, both Jada and Janet have questionable motives behind their posts, but the bright side is some of the conversation that has sparked among the community. Here are our thoughts:

#One: Boycott the Oscars… We should have collectively tuned out the Oscars decades ago…

We could yawn at this topic, and dismiss it as the bottom of the barrel of things we need to focus on in our community, but the fact is a lot of Black people still tune in every year hoping and praying to see their favorites walk away with the Ptah Oscar. When they tune in, they help to boost ratings, thus advertising dollars for the program. Us not watching might not make as much of an impact as us not shopping during Black Friday, but every bit counts.

#Two: Boycotting and seeking validation are not, I repeat NOT, parallel concepts…

I swear fo’ geez, if I hear one more person ask why we’re looking for validation in response to boycotting. Boycotting is merely abstaining from something. Yes, it can be used as an intimidation tactic, but it’s not the case here. Taji Mag abstains from including any news that does not help our community build and grow. We boycott the use of non Black Owned Businesses as much a possible. We do not do this in hopes that non Black Owned businesses start treating our people better. We’re not concerned with how they operate business because WE DON’T SHOP THERE. The same concept applies here. We do not boycott the Oscars in hopes for a seat at the table, we do it because we have our award shows and organizations that provide us with the proper recognition our people deserve, that’s where our focus and loyalty lives.

#Three: Quit wasting time being bitter and quarreling…

Both sides of the “argument” are basically saying the same thing while wasting time on semantics and emotions.

Bottom line:

Let’s boycott any and everything not checking for us and give our dollars to our community first. That is how we regain and maintain our communities. Work together instead of apart. Stop picking apart the messenger and absorb the message.