Tag Archives: movies


Why I am still on the fence about Suffragette

I love supporting women focused films.

I like historical dramas.

I like stories about women kicking ass.

So, by all rights, I should love (and want to see) Suffragette. But I didn’t go to the free screening at ONA and the more I see from the marketing of this film, the more I wince. It’s pretty clear from the trailer that the film is about white women. Since anyone who studies history for more than 15 minutes knows history never fits neatly into a little box, where are the suffragettes of color? If they weren’t in the movement, where were they? What were they doing?

A Women & Hollywood piece stumping for the film tries to answer these questions, but in the worst way possible (emphasis mine):

3. It’s got (almost) all the other feminist bona fides on its side. The film is led not only by a woman helmer and writer, but has been guided by two female producers (Alison Owen and Faye Ward). It passes the Bechdel test with flying colors and has at its emotional core a political speech by Emmeline Pankhurst. Yes, the “whitewashing” concerns are real and the film’s promotional t-shirt campaign was poorly conceived, but Gavron isn’t blind to intersectionality. In an upcoming podcast with Women and Hollywood, she’ll discuss how most of the suffragettes of color she found in her historical research were of noble birth, and they unfortunately had to be waylaid because her intent was to focus on the working-class women who were the unknown soldiers of the movement. (There are well-to-do but no aristocratic women in the film.) We hope another film in the future will give suffragettes of color their due. 

As usual, the inclusivity of the film lies in the hands of the storyteller – there are always hard cuts to be made in any creative work, but why do the stories of women of color always pull the short end of the stick? Here’s to hoping Amma Asante takes a look at this next – somehow, she always finds a way to look at history through an inclusive lens. That tiny disclosure prompts so many more questions: what was happening to working class WoC in that era? Which nobles were involved? Where white suffragettes racist and/or violent toward their WOC counterparts? It’s tough to want to be transported by a film to another era, knowing you’ll be left unsatisfied in the end.

I understand that for some people, erasing women of color from historical narratives is simply an unfortunate oversight. But for those of us who continually see our stories erased from historical record, whitewashed depictions of history aren’t so easy to swallow.





Ex Machina Abuses Women of Color, But Nobody Cares Because It’s Smart

By Guest Contributor Sharon H Chang, cross posted from Multiracial Asian Families

This past April, British science fiction thriller Ex Machina opened in the U.S. to almost unanimous rave reviews. The film was written and directed by Alex Garland, author of bestselling 1996 novel The Beach (also made into a movie), and screenwriter of 28 Days Later (2002) and Never Let Me Go (2010).

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BEYOND THE LIGHTS - 2014 FILM STILL - Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker - Photo Credit: Suzanne Tenner  Copyright © 2013 Blackbird Productions, LLC

115 Films By and About Women of Color – How Many Have You Seen?

Over the weekend, I found this excellent list of movies jai tigett complied on the Women and Hollywood blog that were created by women of color and center women of color characters. This list is exciting, especially since I’ve only seen a fraction. Here they are (with a few annotations):

35 Shots of Rum by Claire Denis (2008)

A Different Image by Alile Sharon Larkin (1982)

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night by Ana Lily Amirpour (2014)

A Tale of Love by T. Minh-ha Trinh (1995)

Advantageous by Jennifer Phang (2015)

Ala Modalaindi by Nandini Bv Reddy (2011)

All About You by Christine Swanson (2001)

Alma’s Rainbow by Ayoka Chenzira (1994)

Appropriate Behavior by Desiree Akhavan (2014)

Aya of Yop City by Marguerite Abouet (2013)

B For Boy by Chika Anadu (2013)

Bande de Filles (Girlhood) by Céline Sciamma (2014)

Belle by Amma Asante (2013) [On the “to-watch” list]

Bend it Like Beckham by Gurinder Chadha (2002) [Classic. Saw it in the theaters]

Bessie by Dee Rees (2015) [On the to watch list]

Beyond the Lights by Gina Prince-Bythewood (2014) [Most slept on movie in 2014. Great romantic drama, saw it in theaters.]

Bhaji on the Beach by Gurinder Chadha (1993)

Camila by María Luisa Bemberg (1984)

Caramel by Nadine Labaki (2007)

Chutney Popcorn by Nisha Ganatra (1999)

Circumstance by Maryam Keshavarz (2011)

Civil Brand by Neema Barnette (2002)

Compensation by Zeinabu irene Davis (1999)

Daughters of the Dust by Julie Dash (1991)

Des étoiles (Under The Starry Sky) by Dyana Gaye (2014)

Descent by Talia Lugacy (2007)

Double Happiness by Mina Shum (1994)

Down in the Delta by Maya Angelou (1998)

Drylongso by Cauleen Smith (1988)

Earth by Deepa Mehta (1998)

Elza by Mariette Monpierre (2011)

Endless Dreams by Susan Youssef (2009)

Eve’s Bayou by Kasi Lemmons (1997) [Saw it as a kid, should rewatch.]

Fire by Deepa Mehta (1996) [On the to watch list.]

Frida by Julie Taymor (2002) [On the to watch list.]

Funny Valentines by Julie Dash (1999)

Girl in Progress by Patricia Riggen (2012)

Girlfight by Karyn Kusama (2000)

Goyangileul butaghae (Take Care of My Cat) by Jeong Jae-eun (2001)

Habibi Rasak Kharban by Susan Youssef (2011)

Hiss Dokhtarha Faryad Nemizanand (Hush! Girls Don’t Scream) by Pouran Derahkandeh (2013)

Honeytrap by Rebecca Johnson (2014)

How The Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer by Georgina Reidel (2005)

I Can’t Think Straight by Shamim Sarif (2008)

I Like It Like That by Darnell Martin (1994) [One of my all time faves. Own it.]

I Will Follow by Ava DuVernay (2010)

In Between Days by So-yong Kim (2006)

Incognito by Julie Dash (1999)

Introducing Dorothy Dandridge by Martha Coolidge (1999)

Invisible Light by Gina Kim (2003)

It’s a Wonderful Afterlife by Gurinder Chadha (2010)

Jumpin Jack Flash by Penny Marshall (1986)

Just Another Girl on the IRT by Leslie Harris (1992)

Just Wright by Sanaa Hamri (2010) [Watched in theaters.]

Kama Sutra by Mira Nair (1996)

Lady With a Sword by Kao Pao-shu (1971)

Long Life, Happiness & Prosperity by Mina Shum (2002)

Losing Ground by Kathleen Collins (1982)

Love & Basketball by Gina Prince-Bythewood (2000) [Watched, but deserves a reviewing]

Love the One You’re With by Patricia Cuffie-Jones (2015)

Luck By Chance by Zoya Akhtar (2009)

Mi Vida Loca by Allison Anders (1993)

Middle of Nowhere by Ava DuVernay (2012) [Meant to see this but couldn’t get into the screenings]

Mississippi Damned by Tina Mabry (2009

Mississippi Masala by Mira Nair (1991)

Mixing Nia by Alison Swan (1998)

Monsoon Wedding by Mira Nair (2001)

Mosquita y Mari by Aurora Guerrero (2012) [Watched and reviewed]

Na-moo-eobs-neun san (Treeless Mountain) by So-yong Kim (2008)

Naturally Native by Valerie Red-Horse (1998)

Night Catches Us by Tanya Hamilton (2010)

Nina’s Heavenly Delights by Pratibha Parmar (2006)

Paju by Chan-ok Park (2009)

Pariah by Dee Rees (2011)

Peeples by Tina Gordon Chism (2013)

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (2007)

Phat Girlz by Nnegest Likké (2006)

Picture Bride by Kayo Hatta (1994)

Radiance by Rachel Perkins (1998)

Rain by Maria Govan (2008)

Real Women Have Curves by Patricia Cardoso (2002) [Watched, liked.]

Saving Face by Alice Wu (2004)

Second Coming by Debbie Tucker Green (2014)

Sita sings the blues by Nina Paley (2008) [I remember this one being controversial, because it was a Jewish filmmaker serving a twist on a Hindu story.]

Something Necessary by Judy Kibinge (2013)

Something New by Sanaa Hamri (2006) [Saw in theaters]

Song of the Exile by Ann Hui (1990

Still the Water by Naomi Kawase (2014)

Stranger Inside by Cheryl Dunye (2001)

Sugar Cane Alley/Black Shack Alley by Euzhan Palcy (1983) [Watched this in french class back in 1998!]

The Kite by Randa Chahal Sabag (2003)

The Rich Man’s Wife by Amy Holden Jones (1996)

The Rosa Parks Story by Julie Dash (2002)

The Secret Life of Bees by Gina Prince-Bythewood (2008)

The Silence of the Palace by Moufida Tlatli (1994)

The Watermelon Woman by Cheryl Dunye (1996)

The Women of Brewster Place by Donna Deitch (1989)

The World Unseen by Shamim Sarif (2007)

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Darnell Martin (2005)

Things We Lost in the Fire by Susanne Bier (2007)

Ties That Bind by Leila Djansi (2011)

Toe to Toe by Emily Abt (2009)

Wadjda by Haifaa Al-Mansour (2012)

Water by Deepa Mehta (2005)

Whale Rider by Niki Caro (2002)

What’s Cooking? by Gurinder Chadha (2000)

Where Do We Go Now? by Nadine Labaki (2011)

Whitney by Angela Bassett (2015)

Woman Thou Art Loosed: On The 7th Day by Neema Barnette (2012)

Women Without Men by Shirin Neshat (2009)

Woo by Daisy von Scherler Mayer (1998)

Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl by Joan Chen (1998)

Yelling to the Sky by Victoria Mahoney (2011)

Yo, la peor de todas (I, The Worst of All) by María Luisa Bemberg (1990)

Young and Wild by Marialy Rivas (2012)

Which ones have you seen? And what would you add to the list?

Yea ‘Aloha’ is Super White, But What’s Up With the Way We’re Talking About It?

Still from Aloha

by Sharon Chang, originally posted at  Multiracial Asian Families

Okay first let’s just get this out of the way. Aloha is a really, really bad movie. Like REALLY bad. It’s getting horrible reviews (as it should) for lousy directing, a terrible script, mismatched A-list actors, poor production etc. It’s boring as hell to watch. I’m not going to even bother giving a a story synopsis here because the plot is so pointless and uninteresting, it doesn’t matter anyway. If you want or need a synopsis, it’s easy to find one online. Just do a web search.
No all you need to know, if you don’t already, is this: Set in Hawaii where Native Hawaiians continue to be besieged by whites and the military, the movie centers white people and the U.S. military anyway, all of which is supposedly made better by the conceit of a military-serving mixed-race Hawaiian/Chinese/Swedish character, who is actually played by a white actress.

Yup. Pretty much.

I saw this movie not because I wanted to (believe me there were so many other things I’d rather have been doing on a sunny day in Seattle), but because I felt I needed to. It’s rare that any sort of discussion about mixed-race/Asian intersections enters public discourse. So when it does, it’s a really important opportunity to get a glimpse into how society views and thus treats people of multiracial Asian descent.

I think almost everyone acknowledges/agrees here that casting a white woman in the role of mixed-race woman of color is crap; that blatant Hollywood whitewashing against a Hawaiian backdrop merely renews the license on an insidious practice that keeps marginalizing people of color. But as the scathing reviews keep rolling in, here’s what I’m really noticing: “Why is Emma Asian”, “Emma Stone Isn’t Asian”, “Not Buying Emma Stone As An Asian-American”, “Emma Stone As An Asian”, “Asian Emma Stone”.

Do you see it too? This is a film set in Hawaii which yes, doesn’t depict the many Asians who live there and alludes to yellow peril, but ultimately is a place that belongs to (and has been stolen from) the Hawaiian people. And yet in our conversations somehow this crucial point seems to be getting subsumed under the shadow of politicized Asian America. Even multiraciality seems to be less interesting to the public than that a character was supposed to be a ‘quarter’ Chinese. To be fair, reviewers do mention Native Hawaiians, Hawaiian culture, history and oppression to varying degrees (they sort of have to), but it’s pretty clear the fact of Stone’s non-Asian-(sometimes-mixed)-ness, is the one calling shotgun:

“…[multiracial people] comprise the fastest-growing population in America. Which makes Crowe’s choice of Stone as the melanin-free embodiment of Hawaiian soul and one of the most prominent part-Asian characters ever to appear in a mainstream Hollywood film so baffling.”

Entertainment Weekly

“Emma Stone, a white actress best known for her role as a white savior with a heart of gold in ‘The Help,’ plays a character who is ostensibly the result of an Asian penis interacting with a white vagina.”

The Frisky



Aloha actually features one of the more prominent Asian/mixed heritage female leads in any studio movie in recent memory. She just happens to be played by Emma Stone.

The Daily Beast

“In an industry that already severely lacks Asian representation on the big screen, they get EMMA STONE to play an Asian…Have you learned nothing from Breakfast at Tiffany’s? It’s offensive. And it’s offensive to let the talents of many Asian actors go to waste. Plus, it’s just plain rude pulling this during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.”


As far as I can tell, none of these mainstream reviewers are of Native Hawaiian descent and less than half are of mixed descent.

This, I don’t like. At. All. I’m deeply invested in exploring the facets of a mixed-race Asian identity and looking at the many questions it raises in a raced/racist world. But I am notinterested in a conversation about that identity which moves towards anti-indigeneity. This is what I see as the Hapa narrative, where mixed-race gets used as a wedge to further divide people of color while advancing white supremacy; something I wrote about in “Say Hapa, With Care” for AAPI Voices (2014):

The hapa of [Native Hawaiian] people stands in stark contrast to a widely commodified version, which lumps together mixed-race Asians and Pacific Islanders and then somehow magically loses the Pacific Islander part. This is no accident (whether intentional or not). It stems from a history that has sought to forget and remove Native peoples for centuries.
This is why, over the weekend, I called my fierce Native Hawaiian friend, scholar and activist Maile Arvin again to get her weigh in. And this is why, right now, I’m going to stop talking about my analysis immediately and let hers take final-center stage.

I’m not really interested in what they think is a more culturally competent movie but still is a white romance. It’s fundamentally flawed. It’s about a military contract and using Hawaii to protect the US from China and Japan…I haven’t seen critique of that. I’ve seen a lot of critique of the word ‘Aloha’ [but] more fundamentally it’s a settler/colonial movie. It’s not just about the name of it but the story they tell about Hawaii.

Maile was completely even-keeled, unruffled and unsurprised by the whitewashing of Aloha:

Hollywood doesn’t usually do well by Hawaiians. The tourism industry depends on all these movies about white romance in Hawaii. It’s not lucrative for Hollywood or tourism to tell any other story. There are so many movies that are shot in Hawaii and often they’re not identified as [being in] Hawaii, like Lost orJurassic Park. Hawaii is often used as the backdrop for all these stories that are about uninhabited islands – or – if it’s about Hawaii, it’s about white people falling in love.

She said she’d heard the movie-makers were claiming, in their defense, that Cameron Crowe loves, adores and respects Hawaii; that he researched his film for months and worked to incorporate the story of the Hawaiian people. But, she replied:

What Maile said she’s been far more interested to see is so many articles criticizing Aloha‘s whitewashing when, by contrast, Descendants (which also featured a mixed-race Hawaiian character played by white actor George Clooney) drew so little attention in 2011:
It seems like the Emma Stone character being Asian has sparked more critique than Descendants. Nobody seemed to have a problem with George Clooney playing a Hawaiian. [So] for a large audience, Hawaiians looking white isn’t a problem, but a mixed Asian person looking white is unbelievable. Which is kind of disturbing. The wider public thinks that Hawaiians could look like Emma Stone, but if they’re mixed with Asian, they can’t. It seems connected to larger problems like the API [Asian Pacific Islander] designation and Asian Americans speaking on behalf or over Pacific Islanders. It shows gaps in solidarity.

In conclusion, she powerfully spoke on the kind of intention/action it really takes to build coalitions and work in alliance with the Native Hawaiian community:

There are definitely a lot of mixed families and people who are Asian and Hawaiian. They are not necessarily always in conflict. At the same time, a lot of people who aren’t mixed [Hawaiian] grew up on the island and identify as Hawaiian. That’s the same problem. It just covers up Native Hawaiians again. And Native Hawaiians are erased from so many things. It’s important to be clear about how you represent yourself. For example, there are some Asian American activists [in Hawaii] that identify themselves as Asian settlers. Some people hate that idea. But it’s a way to express solidarity and really involve in activism with Native Hawaiians.

I think we need to be very very careful, aware, and far more thoughtful about the ways we critique this film. At this point I’m maybe even less concerned with Cameron Crowe (who’s an idiot) and his dumb movie, and way more worried about us. If we’re truly outraged by Hollywood whitewashing because it invisibilizes and erases, do we do much better when we erase too? Aren’t we just cloning the same that’s been done to us? Emma Stone should not have been cast in a person of color role. I one hundred percent agree. But let us never forget what that role was truly supposed to be. Not just an Asian one – but a very marginalized Indigenous and mixed-race one too.

Undoing racism is about uplifting oppressed voices, remembering forgotten histories, and not allowing our own suffering to become more important than the suffering of others. In thinking on Aloha, please make sure you are also hearing/centering Native Hawaiian voices and the story of Native Hawaiian peoples:

“Say Hapa, With Care”

“Possessions of Whiteness: Settler Colonialism and Anti-Blackness in the Pacific”


Endangered by the Moving Image: The Criminalization of Black and Brown Bodies [Panel]

Endangered_Moving_Image_20150201 (2)

This looks amazing, happening in NYC on February 1st at the Museum of the Moving Image:

Do ​media depictions of African Americans influence the way they are treated by the police, the criminal justice system, and by society at large? In the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in Staten Island, protests have once again raised questions about the criminalization of the black image on screen. This program will bring together a group of leading African-American cultural commentators to look at the history of how African Americans are represented in film and television, beginning with D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation.

Panelists include:

William Jelani Cobb, author of The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress, is the director of the Africana Studies Institute, University of Connecticut, and a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and commentator for National Public Radio.

Mia Mask, film professor at Vassar College, is the co-editor of the recent books Poitier Revisited: Reconsidering a Black Icon in the Obama Age, and Black American Cinema Reconsidered. She is the author of Divas on Screen: Black Women in American Film.

Greg Tate is a writer, musician, and producer whose writing has focused on African-American music and culture. He was a long-time staff writer for The Village Voice and his books include Flyboy in the Buttermilk: Essays on Contemporary America and Everything but the Burden.

Tickets: $12 ($9 for senior citizens and students / free for members at the Film Lover level and above). Order tickets online.

More information here.

Violence against Indigenous Women: Fun, Sexy, and No Big Deal on the Big Screen

by Guest Contributor Elissa Washuta, originally published on Tumblr

Captain Hook kidnaps Tiger Lily in Peter Pan.

Captain Hook kidnaps Tiger Lily in Peter Pan.

The body of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, a member of Sagkeeng First Nation, was pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg on August 17. Her murder has brought about an important conversation about the widespread violence against First Nations women and the Canadian government’s lack of concern.

In her August 20 Globe and Mail commentary, Dr. Sarah Hunt of the Kwagiulth band of the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation wrote about the limited success of government inquiries and her concerns about other measures taken in reaction to acts of violence already committed, such as the establishment of DNA databases for missing persons. Dr. Hunt writes:

“Surely tracking indigenous girls’ DNA so they can be identified after they die is not the starting point for justice. Indigenous women want to matter before we go missing. We want our lives to matter as much as our deaths; our stake in the present political struggle for indigenous resurgence is as vital as the future.”

Violence against indigenous women is not, of course, happening only in Canada. In the U.S., for example, the Justice Department reports that one in three American Indian women have been raped or experienced an attempted rape, and the rate of sexual assault against American Indian women is more than twice the national average. This violence is not taking place only in Indian Country. Continue reading


Open Thread: What Makes A Black Film a Black Film?

By Kendra James

Every so often it pays to check in on the current “Black Film” rubric– ie, What makes a Black Film a Black Film? It’s a question I found myself struggling with as I wrote about Dear White People last week and realised that I couldn’t bring myself (and director Justin Simien didn’t want his audience) to stick it in the same category of Madea’s kooky and poorly directed adventures. But why is that?

Like a lot of popular movies that fall into the Black Film category Dear White People has a majority black cast, a black director, and deals with subject matter meant to resonate with a Black audience. Yet even beyond being an Indie, it’s clearly a different beast than 2014’s well performing Ride Along which seems to more easily fall into the traditional Black Film category. Making comparison and thinking about other movies that also seem to fall without question into that category -let’s consider movies like The Best Man series, the Barbershop series, and romcoms in the vein of Think Like a Man or Why Did I Get Married- I started to wonder if maybe it becomes a question of quality.

To include quality on the rubric is clearly problematic, leaning towards the implication that to be placed in the Black Film means to be a bad film. But do we place 12 Years A Slave in that same Black Film category? What about The Butler? They fall under the drama genre, but so do movies like Stomp The Yard, ATL, Coach Carter, or The Inkwell; a group of enjoyable, if otherwise unnotable films, with black directors and casts found under the “Urban Drama” category on Amazon . (Urban Drama being another way of saying “a drama with Black people in it.”)

Does it really come down to a question of quality with, perhaps, a side of pedigree- films nominated for multiple awards in various categories? It’s a tricky qualifier. Stomp The Yard with white protagonists is called Bring It On and it’s a comedy or a teen movie, not a “white film”. Coach Carter is called Hoosiers or Miracle and again it’s not a white film, it’s a sports drama. The Inkwell becomes a drama/romantic comedy directed by Nancy Meyers, starring Meryl Streep, and… well, you can see the trend. There’s no real need to recategorise any of these films as “Black” or “Urban”, but for some reason we do.

But what if beyond the merits of the cast, director, subject matter, and relative quality, it’s a simple matter of character relateability? White viewers are conditioned with the societal requirement that it’s necessary to at least pretend to empathise with the Solomon Northups of the world. The Kenya McQueens? Not so much. With that we’re left with a qualifier almost more insulting than the question of quality. While Black audiences are expected to relate and empathize with white characters in films regularly, the moment we ask them to do the same for us suddenly it’s a Black Film. In that case, the categorization is almost left up to the white viewer alone.

So is it cast/director, subject matter, quality, or a question of white audiences being unable to empathise with characters who look nothing like them? What actually makes a Black Film? Thoughts?

The American Standards of Media Consumption

By Guest Contributor OnTay Johnson


Illustration by Joseph Lamour.

According to the powers that be, I just may not be “with it” when it comes to American pop culture.  In my 30-plus years of life, I’ve noticed from time to time I’m made to be a fool because I haven’t seen some movie, didn’t recognize the face or name of some celebrity (dead or alive) and the list goes on.  I use to attribute this to growing up in a small city but as I got older and more socially conscious, I recognized that there was a pattern to this projection of person, places or things that I “should just know”.  That pattern adhered to the social construction of the status quo—whiteness.

Don’t get me wrong, as an African American in America, I’m hip to most things considered “popular” in our society.  Our education system alone makes sure you get peppered with the whiteness of American culture.  It’s the media that really hammers it home though.  How can one not be aware of whiteness when this country’s information systems constantly feed it to you as a diet day after day?  When a majority of magazines have a person that’s white on the cover and when a majority of television is white and our history books cover the “heroic” deeds of white men from the beginnings of this “unsettled” country until now, then it’s inevitable to not be aware of the whiteness screaming at you.  So yeah, I’m familiar with most things but it’s the fact that I’m a minority that I don’t always swallow everything fed to me.

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