Tag Archives: Spike Lee

Really, Spike? Filmmaker’s list of top films short on POCs, women

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For decades, Spike Lee has been a Hollywood gadfly, keeping race and the plight of black artists a topic of discussion. He has been critical of the film industry’s many biases, unabashedly saying the things most are too career-conscious to admit publicly. So when Lee published a list of Essential Films for Filmmakers to draw attention to his Kickstarter campaign on behalf of the newest Spike Lee Joint, many folks expected something beyond the typical whitewashed and testosterone-fueled canonical list. Yet, that is exactly what we got– a list featuring few people of color and zero women.

 

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See the list in its entirety here.

If Spike Lee, the dude who’s been calling out Hollywood on its racism for nearly three decades, can’t fathom an essentials list that includes, say, Oscar Micheaux, then  who can? And while I know Spike’s feminist politic is pretty weak–Julie Dash? Kasi Lemmons?

Of course, here is the spot where we talk about what belongs in canon. Essentials lists are ostensibly about greatness not affirmative action. This makes me recall, again, an online discussion I had about the Amazon Kindle’s original screensaver: revolving images of very white and very male authors, save a few. A commenter informed me that, while it was too bad about the lack of diversity on the e-reader, it was unavoidable: No woman or person of color had ever created literary work on the same level as accepted white, male greats. Anyone reading this should know that is not true. What is true is that the work of white and male artists, whether in literature or film or other media, is more likely to be supported, distributed and thought great; more likely to be lauded as possessing a universal truth.

But what is Spike Lee’s truth? In his estimation, is it that few filmmakers of color or women filmmakers have created “essential” work? If so, why? Is it because they lack the skill or the opportunity?

And for the community, what if any films by women filmmakers or filmmakers of color are missing from Lee’s list?

Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Sonia Gonzalez-Martinez

By Andrea Plaid

Sonia Gonzalez-Martinez. Image provided by the interviewee.

Sonia Gonzalez-Martinez. Image provided by the interviewee.

When it comes to film editing, it’s about the cut, and this week’s Crush, Sonia Gonzalez-Martinez, is one of the most respected–and coolest–editors in the business.

Gonzalez-Martinez has worked with director Byron Hurt (the award-winning Soul Food Junkies) and Vin Diesel (yes, that Vin Diesel), among other directors. Here’s the Diesel/Gonzalez-Martinez short called Los Bandoleros, a prequel reuniting the Fast And Furious crew:

Los Bandoleros from Sonia Gonzalez-Martinez on Vimeo.

Gonzalez-Martinez is a director, too: she helmed the documentary, Bragging Rights: Stickball Stories, about the sport dubbed “the poor man’s baseball.” She’s currently directing comedy shorts for T&A Flicks, a production company she co-founded, as well as running her own production company, LaSone Studio.

And did I mention she’s a gracious and great interviewee? She took time out to answer a few questions about “the invisible art,” the effect of digital technology on editing, and how race and racism can creep their way into the profession.

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The Racialicious Links Roundup 3.21.13

The daughter of suburban Sugar Land, Texas, played the cello. Since the second grade, she said, she dreamed of carrying on the family tradition by joining her sister and father among the ranks of University of Texas at Austin alumni.

And the moment for her to lend her name to the lawsuit might never be riper: The Supreme Court has seated its most conservative bench since the 1930s. The Court is expected to issue a decision any week now in what is considered one of the most important civil rights cases in years.

On a YouTube video posted by Edward Blum, a 1973 University of Texas graduate whose nonprofit organization is bankrolling the lawsuit, she is soft-spoken, her strawberry blond hair tucked behind one ear. Not even a swipe of lip gloss adorns her girlish face.

“There were people in my class with lower grades who weren’t in all the activities I was in, who were being accepted into UT, and the only other difference between us was the color of our skin,” she says. “I was taught from the time I was a little girl that any kind of discrimination was wrong. And for an institution of higher learning to act this way makes no sense to me. What kind of example does it set for others?”

It’s a deeply emotional argument delivered by an earnest young woman, one that’s been quoted over and over again.

Except there’s a problem. The claim that race cost Fisher her spot at the University of Texas isn’t really true.

“Many officers feel pressure to meet their numbers to get the rewards that their commanding officer is giving out,” says John Eterno, a former police captain and co-author of The Crime Numbers Game: Management by Manipulation. But if an officer’s union delegate is also pushing the numbers, “this puts inordinate pressure on officers, getting it from the top down and getting it from the union.”

The plaintiffs in the Floyd case allege that the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy results in unconstitutional stops based on racial-profiling. The department’s emphasis on bringing in arrest and summons numbers has caused officers to carry out suspicion-less stops in communities of color.

As Polanco explained in court today, his superiors would often push him to carry out this specific number of summons and arrest stops per month:  “20-and-1, they were very clear, it’s non-negotiable, you’re gonna do it, or you’re gonna become a Pizza Hut delivery man.”

“There’s always been some pressure to get arrests and summonses,” says Eterno. “But now it’s become the overwhelming management style of the department. It has become a numbers game. They have lost the ability to see that communities are dissatisfied with this type of policing, especially minority communities. They are the ones being overly burdened for doing the same sorts of things that kids in middle-class neighborhoods are doing—only they’re getting records because officers have to make these arrests.”

When asked for comment, Al O’Leary, a spokesperson for the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, said: “The PBA has been consistently and firmly opposed to quotas for police activities including arrests, summonses and stop-and-frisks. These are all effective tools for maintaining order when they are left to the discretion of individual police officers but become problematic when officers are forced to meet quotas. This union has sought and obtained changes to state law making quotas for all police activities illegal. We have sued and forced an individual commanding officer to stop the use of illegal quotas and will continue to be vigilant and vocal in our opposition to police activity quotas.”

Schools on Minnesota’s American Indian reservations are already suffering from the across-the-board budget cuts of the federal sequester, taking a hit months before the rest of the country’s classrooms will feel the effects of reduced funding.

The White Earth Reservation could cut the school year short at its federally funded tribal school.

The Red Lake School District, where the high school was the site of a shooting that left seven people dead in 2005, has scaled back its security staff.

And school officials on reservations across the state have already slashed this year’s budgets in antici­pation of sequester cuts, packing more students in classrooms, trimming class offerings and letting vacant jobs go unfilled.

“There’s a real sense of frustration for everybody,” Red Lake Superintendent Steve Wymore said.

The cuts come as tribal schools have begun making strides against their historically low graduation rates. For the class of 2012, graduate rates for American Indians rose 3 points — the first sizable increase in years. Typically in Minnesota, 45 percent of American Indian students earn a high school diploma in four years. The statewide graduation rate for all students is 87 percent.

For instance, in She’s Gotta Have It, which tells the story of Nola Darling, a young, free, non-monogamous serial dater, the lesbian character, Opal, is portrayed as aggressive, predatory, thirsty, persuasive and dismissive. When I initially watched the film, I was just excited to see a black lesbian character in a film that was released in 1986. After giving it more thought, though, I couldn’t help but think about how stereotypical and problematic her portrayal is. A lot of people tend to believe that lesbians are just man-hating, girlfriend-stealing, desperate women who can’t wait to perform cunnilingus on every woman walking by them. Opal seems to fit that bill.

Eighteen years later Lee released She Hate Me, starring Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington and Dania Ramirez. The film features Washington’s and Ramirez’s characters in a very complex lesbian relationship that ends up including Mackie’s character. I don’t even want to touch on the farfetched storyline of Mackie’s character becoming a lesbian-pumping, baby-making machine (the entire film is nothing short of bizarre); what kills me the most is that Lee couldn’t depict a healthy and happy lesbian relationship without a man’s penis in the picture.

As a queer woman of color, I have had to put up with a lot of disappointing and lackluster representations of women who love women. I understand that within the community there are lots of different kinds of lesbians, but I believe it’s important to call out problems when we see them, even if we’re calling out our heroes or those who have done well in offering other kinds of authentic representations. That’s how we learn from each other and hopefully grow as a society. The more we educate one another about what it means to live our specific and complex lives, the more we begin to break down barriers and understand one another. I believe that it is important for us to tell our own stories. It’s wonderful to have allies and people who support our community and causes, but if they’re only walking beside us and not with us, they can never accurately tell our stories.

A recent telephone survey sponsored by the CRRF, a federal agency, found that just 59 percent of English Canadians have a positive perception of aboriginals, down from 68 percent last year.

Although immigrants tend to have more positive attitudes than the general population, 25 percent of both the immigrant and non-immigrant respondents reported having low trust of aboriginals.

“The survey results tell us we all need to make greater efforts to identify how negative perceptions develop and what can be done to address them,” says Rubin Friedman, the CRRF’s principal operating officer.

“Over the years, we have had anecdotal reports of how quickly some immigrants picked up negative stereotypes of Aboriginal Peoples in cities where they live in close proximity to each other,” he says.

In Brittney Griner, Basketball Star, Helps Redefine Beauty, Guy Trebay highlights the ways in which the dominant narrative of Griner imagine her as not baller, as not student-athlete, but as signifier of gender and sexuality.

Feminine beauty ideals have shifted with amazing velocity over the last several decades, in no realm more starkly than sports. Muscular athleticism of a sort that once raised eyebrows is now commonplace. Partly this can be credited to the presence on the sports scene of Amazonian wonders like the Williams sisters, statuesque goddesses like Maria Sharapova, Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh, sinewy running machines like Paula Radcliffe or thick-thighed soccer dynamos like Mia Hamm.

While celebrating her for offering an alternative feminine and aesthetic, the media narrative of course represented her in ways limited to female athletes—she was confined by the stereotype of women athletes. Focusing on her body, and how she meshes with today’s beauty stands, all while defining her “as a tomeboy” the public inscription of Grinner did little to challenge the image of female athletes. In purportedly breaking down the feminine box that female athletes are confined to within sports cultures, Griner provided an opportunity, yet as we see the opportunity is still defined through feminine ideals and sexual appeal to men.

The limited national attention afforded to Griner irrespective of her dominance and her team’s success reflects the profound ways that her emergence has not ushered in a new moment for women’s sports. Unable to appeal to male viewers, to fulfill the expectations of femininity and sexuality, Griner has remained on outside the already infrequent media narrative of women’s sports. Even though there are multiple networks dedicated to sport, even though there are magazines, countless websites, and a host of other forms of social networking dedicated to sports, there are few places for female athletes, much less black female athletes. Studies have demonstrated that less than 10 percent (3-8 percent) of all sports coverage within national and local highlight packages focuses on women’s sports.

New Blackness And The Post-Soul Aesthetic: An Interview With Mark Anthony Neal

By Guest Contributor Lamont Lilly

Dr. Mark Anthony Neal is a professor of Black Popular Culture in the Department of African and African American Studies at Duke University. He is the author of five books including Soul Babies (2002), New Black Man (2005) and the forthcoming Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities (2013). He is also co-editor of That’s the Joint! (2011) and is host of the weekly webcast Left of Black. After sitting-in on one of his classes, we paused for a few questions. Read along as Neal speaks quite insightfully on Spike Lee, Nas, Black feminism, and the n-word.

Lamont Lilly: Dr. Neal, in your book New Black Man, you describe how you were first tagged a “Black male feminist” on the BET Tonight Show. Being that you embrace this tag, can you share with us the meaning of a Black male feminist?

Mark Anthony Neal: (Laughing) Well, when I first began graduate school I was introduced to something called Feminist Theory, a body of work that attempted to intervene in both political discourse and everyday realities regarding the notions of equity between men and women. The idea that men inherited a certain amount of privilege from their maleness was a privilege even more complicated when factoring race into the equation. I was taking classes in the English Department and became curious to the question, “Where are all the Black women writing about this?” There I was, reading Barbara Christian and Barbara Smith, and on my own I began to seek out sisters like bell hooks.

I remember purchasing my first bell hooks reading on me and my wife’s first wedding anniversary. It was my first attempt at critically engaging that type of material. Hooks is one of the most important figures out there on studies of gender, sexuality, and race in the last 20 years. She’s written 15 or so books and none of them with footnotes. She was taking this high theoretical language and writing it in a way that was both applicable and accessible to everyday folks. It was under this context that I was introduced to not just feminism, but Black feminism.

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Django Unchained: Coonskin Redux?

By Guest Contributor Paul Barrett; originally published at New Solitudes

Jamie Foxx in "Django Unchained." Image via Slate.com.

Jamie Foxx in “Django Unchained.” Image via Slate.com.

What I find surprising in the critical and personal responses I’ve heard to Django Unchained is the unwillingness to discuss what notions of race the film traffics in. What is Tarantino’s vision of blackness and whiteness, and how does his aesthetic mode of borrowing from every movie he’s ever seen contribute to his notion of race, cultural difference, and racism?

The feud between Quentin Tarantino and Spike Lee is one point of entry for discussing Django Unchained. Lee refuses to see the film, arguing that “American slavery was not a Sergio Leone spaghetti western. It was a holocaust. My ancestors are slaves. Stolen from Africa. I will honor them.”

At the heart of Lee’s critique, and much of the debate over Django Unchained are the questions of historical appropriation–who has the right to tell particular stories–and the question of realism. The latter question really asks, how can we tell particular stories? Is it disrespectful, irresponsible, or racist to depict slavery as a spaghetti western or in an unreal fashion?

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Voices: The Django Debate

Image via AVClub.com

Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network called for a national boycott Tuesday of action figures based on the controversial and blood-soaked slavery revenge flick Django Unchained. A 10-doll assortment of characters from the film was going for $299 on Amazon Tuesday.

“Selling this doll is highly offensive to our ancestors and the African American community,” Rev. K.W. Tulloss, NAC’s president in Los Angeles, told the Daily News. “The movie is for adults, but these are action figures that appeal to children. We don’t want other individuals to utilize them for their entertainment, to make a mockery of slavery.”

New York Daily News

First of all, Django Unchained could’ve gone horribly wrong. However brilliant a director, Quentin Tarantino is famous amongst people of color for fetishizing African-American culture, and his liberal use of the N-word in Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown still rankles folks 15 years after the fact. Tarantino injecting a Blaxploitation-style baadassss freed slave into his vision of the antebellum South could’ve been disastrous. The director’s recent comments about Roots, which he has described as “inauthentic” also raised the eyebrows of many filmgoers who were already nervous about what his slavery narrative would bring. Any crass, gratuitous depiction of Whites raping actress Kerry Washington in a popcorn movie, and “Django Unchained” would’ve been a wrap.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, the Oscar-winning Jamie Foxx plays Django as a gunslinging superhero, the fastest gun in the West.

–Miles Marshall Lewis, Ebony

“When you look at Roots, nothing about it rings true in the storytelling, and none of the performances ring true for me either,” says Tarantino. “I didn’t see it when it first came on, but when I did I couldn’t get over how oversimplified they made everything about that time. It didn’t move me because it claimed to be something it wasn’t.”

While many white directors might shy away from criticizing such an iconic symbol of African-American culture, ­Tarantino doesn’t hold back. He’s confident in his knowledge of a time and subject most people know little about and would rather forget. He was also savvy enough to bring Hudlin on board. “There were times when I’d be filming a scene and really getting into it and Reg would just say, ‘Hey is this the story you wanted to tell?’ He’d bring the focus back if I got too carried away.”

–Alison Samuels, The Daily Beast

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Racialicious Crush Of The Week: James Earl Hardy

By Andrea Plaid

James Earl Hardy. Photo Credit: Sylvester Q. Courtesy of the interviewee.

Award-winning author James Earl Hardy mentioned that quite a few people may have seen his best-selling book, B-boy Blues, outside of college classrooms–where it’s required reading in African American/multiculti lit and queer lit courses–and bookshelves: actor Isaiah Washington, who plays one half of a same-gender loving (SGL) couple in Spike Lee’s 1996 flick, Get On The Bus, is a holding a copy of it.

Lit-checked in a Spike Lee movie? Such is Hardy’s swag.

After the jump is the interview, in which Hardy talks about the “One Superstar Person Of Color At A Time” mindset in publishing, Black masculinity in pop culture, and his writing a one-person play about a man of color who’s a porn star and entrepreneur. (You read that right.) Hardy also talks about Washington’s career-ending homophobic remark, made a decade after his role in Get On The Bus.