Tag Archives: film

Argo And The Trouble With Hollywood Logic

By Latoya Peterson

(L-R) Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in “Argo” and the actual Tony Mendez. Via ABC News.

There are posts where you already know how things are going to fall out before you even write it.  This is one of them.

We’ve talked about the controversy with Argo before.  Arturo broke down the man behind the movie back in July:

The more you read about Antonio Mendez, the more his exploits make Burn Notice look like Get Smart: the Colorado native who grew up in a single-parent household went from answering a random want ad to a 25-year career in the CIA as an “espionage artist,” specializing in helping assets get out of tough situations.

“I would say the whole thing was like James Bond but even better. I was involved in Moscow creating tradecraft, knocking the socks off the KGB,” he told Open Your Eyes magazine in 2008. “If you are surrounded by an army of that kind of counterintelligence and you can still do your business, Bond doesn’t even get close to that.”

Mendez went on to write two memoirs about his experiences in the field. But his most celebrated operation, an extraction of six U.S. diplomats from Iran in the first days of the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeni, was the subject of a 2007 article in Wired Magazine. As Joshuah Bearman wrote, this particular plan would take a more cinematic turn – literally – than the usual covert actions: Mendez actually created a fake movie production.

Many people–including our friends at Racebending and Latino Rebels–have already pointed out that Ben Affleck squandered a prime opportunity to put a Latino actor in the lead for Argo. And we’ve heard the usual pushback that comes to discussing casting in Hollywood.  
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Resistance Is Futile: Tolerating Tyler Perry In South Africa

By Guest Contributor Christopher Keith Johnson

Writer/director/actor Tyler Perry. Photo via rollingout.com

All of the things I had grown accustomed to in the US were engaged often and early in my move to South Africa. I felt right at home after experiencing housing discrimination in my apartment search. Seeing airports filled with white travelers, while bus stations overflowed with folks who looked like me. It all seemed so familiar.  South Africa was a long way from being post-racial.  I could deal with that. I came from that.

What was pleasantly surprising was the level of activist engagement of the South African people. The documentaries I had seen were capturing something real. From service delivery protests to pushback against Wal-Mart’s acquisition of South Africa’s largest retailer, the people were not afraid to protest—nonviolently and otherwise.

South Africans won’t let you off the hook easily. In my role directing programming between the largest American trade union and its counterparts in West African, more than a few meetings with partners ended with tough questions about U.S. foreign policy and my employer’s take on positions supported by the American government. One had to be quick on the toes to navigate queries on Palestine, Israel, and Cuba. The activist community in which I had to engage expected that I would be able to respond to issues and concerns in and outside of Africa. As the only G20 member on the continent, politics beyond its borders mattered to my South African counterparts.

With the above in mind, I was wholly unprepared to be faced with the popularity of Tyler Perry in South Africa.
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Somewhere Between Explores Transracial Adoption And Identity

TRAILER: Somewhere Between – A Feature Documentary from Linda Knowlton on Vimeo.

 

Check out the synopsis:

Four baby girls are born in China to families who are unable to keep them, largely because of China’s “One Child Policy.” Instead of being raised by their biological parents, the baby girls are raised in orphanages, and then eventually adopted by American families to be whisked halfway around the world to the United States. There, they grow up with Sesame Street, hip-hop, and Twitter. They describe themselves as “bananas”: white on the inside and yellow on the outside. All is well, until they hit their teen years, when their pasts pull at them, and they begin to wonder, “Who am I?”

All four know they were probably “given up” because they were girls (they are understandably uncomfortable with the word “abandoned”), and grapple with issues of race, gender, and identity more acutely than most their age.

Documentaries have been made before about international adoption, but they have always been from the point of view of the adoptive, Caucasian parents, or the adult adoptee. Young women’s voices are rarely heard—especially young women of color. SOMEWHERE BETWEEN lets four teenaged girls—Fang, Haley, Ann, and Jenna—tell their own stories, letting the film unfold from their points of view and shedding light on their deepest thoughts: about their families, their feelings of being “other,” and their powerful connections to a past that most of them cannot recall.

The film captures nearly three years in the lives of these four dynamic young women.

The screening schedule is here.

New Film: Middle of Nowhere

Winner of the Best Director Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, MIDDLE OF NOWHERE follows Ruby, a bright medical student who sets aside her dreams and suspends her career when her husband is incarcerated. As the committed couple stares into the hollow end of an eight-year prison sentence, Ruby must learn to live another life, one marked by shame and separation. But through a chance encounter and a stunning betrayal that shakes her to her core, this steadfast wife is soon propelled in new and often shocking directions of self-discovery – caught between two worlds and two men in the search for herself.

Ava DuVernay is back! And I have been dying to see this film.

New Film: Model Minority

The Film Synopsis:

L.A. teenagers survive the treacherous world of peer pressure, drug dealers, juvenile hall and dysfunctional families. Kayla, an underprivileged Japanese American 16-year-old, endangers her promising future as an aspiring artist when she becomes involved with a drug dealer. It’s a new take on growing up bicultural in multicultural LA.

The film deals joins Wassup Rockers, Kids, Mosquita y Mari, and Better Luck Tomorrow in dealing with the pressures and temptations of youth. It rocked the LA Asian American Film Festival; the next stop is the 2012 Asian American International Film Festival in New York.

Behind The Scenes With Shawn Peters

by Guest Contributor Rob Fields, originally published at Bold As Love

Over the course of the last few years, you’ve probably heard me mention Shawn Peters in relation to the great curating he’s been doing at Weeksville Heritage Center for their annual Garden Party series. However, it’s becoming clearer that the work he’s probably most proud of is his visual work, both as a photographer and a director of photography. He’s shot videos for Gregory Porter, Blitz The Ambassador and Pharoahe Monch, to name a few. He’s also handled the behind-the-lens duties for Afropunk’s Triptych series, as well as the Terence Nance-directed An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty.

So it was great to see Shawn profiled at Jay-Z’s Life And Times in an interview by Fanon Che Wilkins. Here, he talks with Wilkins about the impact of Morehouse on him and his group of contemporaries and fellow classmates that include Saul Williams, Sanford Biggers, and Tahir Hemphill, to name a few:

Well what’s interesting is that Morehouse is not known as a school that focused a great deal on the creative arts, but many of us pursued art because of our tremendous desire to offer something artistically meaningful to the world that was particularly relevant to reclaiming our dignity as a people. Continue reading

Sundance Pick: 2 Days In New York

“Madcap comedy” is the only phrase that really describes the absolute ridiculousness that is Julie Delpy’s 2 Days In New York. There really isn’t any other term that fits–the experience is akin to watching a circus unfold in your living room, which I assume is the point. Julie Delpy is Marion, a deeply eccentric Parisian-born artist based in New York who is trying to juggle the demands of a new and blended family with her art. When her French family is flying in to support her solo exhibition, her tranquil relationship with her radio host blipster husband Mingus (Chris Rock) is put to the test. Over 48 hours, the entire household is thrown into chaos.

A few things that happen in the film: a violation of sexual boundaries involving an electric toothbrush, wanton keying of limousines, smelly situations at customs, a French nudist captivates a bored American doctor, the children decide they want to be a dead princess and a dead bunny for Halloween, stoned shenanigans in the co-op elevator, and Marion sells her soul, which results in a minor brawl.

And did I mention a cardboard cutout of Barack Obama is a major character?

Delpy, who wrote and directed the film, makes the most out of the short screentime cramming in as much commentary on family life and the art world as she possibly can. A follow-up to 2 Days in Paris, Delpy balances the pace of her city subjects with the quiet calamity of modern life. The film spins so fast that in the middle of the madness, it takes more than half of the movie before I realize 2 Days in New York has managed to pull off an amazing depiction on an interracial relationship. Race is not the most important thing between Marion and Mingus, and it certainly isn’t their primary conflict throughout the film. Instead, where race intersects with their lives is subtle.

If race is blatantly brought up as part of the plot, it is often played for cringe-inducing laughs. Manu, Marion’s former flame who is currently dating her sister Rose, is a one-stop shop for racial ignorance posing as innocence. He tries to curry favor with Mingus’ sister Elizabeth (Malinda Williams) by saying she looks “just like Beyonce, only sexier.” Chagrined at finding out that Mingus doesn’t smoke weed, he off-handley remarks that Marion “found the only black guy in New York that doesn’t smoke.” And when Mingus’ friend from the Obama Administration comes to town, Mingus is mortified when Manu starts randomly calling him “Kumar.” (This friend was not played by Kal Penn.) Luckily, after a day or so, Manu is deported for lighting up in front of a police station.

2 Days in New York is a fun romp, with a strange, but satisfying ending that proves that love (mostly) conquers all.

Sundance Pick: An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty • Teaser from Terence Nance • Terence Etc. on Vimeo.

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty defies categorization, in all the best ways possible.

The first thing to know is that the film isn’t a linear story. It’s a complex and complicated exploration of modern love, an intriguing dance between two characters circling the possibility of a relationship, born out of mutual infatuation. Avant-guarde storytelling in the key of noir, Oversimplification blends animation, live action, and narration to tell the tale of Terence falling in love with Namik. The characters are real people, based on their own lives. Nance earned his spot in the New Frontier section of Sundance – in addition to the innovative, movie-within-a-movie style of storytelling, animation also plays a key role. Exploring his inner emotions through stop-motion figure dolls and beautifully rendered scenes, Nance essentially uses this film as therapy, working out the complicated tangle of his messy romantic life.

Refreshingly, black women are Nance’s muses. Often in cinematic depictions of black love, the relationship is construed as adversarial. Here, as Nance documents the many loves that fit his archetype of “brown, maternal, well read, well traveled,” black women take center stage, his love for each of them palpable through the screen.

But is what he feels for them really love? Nance believes so, and spends most of the film trying to articulate what he loves about Namik, and how his past relationship history lead him to this point of nearly breathless anticipation. The film is ripe with themes for exploration but I will have to leave most of those paths untouched. Nance has created a work so complex, it is almost like recorded performance art. Thus, I agree with Tambay – it needs to be experienced. Hopefully, it finds a distributor because it deserves to be seen and experienced by as many people as possible. Nance’s story is both familiar and strange, and tends to provoke a lot of self-reflection in the audience. Who are we, when we are in love? I’m still mulling over my own answer.