All Articles Tagged "documentaries"
Five African-American ladies have made a game-changing presence in the film industry this year with critically-acclaimed documentaries that may just get them the coveted Academy Award.
Shola Lynch directed Free Angela Davis And All Political Prisoners, a film that revisits Angela Davis’ revolutionist days as she joined the Communist Party and became a Black Panther. Angela Davis herself saw the film and noted that the documentary made her “uncomfortable.”
Lynch wasn’t offended by Davis’ comment, though. “[A]s a filmmaker and a journalist, [this] is a compliment. It clearly is not the story she would tell. She would tell a strictly political, deeply kind of philosophical piece. But for me, the interesting question is: Who is the person behind the iconography?” Reviewers praised Lynch for making Davis’ story accessible to a new generation. “[Lynch does a] sufficient job of giving the audience a sense of the setting, the era, the key figures,” IndieWire writes.
Another applaud-worthy Black filmmaker is Marta Cunningham whose documentary Valentine Road focuses on a student who fatally shot an eighth-grade transgender classmate. Cunningham says that she wanted to switch the audience’s perspective of Brandon, the accused murderer, from “monster” to a deeper point of understanding. The New York Times said the film was moving and “shows how intricate even the more horribly straightforward moments in life can be.”
Gideon’s Army, directed by Dawn Porter, follows three public defenders in the Deep South. “The only thing that stands between anybody and prison is a lawyer,” Porter said. “And if you’re poor, that person’s a public defender.” The documentary essentially details the trials and tribulations that public defenders face as they hold another person’s fate in their hands. The film was a New York Times Critic’s Pick and also won the Editing Award at the Sundance Festival.
Michele Stephenson’s film American Promise turns the camera on her own children and chronicles their educational growth from kindergarten all the way to high school. Winning the Documentary Special Jury Prize for Achievement in Filmmaking at Sundance, Stephenson may strike Oscar gold with her admired film.
Lastly, Yoruba Richen’s film, New Black, chronicles the Black church’s campaign to fight against gay marriage — a topic that MN has reported on recently. “Regardless what law they may write, God designed the family,” one preacher proclaimed in the documentary. So far, the documentary earned Richen the Best Documentary award at Urbanworld Film Festival.
IndieWire notes that while these films are getting attention within the film festival circuit, black film directors seem to have trouble getting support for Oscar consideration. “As we see a noteworthy number of black female doc directors qualifying for Oscars this year, it makes sense to highlight these films, if only in hopes that more voting members will be watching and taking note.”
All of this is happening in a year when films by and about African Americans are being praised by critics and support at the box office. Have you seen any of these films?
It’s been a while since a biopic like “Crazy Sexay Cool” made us fall in love with a girl group all over again. Let’s take a look back at some of the best biopics to hit the big and small screens. If we’ve left your favorite out, put us on to the movie in the comments section.
Harlem USA is a film directed by Eric Schachter that documents and explores the rich history and dying culture of Harlem, New York. According to Shadow and Act, the film was first debuted nearly one year ago in front of test audiences London, Montreal and Atlanta. Schachter said the film was made with the intention of giving the residents “a voice and to let the world know just how it is between 110th St and 155th Street from the East Side to the West Side.”
After Schachter received feedback from his test audiences that his film didn’t offer a voice to Harlem’s wealthy newcomers who feel that the city offers promise, he realized that they were missing the point of the documentary. He went on to say that the goal was to offer “the quintessential knowledge that comes from being black in this little island in America.”
Going back to the drawing board, Schachter re-edited the documentary to simply reflect “a love for a way of life lost, a time to be recorded and remembered and an immense respect for the collective wisdom of a people who had once had a homeland and a culture to call their own, smack in the middle of the biggest and richest city in America”.
After some revamping, Schatchter is content that Harlem USA “pleases and speaks faithfully for the people in it and tends to offend those who need to believe that everything is always getting better”.
Harlem USA is slated to make it’s official world premiere Sunday, May 12th in Brooklyn, New York at the Cobble Hill Theater.
Turn the page to check out the trailer. Does it look like this film will do an effective job of reflecting the current state of Harlem?
For 40th Anniversary Of Title IX, ESPN Doing “Nine For IX” Documentaries On Women In Sports, Including Ava DuVernay’s “Venus VS.”
For years, I’ve been a massive fan of most ESPN documentaries (I don’t think there’s one I’ve seen that I haven’t enjoyed), including the very creative “30 for 30″ docs, which give many up and coming and little known but exceptional directors the chance to show their talents and tell stories from a different yet immensely deep angle. Maybe that’s why I’m so excited about the new “Nine for IX” series, an ode to the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the civil rights law of ’72 that “requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding,” according to the Title IX website. It has allowed young women everywhere to have the opportunity to play the sports of their choice, obtain higher education through these opportunities, employment and more. The nine films will be directed by women, and Robin Roberts, anchor for Good Morning America, is an executive producer for the project.
Among the nine films are a few big notables centered around black women, including Venus VS., by Middle of Nowhere director, Ava DuVernay. The film chronicles Williams’ choice to challenge the fact that female tennis players were being paid less than the males for huge tournaments like Wimbledon and the French Open, and her battle, which she won, made her the first women’s champion (during her win in 2007) to take home the same reward money as men’s winner Roger Federer.
DuVernay put out a statement about the film and to speak on the little-known impact of Williams in this particular equal earnings fight:
Venus is a superior athlete, a legend; but she is also an activist who revolutionized her sport off the court with her fight for prize equality. I don’t believe this story should be relegated to dusty history books and UK newspapers. People in the United States should know of her true professional bravery and personal tenacity in making sure women athletes are regarded and rewarded on par with their male counterparts. This is my mission.
Another great feature during the “Nine for IX” series will be Swoopes, a doc on the life of WNBA icon Sheryl Swoopes, as she has “defied a multitude of labels.” And Shola Lynch is behind the documentary, Runner, about Mary Decker. Of course, Decker had her Olympic moment stolen in the worst of ways when she collided with a fellow runner after being thought as being in the forefront for the gold medal in the 3,000m final during the ’84 Olympics.
But these of course are just a few of the documentaries ESPN is offering. You can check out the full lineup here. Starting on July 2, ESPN will debut the films, beginning with Venus Vs., and they will air until August 27. Check out the preview video for all nine films below!
Will you be watching?
Rapper turned business mogul Sean “P. Diddy” Combs has never been shy about his affinity for opulence. He’s been bragging about his bank roll for years (in songs like Notorious B.I.G.’s “Mo Money Mo Problems”), and he even named his latest attempt at the next best thing in music Dirty Money. So it’s no surprise that the trend continues with his latest creative project, Paris Is Burning, a short documentary film about extravagance.
Diddy released the first trailer yesterday, shot by French director Julien Bachelet. The 1 minute clip follows the Ciroc owner through a maze of screaming paparazzi as he hops in and out of his limo to attend a fashion show, shop for Rolex watches, and simply enjoy the life his wealth affords him.
As he shops, he muses to the camera, “I’m fresh out the store, you see how we do it… collecting Rollies…. I’m a have over 100 Rollies within the next month.”
For the complete story plus a trailer video, visit TheGrio.com.
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It’s day two of Black History Month and if you’re looking for a way to expand your mind about the people in our history who helped shape the way we live, the way we dance, the way we do our hair (yes, that too), I would recommend doing the easiest and most fun form of research–watch a movie! But not just any ‘ol movie or random attempt at recreating black history. We’re talking documentaries! They keep it real. Literally. If you need help finding a few to pick up from Netflix or to watch online, and can’t sit through 14 hour-long parts of Eyes on the Prize, we’ve got you covered. Happy Black History Month!
So I’ve been following the dust-up around the much-anticipated “Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest”, which is set to premiere nationwide this weekend. For those who don’t know, the film, directed by actor turned filmmaker Michael Rapaport, documents A Tribe Called Quest and their legendary reunion for the 2008 Rock the Bells Tour. The group, which is probably most known for The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauder albums, split in 1998 on the eve of their fifth and final album, “The Love Movement”.
Having forged a nearly two decade long run as one of the most innovative and influential hip hop bands of our era, who wouldn’t want to see the Queens NY collective Check The Rhyme just one more time?
Despite the enthusiasm around the film, the path to getting the doc to the big screen has not been smooth. In fact, it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year to both applause and controversy as, prior to the screening, Q-Tip took to Twitter to express his opposition. ”I am not in support of the A Tribe Called Quest documentary,” he wrote. ”The filmmaker should respect the band to the point of honoring the few requests that was made [about] the piece.”
Q-Tip later clarified his remarks – sort of – by saying that he, and fellow band members Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jabori White, were done wrong. In particular, he took issue with being denied production credits (including executive producer credits), final edits to the trailer (which had been released on YouTube before the group could see it) and the film itself (scenes of which members claim were deleted before the Sundance debut). Q-Tip also accused Rapaport of engaging in shadiness and in a wildly-circulated interview with MTV News, revealed an e-mail that had been accidentally sent to him by the producers, which among other things stated: “First off let’s close the Billing Block and put it on the poster so they can’t get on that. Then we’ll f— them on everything else.”
Well it certainly looks like someone forgot industry rule number 4080…
Q-Tip ended the MTV News interview with this message of caution for other hip-hop emcees looking to have their story told: “Be in charge of your own stories, you hear me? Tell your own stories. We’re griots, look that up. We’re griots, man. We’ve gotta pass our own stories on. This is a part of our tradition, as African Americans predominantly. Let’s tell our own stories. We can let everybody come in and participate with us in this but don’t fall for the Hollywood.”
To some extent Q-Tip does have a point. What few folks understand is how people gain and lose power through the way particular stories are told. Every aspect of black life has been distorted by the mainstream because we have failed – by sheer ignorance or by circumstance – to keep an accurate archive of our perspective of the black experience. Not saying that Rapaport couldn’t have captured the true essence of the group — or even that he doesn’t have a right to — but he is still an outsider whose narrative and final cuts are based on his own familiarity with group members. And you do have to wonder how this doc would have been different if told through the perspective of the band members. Would they have emphasized the tumultuous relationship between lifelong friends Q-Tip and Phife, whose personal blow-up is captured? Or would we see a more private account of what got the group together — their rise and ultimately their split?
Prior to the film’s limited screen release (in New York and LA), Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad interviewed with New York radio station Hot 97 and said that they have officially squashed their beef with Rapaport. They urged fans to go see the flick. Which got me wondering about the “controversy” itself. I mean, I did get the issues of attribution, but what I didn’t get was that if Q-Tip believes he’s getting screwed out of credit, then why is he still telling people to go see the film? While I agree with him on the whole, “we got to tell our own story” bit, he really needs to make up his mind about whether or not he is down. Because right now it’s sounding like fake controversy just to make sure this film opens in the top five. And to that, I say, relax yourself, please settle down: it’s a film about A Tribe Called Quest. Why wouldn’t we go see it?
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.
(Washington Post) — Lobbying groups have long relied on traditional advertising to get their messages out to the broader public. Now one of Washington’s most powerful organizations has discovered a new medium: film. This week, a documentary called “InJustice,” which attacks America’s class-action lawsuit system, began airing on the cable television ReelzChannel. The film was bankrolled in part by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s legal arm, which has long lobbied for tort reforms more favorable to corporations. The release of “InJustice” comes at the same time that another movie about the civil-justice system, “Hot Coffee,” has taken the documentary world by storm. The film, which argues that civil lawsuits help protect consumers, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and is now airing on HBO.
(NPR) — Rapper-producer Q-Tip has announced that he doesn’t like Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest, actor turned director Michael Rapaport’s portrait of Tip’s former group. Yet Rapaport, a longtime Quest fan, clearly admires Tip. He’s just too forthright a storyteller to bury the tale of the quartet’s acrimonious unraveling. For the uninitiated, A Tribe Called Quest was one of the 1990s’ most lauded hip-hop acts. At a time when gangsta rap was ascendant, the Queens-rooted quartet (along with such fellow travelers as De La Soul and the Jungle Brothers) had a sunnier, more playful outlook. The group also helped pioneer a jazz-based sound, favoring cool grooves and sinuous bass over the strident funk and rock loops of their neighborhood precursors, LL Cool J and Run-DMC. One of Quest’s biggest hits, “Can I Kick It?” was based on the distinctively sauntering bass line of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side.”
(Philadelphia Inquirer) — Rejoice & Shout, filmmaker Don McGlynn’s raucous new documentary about gospel music in America, reaches all the way back to 1902, when Virginia’s Dinwiddie Colored Quartet made the first African American religious recordings, almost two decades before the first jazz and blues records. Listening in on the music that came out of black Baptist and Pentecostal churches in the century since, Rejoice & Shout focuses attention on big-name and not-so-big-name gospel greats, from Mahalia Jackson and the Staple Singers to the Golden Gate Quartet and Swan Silvertones.