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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Trying To Cover "This Christmas", But...

I've been very lethargic about posting my experiences and opinions regarding black films and festivals as of late. I created this blog to speak of such things, as I thought they lacked proper coverage, but haven't given a lot of first person as I should.

Example: I went to a premiere of "This Christmas" the other day and didn't mention it yet. Yes, everybody and their momma was there, and I hadn't written about it. I think it's because I am so disappointed in film these days, not just Black Cinema, but in every genre. It seems people just throw a story together, get some high profile names and faces together, and call it a day. My favorite types of films are either witty, brilliant comedy (it can be lowbrow; one of my favorite movies is "Friday") or it has to have strong character development. Though the former can be found sometimes, the latter is severely lacking in today's films, and sad to say especially black film.

I think that was why I couldn't wholeheartedly love "American Gangster", "Why Did I Get Married?", and "This Christmas". I love a large Black Hollywood cast, yes, and I will always support, but I feel that we should be getting more for our support. Writers and directors should take the time to let us know the characters' backgrounds, what motivates them, what brought them to this point. It gives a story texture and richness, and allows it to be something that can be viewed decades from now with the same interest, i.e. Scorcese. You can still watch "The Godfather" and "Goodfellas", and whether it's your first time watching it or your 50th, it is still just as good and just as riveting. In another vein, I can quote every line of "Friday" verbatim. If you're not up to the task, at least make it engaging.

My point is, black filmmakers should not just rely on our allegiance for support in making a black film. Take the time to craft a story that will stand the test of time, one that we will want to rewatch 10 years from now. Having half of Black Hollywood in a movie is not enough, you have to give more. That way, our film festivals, our premieres, our stories will be paid attention to and taken seriously, giving us the Hollywood power we so deserve. It doesn't have to have a 30 million dollar budget, just thoughtfulness and genuine intent.


justjudith said...

i agree. but as long as our films have to go thru the studio system, you're going to have them watered down. that's why what tyler perry is doing is so impressive. it just would be nice if he were more of an auteur. his sensibilities lack sophistication. it's great for him and i am happy for his success, but he is no great film director. and oddly, the actors who could afford to do what tyler's done have no interest in it. it's like they're all just in it to be paid and not cause trouble. house negro syndrome.

Invisible Woman said...

Very good last sentence jj :-), and I completely agree with you in every way on almost all points except for one...when I go to these film festivals, I see plenty of films that have bypassed the Hollywood system, which is beautiful. Some of them even have decent budgets, also beautiful.

But they are destined to go straight to video, and not get any decent distribution deals. Why? Simply because they are garbage. I cannot buy into the studio excuse all the time anymore. There are people out there that have great resouces and just make a movie. If you can do all that, why not make a decent or different one? I'm just saying....they are really, really bad films. That's why I get so apathetic, it seems NO ONE is really trying.

Danielle said...

I co-sign on your whole post. I'm not going to support a film just because it's "black." Standards are necessary. I realize we are so thirsty for our image on screen that we can throw a demand for quality out the door.

I don't believe in that mentality. A good director and story must be in place regardless of race. I want to support Tyler Perry, but I have to be honest and say I'm not all that enthusiastic about his work. I want to see him improve as a director and writer.

I guess time will tell, but I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired as the old folks would say.

Invisible Woman said...

That's why I brought up "Friday". It had a small budget, a few big names, major distribution, and a very thoughtful director. It showed what can be done if someone spends a few minutes.

Regina said...

Interesting post and comments. I do not support things just because they are black. Case in point "Soul Plane", this was garbage with big names, i refused to watch it and banned it from my house. I don't beleive that just because you are black you are due respect. You should be judged by what you produce, and you should not start yelling about black folks not supporting you if you produce garbage.
My time and money will support works of quality.

ambboogie said...

I agree.. why can't we get good writing and good scripts instead of the usual shid we see.

this is why I haven't made it to see American Gangster yet.

janice said...

I agree we have not had our masterpiece yet. The problems of black cinema are also a problem of a "mainstream" cinema. There is a general lack of inspiration in films (all media tv included) today. It isn't the studios its the filmmakers(directors and writers) they lack talent and are immature. And on the subject of masterpieces I will be buying “killer of sheep” next or following week I'll let you know if it is any good. said...

Since you're in the industry, what issues do you think exsist that is preventing the types of films that most of you commenters, including myself, would love to see?

At one time, I understood that people didn't think our movies would be a success and that we would go to see them.

What's the excuse today?

It can't be a lack of talent. MySpace is full of aspiring filmmakers with great short films.

Shelia said...

Don't feel bad, you're right! I'm lucky, since I cover tennis, just when it started really sucking the season was over. Films are never over.

Exquisitely Black said...

Great post, I also mirror the other posts, I believe sometimes, we're so starved for Black cinema, we feel the need to go see everything with a Black face...bad idea. It's us who set the standards by where our dollars are spent. One movie that always sticks out for me is Eve's Bayou - big names, but even better story. I'm all for a comedy (yes, Friday fan too), but I really appreciated the depth and intrigue of this one.

Invisible Woman said...

Thanks for your thoughts, guys; @ Janice...I think there have definitely been genius black films, just not lately...I agree with you and EB about Killer Of Sheep and Eve's Bayou (one of my personal faves) and readers of this blog voted "The Color Purple" as their favorite film.

@shelia: no rest for the weary, right? :-)

@amboogie and regina: I definitely see your points.

@around harlem: that is a very good question. I always say if you criticize something, you should have a better answer/solution...but I will be honest and say that't I don't. I really wish that the people who have the funds and resources and make garbage films would put their vanity aside and partner with the auteurs with real, genuine talent....I would love to be part of making that happen, but where to begin? It is an overwhelming, daunting task, and that is probably part of the problem.

btw, I'm no longer in the industry, just around it, finally enjoying myself :-)

Qadree said...

I don't know what people mean when they say "good film" most of the time. I also don't know what many people mean when they say "black cinema". There are people that consider "American Gangster" to be a black cinema, but I don't.

I've never been to the ABFF, but I've seen the types of films they promote and it seems like they are trying to be more of a conduit for Hollywood than a breeding ground for creativity. I won't knock them for that because if that's the route a filmmaker wants to go I believe they should have that option.

When I go to a festival I will see a film just because a black person made it, or else I wouldn't go to black film festivals. I guess it's different for those of us who struggle to get independent films made. I feel like they are my contemporaries and there is a bond there that's hard to describe that makes me want to know what other people like myself are doing, that doesn't mean that I'm going to say that their films are all good though, and Hollywood films don't get the same amount of love from me.

I think we should be as critical of our discussion of film as we are of the films we discuss because this is an essential part of advancing the art. I see many vague and empty critiques that don't contribute to the art when black films are discussed.

I can't even find the words to describe the passion that I have for film. I'll sit through ten horrible films at a festival so that I can find that one talented director that won't get any exposure otherwise.

justjudith said...

great debate. however, i wasn't trying to blame the whole debacle on the studio system -- just in terms of mass distribution, they are the ones that greenlight films. certainly you can make your own movie but to get in front of as many people as possible, you will probably have to deal with a studio for they have deals with exhibitors. and if you've noticed the exhibitors (theater owners) are now chains, too. they are big business and they make their biggest cut opening weekend. the days of your mom and pop theater letting a film run for a year are largely gone. sure, there are some independently run theaters out there, but they are the minority. to address the second issue of writers/directors being mediocre -- well that's a whole 'nother ball of wax. and i do believe some writers write for the system bc they know what will appeal to the masses to either get distribution or to use as a resume for the studios later. i do believe we don't take the initiative to make our own movies. our own GOOD movies. i'm sure the festivals have good work because those are people who are in it bc they love movies. but like everything else, commercialism has taken hold and it affects ALL movies but most glaringly in black films bc there are so few of them to begin with.