Report of our EXpedition

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Where is the progressive thought in Black films

I was just thinking how narrow the variety of thought is withing African American films. Al I tend to see are gangsta films, religious dramas, degrading comedies, or films that simply focus on racism. Where are the films that delve into multi-dimensions? Or the films that deal with the subconscious mind. I want to see films that explore African mythology and ancient mysticism. What about magic and immortality and their conflicts with humanity? Why can't I see a film dealing the spiritual thoughts, ideas, and conflicts of African Americans that go beyond just Christianity? To see stories from the African American perspective of how technology is either hindering or helping society. And what about the futuristic and mythic ideas that come out of Caribbean and African American folklore? Is the Black film making community so closed minded that science fiction and horror are beyond the realm of thinking? Or are Black filmmakers hindered by Hollywood in their efforts to express a wide ranging ideology.

I almost tend to believe the latter. After reading books from African American authors such as Octavia Butler, Tananarive Due, Samuel Delany, Walter Mosley and others, I know that there are a plethora of speculative ideas within the African American community. To know that the father of African American intellectual and civil rights thought, W.E.B. DuBois, wrote a science fiction short story entitled "The Comet" in 1920. Or to read Caribbean folklore about a Soucouyant, a type of vampire, in "Greedy Choke Puppy" by Nalo Hopkinson. Octavia Butler wrote of a world, after we destroyed it, where aliens became the only hope for us to find our humanity. Immortality became a question of humanity and superiority in Tananarive Due's series from "My Soul To Keep". And you also have to question whether the "Blue Light" is for our benefit, by Walter Mosley.

I wonder how these stories have been hiding from the silver screen. When "Avatar", the "Star Wars" saga, "Star Trek", "Clash of the Titans", "Excalibur", "Harry Potter", "Lord of The Rings" and so many more stories have made their way to the theater. Why can't we see the mythologies, magic, and sci-fi thought of African Americans, brought to the movies for all to enjoy and wonder. I want to be like a kid first watching "Star Wars", and brought into a new realm of imagination. I want others to be intrigued, amazed, enlightened, and entertained, by ideas and worlds created by those of the African Diaspora.

My partner and I at Exodus Publishing, LTD. are slowly adding our contributions. And I'll be happy to see others produce much more.


Mike Lindgren said...

Good point James. Although there are also an awful lot of bad films made by white people too.

Octoberstudios said...

I completely agree, James. In the world of fiction and film within the African-American community there seems to be two extremes - the low road with films and plays by Tyler Perry, and the high road, with great, but often inaccessible works by Toni Morrison.

Is there a middle ground, or more, is there an African-American middle class voice?

Too often Black genre take place in either an urban, or rich with urban background settings. Who is the middle class black character? Without the urban mannerism they are too often written off as the token 'oreo', the oddball geek/nerd, or bow-tie wearing 'Black' republican.

Too often I find myself turned away from 'Black sitcoms' because of how fake they are. Though I respected the actors in the shows I always hated the Prince of Bel Air, Martin, or The Jamie Fox show because I was never sure who was it funny for - someone who was white, or black? Perhaps, worse the characters where just stereotypes, lacking dimensionality and appeal.

The lack of prominent black writers in science fiction may be due to the fact that not many African-Americans gravitate towards the medium with perhaps the exception of the comic book genre. There are authors who are coming to be known such as Troy Cle author of the Marvelous Effect.

Let's hope he's just the beginning.


The Artifact said...

What's funny, is that Troy CLE, was one of my former 3D animation students in the graduate program at New York University. He was using the 3D program as a vehicle to promote or enhance his written stories. Along with Troy, there were less than a handful of African Americans within the 3D Animation program. At the School of Visual Arts, I began the MFA Computer Art program with only one other African American. Overall, African Americans only make up less than 3% of all animators within the industry. I'm afraid to see the percentage which represents Sci-fi and Speculative fiction writers.

One thing that saddens, and even frightens me, is the ignorance that I have run into within the African American community concerning animation and science fiction. Just a couple of weeks ago, I told an African American woman that I was an animator, and with a perplexed look, she asked me what that was! That was not the only time I had to explain what an animator was to someone who was African American. No offense, but I have yet run into someone White, who did not know what my profession was.

There seems to be a social disconnect between many within the African American community and intellectually thought provoking entertainment created by African Americans. African Americans don't seem to have a problem supporting films such as Avatar or the Wolf man. But, present a film within the same genre from African Americans, and support seems to drop off.

Within the independent film festival circuit, speculative films by African Americans, seem to have life. There are those who seem to find funding and resources to express themselves within this genre. The biggest problem comes with distribution, promotion, and most of all support. If African American speculative ideas were promoted as much as Tyler Perry films, "urban" dramas, and idiotic/buffoonish comedies, I believe African Americans would support such entertainment.

So if Hollywood won't step up, I believe that those of us in the African American community must do so!

Mike Lindgren said...

It's possible though that cultural illiteracy is colorblind. You don't do too well with describing what you do in some parts unless it's "lawyer" or "doctor" or "policeman." You know, because they saw it on TV…